It happened in 1994. What was supposed to be a mundane trip to the garage to get a something – I don’t remember what – turned into the most bizarre experience of my life. I had a near-death-experience (NDE).
Before I get to my experience, I am writing this blog entry in reference to an article I read a few days ago on “death science,” an emerging branch of science investigating the possibility of life beyond death. Now, I am not going to say whether there is life after death or not, I don’t know and it’s going to be an extremely difficult thing to test (much less prove) but I agree in part with Socrates, who regards death in any manner a win since we either go into an eternal sleep or enter a blissful spiritual realm (as related in Plato’s Apology). I have also experienced some of the qualities typically associated with NDE’s through meditation; infinite happiness and infinite sorrow. But, I did not experience either during my NDE. In reading about the experiences of other NDE’ers, it seems my experience was atypical. Here’s what happened.
I was going out the back door of my mother’s house to the garage. The back door was a screen door and although it was the summer, she still had the winter glass installed. Annoyed about going out to the garage for something I thought I had already brought in the house, I pushed the door open too forcefully which broke the spring at the top of the door. The door came back towards me rapidly and in an effort to protect myself, I stuck out my right arm. The glass struck the tip of my elbow and shattered, cutting my forearm in three places, the largest gash being three inches long. I saw blood fly everywhere and knew immediately I was in trouble, so I grabbed my right arm with my left hand to apply pressure. Instinctively, I ran towards the neighbor’s house for help since my mother was not home and I knew I couldn’t dial a phone. The neighbor, Jimmy, wasn’t home, so I had to run downstairs to his tenant’s apartment, get passed the guard dog there, and ask the tenant to call an ambulance.
I slumped against the wall outside their door to wait for help. Meanwhile, the dog was barking in my face which at this point meant little to me. Then, nothing. It was like someone flicked a switch and turned me off; I’d blacked out from blood loss.
The next thing I was aware of was something like a ball approaching me, but I understood this mass of whatever-it-was to be my life experiences. It struck me like a tidal wave and over the next split-second, I re-lived everything that had ever happened in my entire life up to the point I blacked out, after which I blacked out again. At some point I’d woken up and the dog was biting and scratching at me, but I don’t remember who pulled him off. Eventually, the EMT’s arrived and put me on a gurney and whisked me off to the hospital. There, my surgeon said there was so much blood, he initially thought I was a gunshot victim and then sewed me up with 120 stitches. Because I was still in danger from blood loss and because the doctor started stitching me up before the local anesthesia could start working, I would not get to reflect on me NDE until the next day.
While the NDE was bizarre, it wasn’t life changing. I suppose it should be, though, because if I am going to re-live my life again when I die, I should be pursuing more pleasures and spend less time worrying or being stress-out over life’s little challenges. Then again, was it really an NDE? How close was I to dying? The anecdotal evidence surrounding NDE’s implies some truly strange things happen in the brain when one is near death, but should it mean anything beyond possibly being the brain’s one last gasp to save itself? While I can certainly see an evolutionary reason why some NDE’er experience extreme happiness during an NDE, I don’t see why other NDE’ers would experience extreme sorrow or have an experience such as mine. To be clear, I am not trying to make a case for an afterlife here, just that such experiences deserve a great deal more research. Undoubtedly, such research will either be extremely pleasing to theists, or, just the opposite. Unlike many atheists, I do think this avenue of research deserves to be pursued if for no other reason than it will help us to understand the brain.
I am thankful for my experience. When I reflect on it, knowing what I know now, I remind myself that I need to spend more time on sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll and a little less time being mean to Justin Bieber.