A friend sent me information about a new book, a neurosurgeon’s supposed proof that heaven is real. I admit I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read articles by the man, seen interviews of him talking about his experiences, read the reviews, and I can’t believe his experiences tell us the truth of what happens when we die. Regardless of what happened (or did not happen) with his cortex, he was not dead, so everything he says he experienced has to do with the mystery of consciousness — of life — not the mystery of death.
I felt such goneness after my life mate/soul mate died, such an irrevocable ending of his presence in my life and on earth, that although I believed in near death experiences during my questing youth, I can no longer believe people who had near death experiences were actually dead. Dead is dead. The neurosurgeon could have experienced something wondrous, something extraordinary and life changing, but he wasn’t dead no matter what his physicians said. It’s entirely possible (in fact, I’d say probable) the machinery that tracks our body processes and the current understanding of those processes, including that of the human biosystem, are imperfect. These NDE stories place too great a reliance on the doctors and the machines that proclaim death. Nothing on this earth — especially no machine and no doctor — is infallible.
During the past thirty-one months of my grief updates, I’ve often mentioned the feeling of utter goneness that I experienced, but I did not begin feeling my soul mate’s “goneness” until two or three hours after his death. Although I have no idea what happens to us after death, I do believe in the possibility of a continuum of life because I remember feeling him leave this earth.
At the moment of his death (when his heart stopped, that is), I did not feel anything except a moment of relief that his suffering was over. I watched the nurses clean his body and shroud it in a blanket, then I waited numbly for the funeral director. After she took away his body (in a black SUV, not a hearse), I left. The highway was dry, but about halfway home, my car suddenly went careening, around and around, back and forth, totally out of control. (I assumed I hit a patch of black ice, but that was such a peculiar night, I can’t say for sure.) I thought I was going to die, but oddly, I never left the road. The car finally came to a halt facing the wrong way on the highway. I was fine. So was the car. As I sat there gripping the wheel, I wondered if he had stopped by on his way out of this world to save me, to leave me a final reminder to be careful, or maybe give a shake of his ghostly head at this evidence of my carelessness. (He always worried that I wasn’t careful enough.) I remember feeling him leaving this earth — like a breath passing over head — but to be honest, I don’t know if I really felt his leaving at the time or if the impression was something my mind created later to explain the bewildering event. It was after this particular near death experience (as out of control as the car was, it truly is amazing that I survived intact), that the feeling of his goneness slammed into me, and I never again have had any sense of his presence in my life.
What was he doing for those hours before he left this earth? Finishing his dying, possibly. Closing down systems of the body and brain that have yet to be discovered. From grief, I have learned the power of our lizard brain, learned that there is way more to the brain — and human biology, psychology, and consciousness — than is in our textbooks. Do people experience things out of their normal lives when they are undergoing severe physical traumas such as almost dying? Many do. Some don’t.
As for the doctor who supposedly offers proof of heaven, the very length of his coma argues against his having died — if he’d been dead, his body would have begun to decay. Even if he was being kept alive by machines, he was still alive. His body was not dead. His brain is part of the body. Therefore his brain was not dead. And neither was he.
I am not denying a life continuum, a spectrum of life where this earth is the part visible to our physical senses, but a “near death experience” is a far cry from a “death experience.” Such stories offer insight into a greater glory, but it isn’t necessary the glory of heaven they offer but instead the glory of us here on earth.
Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+