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NDEs Transform Lives

Photo of James K. Traer

I was astonished when my father told me about his near-death experience, due to cardiac arrest while he was undergoing surgery. As physicians worked on his unconscious body, he woke floating above the operating table―hearing their anxious voices as he watched them frantically trying to restart his heart. Then he began to move rapidly through a dark passage toward a brilliant light, where he saw my deceased mother, smiling and waiting. 


As my father came nearer to her, he felt the intensity of the bright light streaming from behind her. He had an overwhelming sense of being loved unconditionally and was eager to remain with her. Telepathically she told him that it wasn’t his time. He returned through the darkness and woke in his aching body.

My father had never heard of near-death experiences (nor had I when he shared his memory with me), and he hadn’t told anyone about his extraordinary memory until he shared it with me. As a scientist, he knew that either the anesthesia he’d been given or the cardiac arrest shutting off the supply of blood to his brain should have made him unable to have any conscious experience or memories. Yet, he couldn’t deny that the vivid experience he did remember was the most powerful moment of his life. 


My father was not a religious man, but his near-death experience left him unafraid of death. Also, I felt the experience made him a more loving person. At the age of ninety, when a stroke left him unable to swallow, he told me that “his time had come.” He asked his physician to remove the IV that had been providing him water and nutrition and soon slipped into a coma. I was at his bedside three days later, when he died peacefully. 


My father’s near-death experience not only changed his life, but my life as well. I haven’t had an experience at all comparable to his. But after learning of my father’s experience, I have read reports about near-death and other extraordinary experiences—especially by scientists as astonished by these experiences as my father. Survivors were certain they had met deceased relatives or friends in a brilliant, colorful environment and experienced unconditional love—from a Being of light—although their physicians usually said these memories were not possible or were hallucinations. 


I began to think, however, that these near-death experiences might be evidence of an afterlife. The love and the continuing consciousness of these experiences might also help to explain the purpose of the universe and life within it on our planet (and perhaps elsewhere as well). 


As survivors came back to their ordinary lives, not only did they usually lose their fear of death but often found a new sense of purpose. Survivors, who before their near-death experiences were committed atheists, have returned from the threshold of death affirming a loving God or Light or Source and a continuing life after physical death. For many near-death survivors, their experience was not only extraordinary but was also life-transforming.


Psychiatrist Bruce Greyson in his 2021 book, After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond, reports that many individuals who have a near-death experience are more compassionate afterwards. 


Those of us who haven’t had a near-death experience, may nonetheless choose to widen our circle of compassion. These eco-choice suggestions are one way I am trying to encourage greater compassion for the living-worlds on earth.


From Robert Traer, Extraordinary Experiences: On Our Way Home (2021).


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