While an inmate at the Maine State Prison I was rushed to Penobscott Bay Medical Center by ambulance suffering from a pulmonary embolism which made it extremely difficult to breathe. Although occurring three years ago, this life threatening illness enabled a Near-Death-Experience which remains as vivid today as while I experienced it.
Some hours before my NDE, while I lay upon a bed within the emergency room for a total of six hours, I began to understand a spiritual reality completely alien to what I had been socialized to accept. Watching the doctors and nurses as they worked upon me I understood we were acquainted spiritually, even though we had never physically met until now. I kept quiet, keeping this portion of spiritual realization to myself, afraid they would not understand and might consider me mentally impaired.I knew I was dying and would die if medical intervention was not successful, but the whole affair was not frightening but pleasant as I rested, contented with my new found spirituality that I did not yet fully understand.
Late the next evening, as a nurse came into my room, I turned my head to look up at her and suddenly found myself not within the confines of the hospital room, but in the place we commonly think of as heaven. Heaven is nothing like we are socialized to believe it to be, but is in actuality so much more than we can ever imagine it to be. Completely engulfed within a white totality consisting of an eternity of souls that was also myself, I was not surprised and felt no emotion except the "love of understanding" that is exhibited to all who labor unawares within the ignorance of physical life. I understood the reason for my own physical existence and acknowledged the freedom from the limitations imposed by my former physical existence. I did not miss my body; my spiritual existence was much more real than physical life.
I found myself within the benevolent presence of the being we think of as God. Irregular spikes of shaped golden light reached for me as all my life's experiences were lifted from me, leaving me once again clean in spirit. No judgment had taken place, either good or bad, just the removal of the burdens accumulated during my lifetime. I still retained my identity even though I had left my physical consciousness behind with my body.
It was then that I thought about those whom I had left behind who are made spiritually blind by their own physical existence. I desired to inform everyone "that it was real", Heaven and God do exist and we ourselves do possess immortal souls. I also desired to let them know it was entirely different than what we are taught.
My thoughts diverted to a playful desire to let a good friend know that I still existed. Facing the tunnel, I was permitted to view her whole life experience. I observed a life threatening illness that she would suffer 2 1/2 years in her future. I desired to communicate with her and could have prevented this illness from occurring but was firmly but gently made aware that such interference was not helpful. The deceased can observe a physical life, including their own, in its entirety but are discouraged from interfering. A souls spiritual intervention with a physical life does not help the individual but can hinder the individual's spiritual growth. Life exists as a perceived but not actual separation from both our souls and God which permits a type of spiritual evolution which is not attainable within the timelessness of eternity. A purpose of life is to contribute by life experience to the awareness we commonly think of as God, an awareness that we ourselves are an integral part of.
I suddenly found myself back within my physical body, slowly regaining the use of my senses. The image of the nurse "faded in" as I regained the use of my eye-sight. I still retained the "love of understanding". Neither happy nor sad, I felt contented as I knew what ultimately I was along with all others, including animals which possess souls themselves. I understood the reason for my physical existence on a spiritual level which has enabled an understanding that could not be possible without an NDE.
From my perspective which did entail the dying process, I can say that the dying may possess special spiritual insights that they themselves may not understand that they may hold back for fear of not being understood. The dying person will desire to keep communication open and not closed by being perceived as being odd or mentally impaired as this means a social death before the physical death. The dying should be encouraged to express themselves and a serious attempt made at understanding. Spiritual reality exists differently than what we are taught through our socialization process. The dying should be allowed and encouraged to express this spirituality in their own way.
A continuing fear of death in the face of the inevitable is the product of a successful socialization in which death is implied to be an enemy. Death is not an enemy but a friend. A natural death connotes an end to a physical existence with a return to full spiritual realization. A natural death consists of a complete reunification, unconditional, with the community of souls that is ultimately the entity we think of as God. A realization that we all are children of God and death is but a homecoming may lessen a fear of death which is exacerbated by our socialization process that in part is religion. Being born consists of the ability to perceive the physical environment through physical senses that have evolved through time. Death is merely the cessation of the physical senses which enable a soul to experience this world from within. Our souls existed before our physical birth and continue to exist beyond death.
Especially if free from excessive physical suffering, reflection may enable the dying through heightened spiritual awareness, to experience remaining life more fully than while healthy. The process of dying can enable a realization of a larger spiritual reality absent of the spiritual confinement enforced by conventional religious dogma. An understanding that all life forms possess spirituality may be enhanced by the dying's exposure to animals which are brought to the dying so that they can experience a part of life which should not be closed to them. Those who are engaged in the dying process and who are conscious and rational can benefit still from many of life's simpler pleasures as they may appreciate life much enhanced by way of an increased spiritual awareness.
The families of the dying should understand that birth and death are natural processes that create and sustain life through time. Although death is perceived as a physical separation, death in spiritual reality is actually a reunification. All souls as a part of God are a part of each other. It is the act of being born that is the physical act of separation. Although spiritually we remain relative, physically we are perceived as separate individuals. It may help the family to understand that physical death, while distressing, enables the liberation of the soul from the limitations of this world and a full realization of innate spirituality. Since every person possesses innate spirituality, the deceased is always relative to the living. The dying not only survive death, but enjoy a perspective not limited by a physical existence and as an integral part of the awareness we think of as God also enjoys an intelligence that is not comparable to the limitations of mere physical conciousness.
When considering organized religion and the dying, I would not encourage the excessive preaching of any religious doctrine to a dying individual. Due to a possible increased spiritual awareness, the excessive preaching of limiting religious doctrine may constitute the mental and emotional abuse of the dying. Instead the dying should be encouraged to express their heightened spirituality or even perceived lack of it in their own way. Assured that whatever they might say will not be negatively judged, the dying may express insights they never stopped to comprehend while engaged in the endeavor we think of as life. A person engaged in the dying process desires to be listened to and every attempt should be made to understand what is being communicated.
We as individuals exist within a moment of time, a moment in which we pass on DNA so our children can carry our existence on into the future. We exist ourselves as the result of those who have gone before us. Although they cannot be with us as physical individuals they continue to exist as a part of us as we are a part of them. Death does not mean the end but in actuality a reawakening. Life in a big way exists as a sort of physical relay race through time. Spiritually, we are not subject to time so spiritually we are timeless.
Harold R. Estes Jr.
Maine State PrisonReturn to Near Death Experiences