It’s been a week to value life. Death walks along our path closer than we think. Early in the week I heard a local man of my age speak to a crowded room about his life rocking experience of life during death. In our limited understanding of the borderlands of being alive, he died and “came back.” His heart, challenged by an evolving heart attack, ceased to beat and was restarted four times over several days. In our limited definition of physical death, he died four times.
He did not come to speak about fear or sadness. There was no hooded terror with bony hand extended. There was only peace, warm comfort, a sense of oneness, and a compelling choice given- to go back or to remain. In current vernacular this is a NDE, a near death experience as defined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross, http://www.neardeath.com/experiences/experts02.html
or Raymond Moody, http://www.lifeafterlife.cHieom/
He stood slowly, and sought the leading thread of his story through half closed eyes. He found his place in the faces around his, speaking seriously, humbly, of his unexpected journey into frontiers of consciousness. He led us carefully, with well-chosen words, through uncharted waters, and on into the space between life and death. He took this choir of willing participants to the edges of self, the land of less Me, and more Us.
It was apparent that we were witnesses at the denouement of an ancient ritual. The Vision Quester returns to tell his dream at the fire circle of his community. Countless eons of humans have increased their collective wisdom hearing the big Dreams of those that venture beyond the edges of collective experience.
And this is the community that will live this knowledge. This was a room full of death midwives; psychopomps in the old words. These were Hospice folks, PhD’s, MSWs, Therapists for the grieving, bereaved family members and even some other members of this elite NDE club. These are people who have sat at the bed, witnessed the passage, and continue to seek the beauty of the whole of human experience. Some are willing participants, others drawn by life experiences so painful; they seek and search relentlessly for relief from the pain of separation from their beloved.
Despite the imagined scenario for his family, he described no hair-raising escape from the jaws of death on his side of the experience. He remembered only absolute peace, serenity, limitless concepts of soul, and life on a continuum. I am reminded of the explorers that first crossed the abyss now known as the Atlantic Ocean. Some came back, some didn’t, but the “New World” existed anyways, beyond the horizon and beyond the fears of the perilous journey. Maybe it is finally time to throw out Hieronymus Bosch’s creepy mental constructs of afterlife, and reach for the unknown with joy and expectation beyond our wildest dreams.