Clinical psychologist and author Liz Dale (www.lizdale.org) is asking anyone — but especially those in the LGBT community — who has had a near-death experience (NDE) to participate in an online survey regarding the experience and its consequences. Survey results will inform a groundbreaking study and a new book to be published by Balboa Press, a division of Hay House. The survey is live now at www.lizdale.org/survey.html. Dale’s official site has become an important resource for those with academic or personal interests in the NDE phenomenon. It includes access to links to LGBT-focused articles on Amazon, Google, and Wikipedia, among other information repositories. Dale anticipates that her new survey will make important contributions to the literature, as well as pave the way for future investigations. The forthcoming book on NDE aftereffects will not be Dale’s first; in 2000, she published “Crossing Over and Coming Home: Twenty-One Authors Discuss the Gay NDE as Spiritual Transformation,” an excerpt from her book in this article captures the essence of this research and the intensely personal and profound nature of the stories people have shared with her. The International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) is sponsoring a complementary NDE study. Interested parties can learn more at their website.
1. A Gay Man’s NDE with Jesus and Gay Angels
Immediately after the impact from falling forward onto the metal grating, I felt myself floating up, out of my body, and hovering above my body and all the people who were watching it, and who seemed paralyzed by shock and horror at what had happened. I think they pretty much assumed that I was dead. I remember looking down and seeing my body three-dimensionally for the first time. And it was such a shock, because we never see ourselves except in a one-dimensional mirror reflection, or a photograph. But I felt no pain at all; I felt completely whole and free, and I thought, “This is who I really am.”
I saw my physical body, all crumpled and bloody and lifeless; and this enormous wave of compassion washed over me and I wanted to tell all of the bystanders that everything was going to be OK and not to be sad or alarmed.
Then suddenly I felt myself being pulled, literally at the speed of light, farther from the physical Earth, and I saw all of the people on the planet simultaneously in that one moment. I saw people in China and Sweden and Uruguay; I saw people sleeping and dreaming; I saw people preparing food in their homes and in restaurants; people traveling in all manner of transportation, to and from work and school and appointments; I saw children playing together, and bankers and teachers and factory workers at their jobs. I saw mothers giving birth to children, which was especially beautiful and moving to me.
I saw people in hospitals and prisons, mental institutions and nursing homes and orphanages who felt desperately alone and abandoned and afraid. And I saw people painting pictures and planting gardens; writing stories and composing music, and people dancing.
I saw people praying in mosques and temples, synagogues, and churches; and people individually expressing their own silent prayers. I saw indigenous tribes in all different parts of the world drumming and chanting. And God was sending multitudes of angels to the Earth, to assist in answering all of the countless, millions of prayers being offered up at that single moment.
As I seemed to move further into the light, I saw the Earth as though from outer space. It was like a beautiful, shimmering blue and green jewel floating in the cosmos. As I moved closer I saw that the Earth was vibrating and pulsating, as though it was a living, breathing entity and not just some physical mass.
And I thought, “This is Mother Earth; this is our Divine Mother.”
But as I looked even closer, I saw that there were terrible wounds and sores on different parts of her body, and that she was gasping for breath, and calling out to God and to her children to stop the killing and destruction and hatefulness – that she was dying and praying for all of us to help her to heal and regenerate. Again I felt overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and compassion, and I desired to hold Mother Earth in my arms – to whisper words of love and hope.
I remember that a part of me felt frustrated and powerless to actually do anything of value – just as I have often felt in my physical body. Yet another part of me felt completely powerful, as though there was nothing that I couldn’t accomplish.
At that moment I asked God, “What do you want me to do?”
And the answer that came to me was that I had to go back into my physical body in order to complete certain goals that had already been set into motion.
And I thought, “But I can’t go back because my body is too far gone, it’s beyond repair.”
And I was also afraid that I could never accomplish, with all of my physical limitations, all that I could do as a spirit form, which felt so free and unencumbered.
I remember feeling angry and fearful about going back, after being in all of this light – to have to go back to the darkness. And then I felt the presence of Jesus Christ all around me. The feeling of love was completely overwhelming. I felt as though I was swimming in an ocean of ecstasy.
And I asked him, “Do I really have to go back?”
And his answer was that I was a part of God‘s divine plan, as is every person, and that my ultimate purpose is to love and serve God and all sentient beings. And I could tell that he understood all of my fear and doubt. And he assured me that I would heal and recover, but that it would be a lifelong process; and that I did have the power within me, only I didn’t realize it until now, and that all I had to do was to ask for the courage and strength to persevere in my life and in my work. This particular information held enormous value for me, as I had often questioned whether I would ever really find a place in the world – having always been somewhat of an outsider – a place where my passionate concern regarding so many compelling modern issues could somehow take solid form, and that I could hopefully make even a small difference.
Then Christ said that he would send me guardian angels to aid me in my healing, and to guide and protect me. Then the light became even brighter, and suddenly there were angels everywhere, playing the most transcendentally beautiful music, and singing “Hosanna!” and hymns of praise to God. And some of the angels were crying, which I didn’t understand. And Jesus said that the angels were weeping tears of joy for my new life on Earth and that they were also expressing compassion for the hardship I would endure for the rest of my earthly existence. And he said that he had summoned the angels to guide me on my journey back to the Earth, and to my physical body. I remember feeling so grateful that Christ was there to help me try and understand everything that was happening. I also remember feeling that I wasn’t afraid anymore; that no one could ever hurt me again. And that I would try my best every day to serve God’s will.
I awakened to find two men kneeling over me, with expressions of apprehension and concern on both their faces. For some reason I felt that they might be gay men. They both looked to be in their thirties. I couldn’t help but notice how handsome they both were, and that they were beautifully dressed in what appeared to be very expensive business clothes. I remember thinking that they might be some kind of executives working for a corporation, which in fact is exactly what they turned out to be. One of the men obviously had some type of first aid training, and had monitored my vital signs. They informed me that an ambulance was on its way and to try to remain still and not speak, which was easy to do, considering the extent of my injuries. They had both taken off their jackets and laid them over me, and I was horrified to discover that the jackets were covered with blood and completely ruined. I remember feeling embarrassed, and yet enormously grateful for the kindness of these two strangers. Their entire presence was completely warm and comforting, and I felt strangely safe and protected.
They waited alongside me until the ambulance came, and then arrived at the hospital to make sure that I was properly attended to. They visited me in the hospital on two separate occasions. I made a somewhat feeble offer to replace their ruined clothes, but they simply laughed it off, and insisted that the only thing that mattered was that I was alive and more or less in one piece. Again their mere presence filled me with a sense of hope and courage. I felt very strongly that both men symbolized what would prove to be a succession of “angels” that Christ had promised to send me. This, in fact, turned out to be truer than I could possibly have imagined.
2. Kerry Kirk’s NDE
Kerry Kirk is a lesbian who corresponded with Kevin Williams and described her near-death experience. Her experience appears in her own words in webmaster Kevin Williams’ book, Nothing Better Than Death.
The following happened to me during the summer of 1981. I was nineteen at the time. It was a time in my life when I had pretty much decided that there could be no God, no great being in control of the world around me. If there were, he wasn’t doing a very good job. I didn’t realize it at the time, but once I had made this “decision” I started going downhill. I became selfish. That is self-centered but not very self-concerned.
I should mention that I had been having episodes of tachycardia for several years. I was never diagnosed (up to that point) with any kind of heart defect. Had I been asked, I would have denied any problems with my heart. I thought it was very normal to get light headed and almost pass out during periods when my heart would race. Duh.
One evening I was in the back seat of a car traveling to San Francisco from Los Angeles. All of a sudden my heart began to race and the nausea hit. Next everything started spinning and I could see lots of colors. Then I had a sense of blackness come over me. Like a dark damp cloud. I was terrified. I have never been so scared. In my fear I said, “Jesus.”
Immediately I witnessed a fight. It seemed there was a battle between a being in white light and this blackness. Immediately following, the light overtook the darkness.
“I found myself on my face in worship in front of this Being of Light. I felt a warmth, the most intense love filled me. It was an energy that penetrated every fiber of my being. I had never felt such a complete and total love. That unconditional love I hear many talk about.
I know there was conversation between us but I can not remember what was said. I feel like it was a time of healing for me, kind of a regeneration if you will.
In the next instant, I was floating above the car moving down the highway looking at myself in the back seat. I knew it was me sitting there, and yet I was up here. I wasn’t afraid or confused. Everything was as it should be.
There was someone there to my left. I don’t think it was the same being that I had just been with. He (I had a sense it was a he) seemed to be in a white robe or something. Funny, I never really looked at him. His identity didn’t seem to be important. I think he was there to guide me. I didn’t make myself go, it was more like he took me or led me.
We began moving through space. I was aware of that because the stars and planets were passing very quickly. It was very exciting, I felt so free.
The order of the next [series of episodes] I am unsure of. I know each was a distinct episode, but it is hard for me to put them in an order or time frame.
The next thing I knew there was a white “room.” I can’t say it had walls but it seemed to be somewhat enclosed. Maybe its boundaries extended to the edge of the light that filled it and that is why I call it a room. There was a man in a white robe behind a podium with a book on it. I knew it was the Book of Life from the Bible.
I remember thinking, “Uh oh, that stuff was for real.”
I suddenly realized that the “God” I had been presented wasn’t anything like the reality. I saw that it doesn’t matter if you call him God, Allah, Great Spirit or whatever, he is the same thing.
The different religions just have different ways of explaining the same Creator. I also realized that little voice inside us that prompts us to do good things comes from this Creator, it is that light of love inside each of us. I don’t remember specifically being told this, more like I just knew it.
I came to a place, maybe a room maybe a space. I was shown my life. If it was my entire life. I do not remember all of it. The only part that I remember now was just the last week or so. Since I had given up on God. I saw how selfish I had been. I felt the pain I had caused one person in particular and it bothered me very much. The things I had the most guilt for was hurting other people, lying, not being sensitive to their feelings, just being selfish. The fact that I was a lesbian didn’t even seem to matter then. That was surprising to me, given what I had been brought up to believe.
There was another room or area. It seems like there were others there, I sensed some were female, some male, but I can’t say I recognized anyone.
I was shown a diagram. I could see that it represented choices. A choice led to other choices which lead to other choices. Basically, actions have consequences.
I began receiving “all knowledge,” or at least that is what it felt like. They were there teaching me. This didn’t come to me as words like you and I speak. More as complete thoughts. When I think, it is generally in words and pictures, this is how I received the information. As complete words and pictures in my mind. As I could form a question in my mind I had the answer. Not just the answer to that question, but the why and how and the answer to every other question that the answer would bring up.
EVERYTHING in the entire universe fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. EVERYTHING MADE SENSE.
I remember thinking, “I have to remember this.”
I looked over to the right and in the distance I could see a beautiful valley with lots of people. There was someone looking out over all of it. I felt that it was Jesus. I then looked down and saw a line. My foot (Yes, I did have a spiritual “body” as did the others I encountered) was stepping over the line to go to be with the others.
Then I was told, “If you cross that line you can’t go back, it would mean you would have to die.”
Funny as it may sound, up to that point I didn’t realize I would have to die or was about to die. It never occurred to me. I didn’t realize that I was separate from my body even though I had seen it in the car. I felt complete. I remember laughing and thinking this isn’t how I pictured death.
I said I wanted to stay. I was then told that the people I was with (in the car), as well as my mother, would not understand and it would hurt them deeply. I understood.
At some point I was shown a map and was told to leave and go to Virginia.
The angels were singing and it seems like I could see the clouds all lit up (it was nighttime).
The next thing I knew I as sitting in the back of the car. I could hear the most beautiful music.
I didn’t tell anyone what had happened to me for a long time. I felt out of place the next several days. I wanted to go back. I knew instinctively that I could not do anything to bring that about though. I tried and tried to remember everything I learned when I was filled with knowledge but it isn’t there.
3. Helen’s Suicide NDE
Jean Ritchie’s excellent book entitled Death’s Door documented the suicide attempts and subsequent near-death experiences of a woman named Helen. Her near-death experiences demolish the myths held by many religious people that suicide and homosexuality are one-way tickets to hell. Although today Helen is very comfortable with the fact that she is a lesbian, coping with it has not always been easy. By the time she was seventeen, she was drinking heavily and experimenting with drugs. Over the years, her problems greatly escalated which led her to decide to take her own life. After writing suicide notes and taking an overdose of pills and drink, Helen was rushed to a hospital in very serious condition. Her heart stopped four times, she learned later from the medical staff. The following is her testimony in her own words.
I remember clearly floating up above myself, and looking down on my body. It was connected to numerous machines. I could see the drip and the oxygen mask. I could see the doctors working to restart my heart with electronic pads. I could see that my parents were there. It felt very peaceful, much better than where I had been before. I was bathed in warmth and light, and the calm was almost tangible. I felt it was up to me to decide where I wanted to be, up there or back in my body, but the peace was so overwhelming that I knew I wanted to stay.
And then I was in a small supermarket, floating between the aisles. It was like any ordinary supermarket, with shelves loaded with goods. My grandmother, who died when I was very young, was at the checkout, and so was my auntie. I knew without anyone telling me that it was my auntie, my mum’s sister, although she had died of a brain hemorrhage before I was born. They were beckoning to me to go to them, but through the plate-glass window I could see my parents and my immediate family, also beckoning and urging me to hurry.
[The next thing Helen remembers is waking from her coma with the oxygen mask pressing on her face and causing some pain. She felt regret at having left the peace behind.]
Helen’s second near-death experience occurred a couple of years after the first, after another suicide attempt. This time she took pills and tried to swallow bleach. Her partner found her and called an ambulance. The following is her experience in her own words.
I was drifting in and out of consciousness, more out than in, but I remember being wheeled from the flat on a stretcher. Again, I floated above and could look down and see two men carrying the stretcher, and I felt secure and safe in the knowledge that I was walking away from all the chaos of my life. Again, I felt it was my decision to walk away. Then I remember a very powerful force pulling me towards a serene, very beautiful realm, a higher realm. I traveled very slowly along a tunnel toward a bright light, and I could feel an overwhelming sense of warmth and peace and whiteness. I wanted to walk into the whiteness, which was so tranquil and happy. It was like stepping into a vacuum, there was nothing tangible, no scenery to look at, but a tremendous feeling of being somewhere, like nirvana. I felt okay, as though this was where I was meant to be, as if I had arrived home, and I was at ease with myself for the first time in a long time.
I also felt at one with the forces of the universe, as though I was part of something much much bigger, and yet I was also the whole of it. It was a tremendously powerful feeling, and such a contrast to the despair and depression that had led me there.
[This second time Helen did not see any relatives, and although she experienced the same sense of there being an element of choice in whether or not she returned to life or continued in that lovely place, she did not feel any panic when she awoke in the hospital a few days later.]
I knew I had not wanted to relinquish the good feelings the place had given me, but at the same time I did not feel regret at returning. This time, the experience seemed to give me strength. I felt refreshed.
[Helen was told by hospital staff that she was lucky to have survived.]
Helen’s two near-death experiences have taken away any fear she may have had of death, and she now anticipates that when it comes she will once again experience those feelings of peace and tranquility. She does not believe that her near-death experiences encouraged her to make more suicide attempts: suicide, she says, is born of despair with this world, not a hankering after the peace and serenity of the next. Eventually, Helen was able to beat her alcohol and drug addiction. She is back with her partner, studying for a master’s degree and doing volunteer work.