Monday, April 6, 2009

Life After Life?

Medical researchers have been working fast and furiously to try and debunk the notion that a person’s soul exits his body during a near-death experience. Many valid explanations have been placed on the table, but there are conflicts to each theory.

If there were still some kind of “emergency” activity in the brain that causes a near-death experience (leaving the body, traveling through a tunnel, seeing dead relatives, feeling at peace), then this is an activity that does not show up on EEG machines. If the brain were still active in a pulseless/breathless state, then why not when one is anesthetized? Do you recall psychedelic dreams during an appendectomy? Probably not. So, perhaps the separation of the soul from the body must occur when the body is no longer a viable vessel. A part of the anesthetic is an amnesiac-inducing chemical. Could it take away the memory that your soul did separate during surgery?

Playing both sides of the debate, I wonder too why the soul isn’t aware during anesthesia. Can it also be mortally affected by a good anesthesiologist? Why would the soul detach from the body prematurely if it were to be sent back to the vessel? There must be some sort of “activity” deep within the body to be able to retrieve a person after what appears to be death, otherwise we could walk into any morgue and bring a person back to life.

Admittedly, the universal sensations people experience, such as traveling a tunnel and seeing dead loved ones, are amazingly similar no matter the culture, but then so are dream state themes such as flying or losing your teeth or being naked in public.

Obviously, none of this will be answered until we reach that place ourselves. In that moment we can be guaranteed that we will cross on in a humane way with feelings of peace and understanding of the human experience; whether it ends up there is another “side” or not.

When I was 16, my father had a heart attack and died on our kitchen floor while I watched. For four minutes he was completely breathless and pulseless as the paramedics worked on him. My family cried and held each other as we realized he was gone. That is, until the paramedic applied the paddles and after a few hundred joules of energy, he opened his eyes.

They put him onto a gurney to wheel him out of the house and as he passed through the living room, my father took my hand. In a soft and comfortable voice he said, “I was there.”

“Where?” I asked.

He smiled so peacefully that I smiled through my tears. “Everyone was there, all my lost family. I was near a lake. There were flowers that don’t exist here, and colors that don’t exist here.” He stared at me with his beautiful hazel eyes and I somehow knew that he was comfortable with what happened to him and perhaps even eager to return. A few days later in the hospital, he died.

The night my father died in the hospital, we came home from visiting him to celebrate. All his vital signs were great and he was stronger. We had a pizza party and went to bed.

I woke up during the night in my bedroom. Someone had grabbed my big toe and wiggled it. That was something my father did when he came home from his many business trips. His way of saying “I’m home.” I blinked and looked up to see the dark outline of a man at the end of the bed. He was more fit than my obese father, but I sensed something about him like the scent of his designer cologne. I thought it was him at first because pulling on my toe to say goodbye and hello was his trademark thing.

Then, I remember he was in the hospital. Then, I remembered I always lock the bedroom door. I think I said something softly like, “hey” in recognition and turned over just as the phone rang. I sat up in bed, fully alert now. The figure was gone.

My sister knocked on the door and tried the knob. “We have to get to the hospital. Now!”

I don’t remember doing more than putting on a robe. We ran every red light through downtown Phoenix. When we arrived, he was in the bed, the sheet tucked around him nicely as if he were sleeping. I took a step towards him and realized the machines were all unhooked from him.

I wonder sometimes if life gives me things to prepare me, like that few days to get used to losing him by bringing him back on the kitchen floor for a bit longer. Or perhaps giving me knowledge that he went somewhere he really liked and that perhaps there is somewhere we go. That his soul arrived in my room to say goodbye in a form that showed his true self, not bound by the very human weakness for beef and inactivity that created the body that killed him, but in his soul’s form which was never corrupted.

Several times my sisters saw my father’s spirit in the hallway at night with a strange fog at waist level. They said they saw him walk down the hall and enter mother’s room. My sisters told me these stories separately when they stayed in our house, both of them living on different coasts of the US and not talking (yes, they were 11 months apart and loved and hated like twins).

I think about the soul and the living mind’s intentions. When you plan to get up tomorrow, do this next week, have a goal to accomplish that by next year… where does that forward energy go? We don’t just live in the present, we live in the past and the future all at the same time, everyone of us. Every project we have laid out on the table for tomorrow ends with the death of that person. It becomes nothing more than trash. The things we intended to do, will never get done. The meeting of grandchildren in the future, retirement, traveling to Italy on a senior’s tour…

I feel sometimes like intentions continue on as a forward energy. Perhaps an alternate self continues the duties in another dimension. Perhaps that intention gets picked up by the living and they adopt new goals colored by the goals of those who passed. I know on my to-do list I have included things I know my deceased family members would want me to do, things that meant something to them. Mother loved genealogy, so I’ve taken on the huge task of finding out the lineages of the Fraser’s and Thorvaldsen’s. My brother loved our West Coast relatives and I’ve made it a point to get closer to that side of the family that we were not exposed to growing up in the East.

Do we live past our physical form with the cognitive capabilities we have now? I know we can never prove that one way or another, but even if we turn off like a light switch, we do so in a comfortable and humane manner and we enter into that twilight area of being glorified in memories and carried on in our genes by other generations.

Most of us exist right now with our minds halfway in the past, halfway in the future, rarely where we are at this moment, so technically, we do defy time.


  1. Wow -another fantastic post Autumnforest!! I find your personal experiences very interesting with things of this nature-I think it must take a lot of courage to share them and I appreciate it!! best to you as always!1

  2. Thanks Devin. I'm so far removed (by time) to this experience that when I think about it, I feel warmth and fondness and nostalgia instead of sadness and loss. I guess that means the grieving part is over and now my father is filed away in "proud influences" in my mind. People ask why I entered the field of hunting ghosts and it's for all the reasons I write about in this article and the spine-tinglers series. I've had a lot of serendipitious happenings around hauntings and for a person who didn't go seeking them, it seems like a series of universal messages. I think I figured out the code--in that everything I go through makes me who I am (good and bad) and makes me more determined. I hope to continue to have such experiences while I'm hunting so I can try and record them rather than just have great stories to tell.