Nearing Death; Acknowledging the Existence of Heaven

Cover3I’ve written about my own near death experience in my book, Escorting the Dead: My Life as a Psychopomp, and here is another view from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander III.

This posting recounts an interview between Dr. Alexander and Oprah Winfrey, during which Dr. Alexander tries to explain what happened to him.

Nae's Nest

Born in 1953, Eben Alexander III grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the adopted son of a neurosurgeon father and a devoted mother. Following in his father’s footsteps, he went to medical school to become a neurosurgeon. He then went on to teach at Harvard, got married and had two sons. Life was good. But on November 10, 2008, at age 54, Dr. Alexander contracted an extremely rare and deadly form ofmeningitis and fell into a deep coma. During the seven days the doctors spent trying to revive him, Dr. Alexander claims that he had a near-death experience — during which he visited heaven and met God. He says that he battled back from the brink of death, and that in the process, he was transformed with a new sense of faith, wonder and purpose — and a desire to share with people what he had seen beyond…

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The Closet

clutterI’m exhausted again this morning. It’s not easy spending most of the night holding the closet door closed against all those boxes and objects that keep trying to fall out. There’s just so much you can do when the closet is too full, but you just can’t bring yourself to empty it.

However, last night, I had to let some of the boxes tumble out into the hallway. It upset me to have my things exposed where anybody might see them. But I had to rescue several puppies that had somehow found their way into my closet. They were so cute and absolutely adorable, and for some reason someone (I have no idea who) was trying to poison them, so both the puppies and I hid in the closet, which meant that some of the boxes had to be displaced.

Yes, I’m describing a dream. But it’s a strange, repeating dream, with odd variations played over a central theme—a too full closet the contents of which I’m having difficulty containing.

Sometimes, I can keep all the boxes hidden within the closet, and at other times (like last night with the puppies) I have to make a choice to let some of the contents out of the closet or allow something or someone to come to harm. Each time, I’ve chosen to “rescue” the person, puppy, kitten, bird, or whatever, and each time I’ve had to allow some of the “boxes” to escape the closet.

My initial reaction to this dream (besides the exhaustion from fighting to hold the closet door shut seemingly all night long) was that I was trying to contain my “secrets”. You know the type of stuff I mean—information that I didn’t really want people to know about me; information that I deemed too personal; or information that might make me “too human”. Usually, though, once I figure out what it is a dream is trying to tell me, it stops. But since this one hasn’t stopped, I had to wonder if my interpretation was off.

OnDreamsCover_Smashwords_withtextDuring a luncheon with a friend, I brought up the odd recurring dream, and was surprised by her take on it. She posited that perhaps I was attempting to hide (from myself and others) those aspects of myself that I wasn’t fond of, no longer needed, or had outgrown.

She thought that if I tried accepting all these hidden or no longer wanted aspects of myself, that maybe I wouldn’t have to hold the closet closed anymore. She also thought the puppies and other pet-like creatures that I was finding in the closet were to help me understand that not everything I was shutting away was really “bad”. That I was closing off good things along with the (perceived) bad, and I should stop shutting off pieces of myself and just accept myself, all of myself, for who I am.

I was so surprised by how accurate her insights seemed to be, that I had no response for her. I realized that I needed some time to think over everything she said, and to read over my notes of each occurrence of the dream. So, this morning I’ve been doing just that, and I think she’s right.

Over these past few months, I have been trying to move forward with my life. For a while I was caught in a chasm of depression, but now that I’ve climbed out of the pit I was in, I want to move on. To do that, I thought I had to lock away all those pieces of me that I didn’t think would contribute (in a positive way) to the new me I wanted to be. I wanted to shed the parts of me that wouldn’t help me move along the path I wanted to take. But, locking them in a closet (metaphorical or actual) is unrealistic. All those pieces that I locked away in boxes and tried to hide away are part of me. They have contributed to who I am, and without them I can’t move on.

So, instead of holding the closet closed tonight, I’m going to fling it wide, and then I’m going to open every one of those boxes and let everything out. I’m going to let the pieces fall where they may…I’m ready to change, but not until I can accept who I’ve been and I am now.

It’s all good

It's all good
It’s all good

I’ve always believed that who we are is a culmination of the choices we make, just as where we are in our lives is also. Every choice we make leads us down a path. Sometimes that path takes us where we wanted, planned, and hoped to go, and other times we find ourselves in some totally strange land living a life that we never imagined. None of it is bad, although some choices might be smarter than others, it’s all still good, because we’re not bad.Intrinsically, I believe in people, so just because they make some choices that lead them off on a wild adventure, or into the deepest forest of despair, or into the bad side of town where they hook up with shady characters, I still believe that they are basically good. Poor choices can be overcome by new (and hopefully) smarter choices. Just because someone wanders into the weeds, doesn’t mean they are lost forever.

So, it was with interest that I saw a posting by a well-known columnist that pretty much stated the same philosophy. I was a little surprised, I admit. Mostly because, while I’ve seen other writers hint at this philosophy, I’ve rarely seen someone of his caliber point it out quite so blatantly. Most will couch it in terms of God or Allah, but few actually state outright that we are responsible for our own destiny. That we can (and do) sometimes make poor choices, but those few choices do not define us, but rather it is the culmination of our lifetime of choices that make us who we are.

Click here to see Zig Ziglar’s article, The Choices You Make. Even JK Rowling gave a nod to how it’s our choices that define us and not our abilities nor our attitude. Instead, our abilities and our attitudes affect our choices, but they, in turn, are affected by the culmination of choices that we have made and which now define who we are and how we react to whatever life throws our way.

So, next time you start ragging on yourself because you said or did something you wish you hadn’t, stop. You did it, it happened, but it isn’t who you are. You’re a good person who made a poor choice based on circumstances of the moment. However, that moment is over, and it’s time to move on and make different (better) choices. No choice is so bad that it can’t be overcome. While it might take a lifetime of choices to redress, it can still be done, so never give up on yourself or anyone else. We’re all good people…some of us have just made a few more unfortunate choices than others.