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N is for Near-Death Experience #atozchallenge

One of the reasons I focused on the after-effects of near-death experience (NDE) for my master’s thesis and not on proving or disproving NDEs, was because the after-effects are tangible. Studies have shown that whether or not an NDE is a glimpse into the afterlife, it has life-altering after-effects.

Here is the abstract from my thesis:

Every Year, millions of people have a near-death experience (NDE) and return from it altered permanently. Whatever the truth about the experience itself might be, there is no denying the changes that occur at every level: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. The results are positive if the experiencer is able to process the event in a healthy way. However, some experiencers have difficulty integrating the changes into their lives, which can adversely affect relationships. Researchers, such as Dr. Raymond Moody, Dr. Kenneth Ring, and P. M. H. Atwater, have found that subjects experience a host of similar after-effects from an NDE regardless of how the NDE was induced. As well, non-experiencers can benefit from the NDE phenomenon if, according to Ring, they are exposed to NDE research and stories, or if they consciously work to emulate NDEr beliefs and values. Dr. Raymond Moody has found similar effects on non-experiencers through the process of mirror-gazing. Humanity stands to benefit from further NDE research and, in particular, from studying NDE after-effects.

The topic of NDEs has fascinated me from the time I discovered Moody’s work in high school.

In A Ring of Truth, Michael Valiant has an NDE that follows a typical experience. While not all NDEs are the same–they don’t all include every common element–Michael’s does, with some fine-tuning to forward the story.

Most NDErs can’t communicate with the living. Michael does, but the person he communicates with, Carolyn Fairchild, is a psychic medium whose abilities allow her to connect with spirits.

Here is an excerpt of Michael Valient’s NDE from A Ring of Truth (Warning: spoilers):

Michael’s body was freezing, his arms and legs prickling, his left shoulder burning. He clutched Carolyn’s gold wedding band in his hand, squeezing so tight it dug into his palm. Okay. He could still feel, but drifted towards unconsciousness. No. Not now. If he lost consciousness, he’d die.

Blackness came.

Michael stood. He felt good. His shoulder didn’t hurt. He swung his arms and did a few jumping jacks, marvelling at his energy. When he looked down, he saw the body lying in the mud and the stones and the wet.

The body belonged to a tall man. Close-cropped, dark hair spiked up, dishevelled from the water. Detached, Michael saw the body was his. He stared at the pallid skin, the closed eyes. The right hand still clutched the ring. Whoever found him would have a hard time prying his fingers open. Yes. They won’t get it until they pry it out of my cold, dead hand.

He found that funny. Ghosts have a sense of humour. Who knew? Michael thought of Carolyn again. He’d failed her, his mission to sever her connection to the hostile aliens not completed. Now he wouldn’t be able to find her, rescue her from the Agency, and have a life with her.

Who’d shot him? Althaea? Probably. She was a good shot. He hadn’t died instantly, and that was enough for him to get away. Would humans find his body before the animals? The thought didn’t upset him—he was simply curious.

If only he could see Carolyn one last time. At that thought, Nahanni faded away, and Michael found himself in an Agency cell. Carolyn lay on a cot. He thought of approaching her and suddenly was beside her bed.

She’d been trying to sleep, but sensed the presence. Her eyes peered into the dim light of the cell. Carolyn herself glowed with a light that attracted Michael. She’d be able to see him, and he wanted that more than anything else.

When her gaze landed on him, fear and dismay crossed her face. “No, Michael, no. Please. Don’t be dead.”

Her agony cut into him.

Tell her it’ll be all right. He didn’t know where that came from, but it was a good idea. “Carolyn, it’ll be all right.” When he spoke, it came out as a buzzing sound. Had she heard him?

Face contorted in agony, she shook her head and said, “How can it be all right? You’re dead.”

He supposed he was dead, but he denied it. “No.”

She frowned, confused. “How did you die?”

“No.” He said it again because it seemed right.

Her eyes widened, as if something had occurred to her. “Michael, I’m pregnant. It’s your baby. Please. Help us. Help me save our baby.”

Pregnant. How? She couldn’t have any more kids.

Michael noticed someone next to Carolyn. The young girl appeared before him, more solid than was Carolyn, who seemed to be behind a curtain of haze. This girl, about eighteen, was clear and distinct. She had black hair, but Carolyn’s eyes.

“Dad.” The girl’s voice was musical, comforting.

“I don’t understand,” Michael said.

“I’m your daughter. We’ll be together soon.”

At that, Carolyn screamed. “No, no. You can’t both die.”

The girl turned to Carolyn and smiled. “It’s okay. I’ll see you soon too. I’m Christina. You’ll call me Tina. We’ll all be together soon.” Tina vanished.

Something tugged at Michael. A roar filled his head, like a jet taking off next to his ear. He turned back to Carolyn, to reassure her, to look at her one more time, but he found himself in a long, dark tunnel. His surroundings a blur, he moved rapidly.

When his pace slowed, he yearned for company. He hadn’t met anyone in the tunnel, and he’d lost Carolyn and his daughter. The emptiness made his heart hurt.

Light surrounded him, and Michael sensed someone near him. Jessica.

She smiled, looking radiant in a flowing gown, and extended a hand. Michael clasped the hand and marvelled at its solidity. She spoke though her lips didn’t move. “Michael. You can’t stay here, but you’re allowed to come with me for a time.”

“I love you, Jess.” He had to say it now. He’d missed his opportunity once before when she’d come to him in a dream.

“I know.” She smiled, and his heart overflowed.

Michael stepped into a sunlit meadow.

“Go on ahead. To the light.” She pointed, and his gaze followed her arm.

A brilliant light. If he’d seen it with his physical eyes, he’d have gone blind. He walked towards it, but ran when he absorbed the love and joy spilling from it. Home. He wanted to go into the light now, yearned for it.

But he paused and looked back. Jess waved, encouraging. As if from behind a waterfall, Michael saw Carolyn sobbing on her cot in the cell. He hesitated, not wanting to abandon her. But he had to leave right now. Carolyn would have to handle it. Michael turned back towards the brilliance, and a smile broke out on his face. That’s where he belonged. Happy, he ran into the light.

While some of the above takes artistic license with a typical NDE, it contains the basic components, such as an out-of-body experience (OBE), the tunnel, seeing departed loved ones, feelings of love and joy, and the being of light.

In the story, I avoid showing Michael’s experience on the other side, because when he returns, he’s unable to remember it all. He remembers he’s been sent back for a reason, but not what the reason is. I wanted the reader to share that memory gap.

That’s also an element some people experience.

Many NDErs claim they were told it wasn’t their time to die and are then sent back. Others say they were told there was something they still had to do, but were not told what that was, or if they were told, the memory of it is erased on their return.

While Michael’s after-effects are downplayed in the story, they will factor more in a sequel if I decide to write one.

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7 Responses

  1. This is fascinating. Since NDE was the focus of your master thesis and also plays a role in one of your books, I am curious if you or someone close to you has experienced an NDE before.

    • Thanks, Kelly.

      Yes, I know a few people who have had such an experience. But even when I didn’t know their stories, I was fascinated by this topic. I’ve always been curious about what happens to us after we die–or before we are born, for that matter.

  2. I agree with Kelly – a fascinating post. The extract demonstrates your writing ability as well as the knowledge gained from extensive study. Impressive!

  3. Your excerpt has all the elements of a good story, and it’s now on my TBR list of books. I liked how Michael’s NDE allowed him to give his own description of his appearance. If this is early enough in the story, then that’s a perfect way instead of other overused methods of features.

    This book sounds captivating and hit on two interests of mine, NDE, and aliens.

  4. […] Near-death experiencers sometimes receive precognitive information during their NDE. In my thesis on the after-effects of near-death experience, I include an example of this from Kenneth Ring’s work that he discusses in his book Heading Toward Omega: […]

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