It took me years to come to terms with my near-death experience, which has both haunted and enlightened me. I'd heard of near-death experiences since I was a child and remember seeing the documentary movie, Beyond and Back, when I was only nine years old. The film, narrated by Brad Crandall, made me think about our relevance here in the physical world. It showed re-creation after re-creation of people going to Heaven and meeting Jesus, who didn’t seem as judgmental as the right wing Christians made him out to be.
All that was nice and dandy until they showed what happened after a girl, played by Elaine Daniel, committed suicide. I distinctly remember the scene: snakes; a pit of fire; horrifying-looking people; and the girl’s cry for help. Looking at the movie today, one would laugh at the cheesiness. As an impressionable young child, however, this gave me nightmares for years. By the time I was 21, my conscious mind had long forgotten the movie and the nightmares that followed. Some people tell me, however, that it was this movie that aroused my so-called “consciousness” when I was in a car accident and pronounced dead at the hospital, before being revived.
The date was May 8, 1996, and it was the last night after final exams in my senior year in college. I couldn’t believe that after all the stress I’d gone through to get my degree, I had finally finished. I remember walking into the student house I lived in and being greeted by my friend Brett, who was short, had long, dark hair, a mustache, a big nose, and bug-like eyes. No matter how ugly I thought he was, Brett was still a “ladies man,” and whenever we went out, he ended up going back with a woman while I went home alone. There was a bad side of him, too: Brett was selfish and racist and practically cheated his way through school. He constantly treated people, especially women, with disrespect. For some reason, he was always nice to me.
One problem I couldn’t completely blame Brett for was his drinking. From my understanding, his whole family had a drinking problem and I could understand that Brett probably “inherited” this. My problem, I thought, is that I didn’t drink enough, didn't get as wild as Brett or my other friends did when we went out. I decided to make an exception that evening and had shots of vodka, Everclear, and other things (I don’t quite remember what they were, but they tasted awful).
I don’t remember much of what happened that evening at the local bar, but do remember getting in Brett’s brown Toyota Corolla. I still remember the mildewy smell of his stained car. It made me sick, but it was better than walking all the way back. I remember him driving 50 miles per hour on side streets that had a speed limit of 20. Despite being drunk, I was still able to say, “You’re going too fast; the police are going to stop you.” He said something about me being a bad “front seat driver,” but before Brett could finish one of his sentences, my eyes saw headlights coming right towards us.
It all happened so fast, yet it seemed to happen in slow motion. I don’t remember the actual crash, but do remember flying out of the car in horror, then landing on the ground. I could feel my head hit the cement – it felt like someone had hit me in the head with a baseball bat. I couldn’t feel the rest of my body, but knew something was wrong. I went in and out of consciousness. At one point, I heard the officer say, “He’s dead,” and knew he was referring to Brett. Perhaps selfishly, I didn’t realize what had happened to the driver of the truck we'd hit, whom I later found out passed away as well. I remember being in an ambulance and hearing someone say, “You have to hold on… just hold on!” I remember being rushed onto a bed and hearing a doctor say, “We’re losing him.”
I heard a roaring, buzzing sound and was suddenly looking at my mangled self from above the bed, with doctors trying to revive me. I thought, “This reminds me of the show E.R." My body (or soul) felt completely free: my eyes could see three-dimensionally; I could hear people’s “thoughts,” and was able to move to another side of the room without actually moving – all I had to do was “think” of going there. It’s hard to explain how one exists during this state, but I’ll sum it up by saying that I felt far more alive than I did in my physical body.
As soon as I realized I could move around with no effort, I immediately wanted my lifeless body to move outside of the room. It’s as if I didn’t even care about my body on the hospital bed. Before I could move, I heard a rushing-wind sound, sort of like the sound of a hurricane. I saw a dark mass approaching me, and my body was immediately ejected into that mass. At first, I thought perhaps this “mass” was what I needed to go through in order to move from the hospital room. But the mass overtook my soul, which sensed there were others in there as well.
As the mass slowed down, I could hear groaning noises that sounded like noisy pigs. Then I heard crying, which gave the impression of horror rather than sadness. I heard screaming that was far more disturbing than anything I had ever heard before. As the tunnel stopped, I saw Brett lying on the ground, with some god-awful looking half-beast, half-human, torturing him. He seemed to be electrocuting Brett just by touching him. I can’t even describe how awful this thing looked. The closest thing that comes to mind is a bloated possum’s face atop the body of a human. Both Brett and the beast noticed me. Brett screamed, “Help me, please help!” while the beast just looked at me and laughed. It was an incredibly ugly laugh that turned me inside out, though I didn’t have any insides to speak of.
There were other people being tortured and other beasts walking around, but for some reason they hadn’t approached me yet. It was as if I were some type of observer in a show from Hell, literally! But I didn’t have any mental protection and was screaming for someone to help Brett. I saw a couple of the beasts take off Brett’s clothes. His body looked very human, except for the horrible burn marks all over. “Jesus, please, Jesus!” he kept pleading while one beast held him and the other started to sodomize him. Brett just kept looking at me and though he didn't say anything to me, I knew he was wondering why I wasn’t helping him.
“I wish I could,” I told him, just by looking at him. Then, for the first time since I had arrived at this place, I heard nothing come out of Brett’s mouth for what seemed to be a couple of minutes. Both of us knew that something horrifying was coming up, and that anticipation was almost as bad as experiencing the horror that followed. I heard the groaning noise approaching again, slowly fading in. We saw more human figures approach. They were still ravishingly ugly, but not as horrifying at the beasts we'd seen before. But their actions were worse. They picked up Brett and carried him over to the wall, which bore a red image of a cross. They threw him against the wall, right in front of the cross. As he screamed, one of the men spit at him. Brett kept kicking and punching, but was soon clamped in. I could see and hear large nails being pierced into Brett’s body, one by one. I couldn’t see how these savages were putting the nails in (possibly it was by telepathy) and couldn’t see any blood. But I could hear the high pitched, blood-curdling screams.
Suddenly one of the men darted towards me. However, a woman appeared and was instantly able to stop the man just by holding her hands out. I recognized her as a lady named Emily, a resident whom I cared for at a nursing home in Chicago. I didn’t help her as much as I did the other residents because she yelled a lot and sometimes fought back when she had to be given her medications. When she passed away, none of her family members came to make funeral arrangements, so I took it into my own hands. Even though I recognized this woman as Emily, she looked far younger and very beautiful. “Don’t worry,” she told me. “They are unable to hurt you.” I asked her to help Brett but she explained that she couldn't. However, she assured me that Brett’s torture would be short-lived.
Suddenly (and thankfully), I found myself in the huge black mass again and knew that Emily was guiding me. I felt love in a way that a human can’t comprehend. I knew I was moving faster than even the speed of light, but wanted to stay in it forever. Emily told me how much I meant to her and that she would be waiting for me when “it was my time to go.” Before I could question her about this, I could hear, “We have him, we got him back.” My body drifted towards those voices and away from the mass. The last thing I remember is seeing my body again from the ceiling. I don’t remember actually entering my body again.
For two years afterwards, I lived in a state of constant confusion. Why did I experience such amazing horror, followed by amazing love? What happened to Brett? Why wasn’t it my time to go? Was Emily some sort of guardian angel? Was this really a near-death experience, or some major hallucination caused by lack of oxygen to the brain? I eventually came to the realization that this was in no way a hallucination. Scientists, however, have been trying to convince me otherwise. I also came to the realization that it wasn’t my time to go because there was something else that I needed to accomplish on Earth. Even if the accomplishment didn’t feel significant (I never really made a big deal out of the situation with Emily), it would be very significant to someone else.
Physically, my recovery was what doctors called a miracle. I was completely functional within four months and showed no signs of any brain damage (although some critics of my writing would argue). I appreciated the things in life that people usually take for granted: rollerblading, being able to lift weights, playing soccer, etc.
One year later, I finally told a close friend about my experience. I could see him shaking when I explained the details. He couldn’t understand why I was so calm talking about it. “Aren’t you afraid?” I responded that I was far from afraid; the love that I experienced was far stronger and more meaningful than the horror. He couldn’t understand why, given the choice, I wouldn’t have come back.
Thanks to the Internet, I have met many others who have had near-death experiences. While nobody experienced the hellish place I did, a couple of people who had attempted suicide claimed to have visited a very cold, empty void that left them scared and lonely. Many others had the great experience I did after the initial horror, but were often guided by family members. I feel a little shortchanged, since many were able to move beyond the tunnel and into a “city of light” before being told it wasn't their time. Unlike me, many I’ve talked to have turned very religious.
I may meet Emily (and hopefully deceased family members too this time — no offense, Emily!) again tomorrow. It might be next week. It might be next year, or even in the next decade. I patiently await the day I can go home again, but meanwhile I try and live my life to its fullest in this temporary place (and believe me, it is temporary) we call Earth.