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Friday, 5 December 2014

An Early Near Death Experience

     Of course, we all know that it was the publication of Raymond Moody's book, Life After Life in 1975 which kick-started the investigation of near death experiences. I was particularly interested because, as a boy, I had already read an account of such an experience.
     I presume it occurred in the 1950s or the 1940s, because it was published as a "First Person Award" in the Reader's Digest in 1959. The author, Dr Martin Sampson explained what happened to him as a young resident, handling the case of a man he called John Bradley, dying from heart trouble in his late 40s. Since the Doctor had already suffered the death of a young girl the previous evening, he was in no mood to accept it this time. When Bradley's heart stopped, he pushed the oxygen tent away and commenced artificial respiration, at the same time calling for adrenalin. Pausing only long enough to inject the adrenaline straight into the man's heart, and listening with his stethoscope, he threw himself back into artificial respiration. Must to his surprise, a gasp came from his patient, then another. Detecting a faint heartbeat, he called for oxygen. The patient had come back to the land of the living.
     Just prior to the crisis, Mr Bradley had asked his wife to be summoned. Now she arrived. He told he had just wanted to say good-bye, and he explained to her that he had faith they would meet in the hereafter. I shall now quote Dr Sampson's own words.
     I stood there,  filled with a mixture of exhaustion, wonder and excitement. The mystery of death was right in this room. Could I, in some way, begin to understand it? I leaned forward and very softly asked, "John, do you remember how you felt? Do you remember seeing or hearing anything just now, while you were - unconscious?"
     He looked at me for a long moment before he spoke. "Yes, I remember," he said. "My pain was gone, and I couldn't feel my body. I heard the most peaceful music." He paused, coughed several times, then went on. "The most peaceful music. God was there, and I was floating. The music was all around me. I knew I was dead, but I wasn't afraid. Then the music stopped, and you were leaning over me."
     "John, have you ever had  a dream like that before?"
     There was a long, unbearable moment; then he said, with chilling conviction, "It wasn't a dream."
     Leaving instructions with the nurse, the doctor finally returned to his quarters and slept the sleep of the exhausted. The next thing he was aware of was a phone call informing him that this time death had won out.
Reference: Dr Martin C. Sampson, M.D., "When the curtains of death parted", Reader's Digest, June 1959, pp 23-26.

     So there you have it. It is a second hand account, and less detailed than some other near death experiences. Also, this is the only time I've heard of music, but my memory might be at fault there.
     No doubt there are other early reports out there. For example, two years ago I reported the near death experience of the explorer, Henry Stanley. When I was a Sunday school teacher, the superintendent was a friend who had once been a member of the Bush Brotherhood, a celibate Anglican order dedicated to serving the spiritual needs of people in outback Australia. Once he told the children a story he had obviously learned at the seminary. It was about a priest - I cannot remember his name, but my friend knew - who, when somebody died in his care, would bend down to his ear and call out, "Come back!" several times. When asked the reason, he explained that his own mother kept calling the same words to him when he lay dying as a child. He remembered approaching an incredibly bright light (students of near death experiences will not be surprised) in which his own clothing appeared depressingly dirty and unworthy. And all the time he heard his mother's voice, so he decided to come back.
     Well, that's a third hand story, so deal with it as you wish.

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