What happens after we die?

Heavenly cloud with sun in sky.The question fascinates me. For some, the answer is “nothing.” They dismiss afterlife experiences as unscientific, tricks of the brain or hallucinations. But does that really explain it? One account I’ll never forget is that of a woman who had undergone brain surgery. During the procedure, the surgeons lost her, right there on the table.

And what did she experience? I heard her in an interview–fully back to life–talking about it. Never mind what she said about seeing relatives on the other side. That’s too easy to dismiss as some kind of dream. But her account of the surgery, not so much. There she was on the table: her eyes closed, under anesthesia, and then suddenly she was dead with no heart beat or respiration–or anything–for several minutes.

Yet she watched it all happen, from above, including the tools the surgeons had used to bore into her head! And here’s what really got me: She talked about her expectation of the bone “saw” they would use to cut into her skull and then what she actually observed. It wasn’t a saw at all but a type of drill, and when she described it to the surgeons later, they were flabbergasted. There was no way she could have seen it! She was under anesthesia–or dead–the whole time, and they couldn’t explain it.

Which leads to an important question: If it’s true that our souls–or some essence of our being–can escape our bodies in the moments after death and observe what’s happening, how do we discount a spiritual afterlife? People who know me know that I’m Christian, but that’s not what this article is about. My personal approach is to raise questions and allow the individual reader to reach a conclusion (something I hope I accomplished in my novel). But first, you have to be willing to explore a topic. Otherwise, your mind is closed to the possibilities.

Books are one way to start, and I’ve read a stack of them on the subject. I’ll list a few good ones here, with links (just click on the book title), in case you’d like to check them out… Happy reading!

  • Return from Tomorrow. One of those books I was shocked I had never heard of. It’s the personal account of Dr. George Ritchie, who died at age 20 in an army hospital, and returned to tell an amazing story, both light and dark, of the other realm he visited. The book is an oldie but goodie, awarded the Campus Life Mark of Excellence. Ritchie, whose life was forever changed by the experience, went on to become a psychiatrist and M.D.
  • Proof of Heaven by another doctor, brain surgeon Eben Alexander. Alexander has since come under fire regarding his medical practice, but his story is nevertheless compelling. I found it fascinating and would encourage you to read it. In it, he recounts a harrowing and vividly-beautiful near-death experience and how it transformed a skeptical scientist into a believer.
  • 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life. Don Piper’s story of colliding with a semi-truck, being pronounced dead, and all that happened later. It’s as much a story about persevering through pain as it is about faith.
  • Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing. Author Anita Moorjani writes this memoir from the perspective of someone raised in a traditional Hindu family while immersed in Chinese and British culture. Her ultimate message, that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, is deeply inspirational.
  • Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo. The title pretty much says it all: a four-year-old boy who dies during emergency surgery and, as the years unfold, tells the story of what he saw. My favorite part of this book, written by the boy’s father, relates to little Colton’s perception of what Jesus looked like. After his parents show him multiple pictures and depictions of Christ, he insists they’re all wrong–until, that is, he spots a painting by Akiane, a young artist who believes she’s divinely inspired. For the very first time, Colton says that’s the one–the painting looks just like Jesus. Checking online, I noticed a book that I have not read called Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry if you’re interested.

 –As always, your comments about this or any article are welcome. Just reply below–

4 thoughts on “What happens after we die?

  1. Thanks for writing on this topic, Marcia. This world is a very scary place right now and, being a Christian myself, the thought of something more than this world or life brings me peace and comfort amidst the turmoil. I hope others take the time to ponder, at least, the possibility of an afterlife.

  2. Another really great book on this topic is “To Heaven and Back- A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again.” It is well worth reading and changed the way I look at things on a daily basis. Thanks for bringing up this topic, Marcia.

    • Thanks for adding that, Vicki. I believe I heard this woman interviewed and there’s a heart-wrenching story involved relating to her son–that she basically “saw” what was going to happen to him, but because of her experience was at peace with it. Really amazing.

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