After my husband died in 2008, I was alone and beside myself with grief. I was (and still am) an atheist, and could not fathom how someone, much less someone I loved, could just “disappear”. Science did not help, it just told me that he was gone and just gone “poof!”. His body had some energy, which would go back into the earth. And so that is what happened to all the energy that was in him. If I wanted to believe otherwise, too bad. I could always go to the church, but I had learned early in life that their answers were not trustworthy. So I believed science. As I told my doctor at the time, “I would rather know the ugly truth than to believe in a beautiful lie”. Yes, I had witnessed paranormal activities in my home. But he was literally the most important thing in my world, and I did not want to believe he was still somewhere if he wasn’t.
If you’ve read my account of my own experiences with ghosts, you will know that I talk about experiencing my husband’s ghost. And I believe I did. But that happened about a year after his passing. In the days and weeks and months in between, I read everything I could about death. What was it like? What did he experience? Where did he go? Would he be there when I died?
One of the first books I read was by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Not “On Death and Dying”, her seminal work on the 5 stages of grief, but “On Life After Death”. Never heard of it? It’s no surprise. Later in her career, Dr. Kubler-Ross extended her research to include the study of what happens to us after we die. Her reputation suffered somewhat, because this just didn’t “feel” scientific-ky enough to a lot of her former supporters. Of course, studying anything at all should not mean a scientist’s career will suffer. But we all know it will. Somehow the brightest minds in the world, without any proof whatsoever (because again, it’s a career killer) concluded there was nothing at all to study. And anyone studying it is a fool. I’ve always found that to be both frustrating and perplexing.
On Honesty and Bravery in Writing
Kubler-Ross wrote “On Life After Death” 1991, and “The Tunnel and The Light” 1999. These two books were written to address the many, many accounts of both pre-death and near death experiences (NDEs) her patients shared with her. She noticed fairly early on that as people approached death, they would quite often see loved ones who had passed on, or even hear and touch them. Of course, like most people who have not experienced this, she thought these were hallucinations. Maybe the human body did this to ease the passage from this life. Some have even speculated that this is an evolutionary advantage, which makes absolutely no sense to me. After all, if we are on our way out, why would the body have developed a way to go out smoothly? What difference could it make at that point? We aren’t going to make more babies, or live any longer by imagining our dearly departed 48 hours before we go. So what was going on?
She surprised her audience by not only discussing her patients’ experiences, she discussed a few of her own encounters with dead patients. This really had people talking! All of a sudden, she didn’t know what she was doing, and was a naive and decidedly UN-scientific writer. But of course, she did know what she was talking about. Probably better than any other researcher at the time. One story still stays with me. She had an office in the hospital where she counseled patients. She tells of one patient who was getting very close to passing, who walked into the elevator when she was on her way to her office. She was surprised, given this person’s physical limitations, but had a pleasant conversation with him and she got off on her floor and walked into her office. She had a message on her desk telling her that this patient had passed away the previous day. Yes, the very same person with whom she had just had a pleasant elevator chat. There were other encounters, but this one really stayed with me. A fullt-formed human being chatted with her after he died.
Dr. Kubler-Ross went on to advocate for spiritual guides and afterlife, and serve on the Advisory Board of IANDS ( the International Association for Near-Death Studie). She was as bold as she had ever been, and refused to be dishonest about her experiences. In fact, she embraced them even though she was a wavering atheist. If you have not read these two books, you must. They are very clearly written, fascinating, and (my personal favorite) quick reads.