Life after life

Glimpses into the next life are given by persons dying, and others who clinically die, then return.

Whether you want to avoid these experiences, or seek them out, they seem to occur surprisingly often in this, or any other, area.

The claims of Jesus for eternal life-and his own resurrection-may make these glimpses something to explore at Easter.

Bill Sherfy, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Marion, recalled his wife’s grandmother, Eunice Maple, and her protests against attempts to resuscitate her when her heart stopped on an ambulance trip to the hospital.

He said Maple was very old and was born without a sense of smell. She hadn’t smelled anything her entire life.

“When they would bring her back on that ride she would say, ‘If you could see what I’ve seen, and smelled the flowers there, you wouldn’t want to come back either. They’re wonderful.’ She wanted to go on smelling them.

“People cling to life more than anything else,” Sherfy added. “It’s something the body just does. So if they don’t want to come back, something is happening.”

In his profession, Sherfy said he is often with persons who die. Although he may not hear stories like Maple’s, he sees a consistent difference in the deaths of Christians and the deaths of agnostics.

“It happens this way so often that it’s amazing,” he said. “The Christians are much more at peace. They seem to have a sense of peace, and are quiet and relaxed as they die.

“The non-Christians are many times very restless and in an agony trying to resist death,” he said. “These are the types of people who will tell you that someone’s dead and buried, and they’re still buried.”

JoAnn Kjellin, who lives between Marion and Lincolnville, also got a glimpse of the next life when her mother, Sophia Peterson, died at her home Nov. 1.

Kjellin said Peterson had been in the hospital, then home for four weeks spending most of her time in a favorite lift chair. Peterson’s kidneys failed, and she seemed to realize that she was in a transition between life and death.

Her pastor, John Goering, and his wife, Beverly, came to be with Peterson. Kjellin said Beverly asked Peterson if she saw angels. Peterson replied that she saw angels all around her.

Asked if she saw her own mother, who died when Peterson was a teenager, Peterson replied, “Yes, I think that’s her. I see her.”

Peterson asked why her visitors were making so much noise, and Beverly asked if she were wanting to leave. She replied, “Yes.” She quoted the 23rd Psalm.

When one of her daughters told Peterson her nose and face were cold, she said, “It’s warm here. The sun is shining bright. I’m with Jesus.”

Kjellin said as she died, Peterson was half saying, half singing the words to the hymn, “Marvelous Grace.”

Howard Gilmer, who lives at Marion County Lake, today is a cancer patient who can talk only briefly about his brief trip to the next life in 1975.

He said it occurred while he was being given an angiogram. In the process of receiving the dye, a hole was inadvertently punched, allowing the substance to enter the sack around his heart. His heart stopped.

“The next thing I knew I was going down a long bright tunnel,” Gilmer said. “It was more like traveling along a light. I looked up to see Jesus or God standing in a doorway.

“It thrilled you the peace that came from there, the love that wrapped around you,” he said. “I’ve never felt love like that before. It was really peace and love beyond understanding. There’s no way to describe it.

“There were a lot of people there with him,” Gilmer added. “It was very bright. It was wonderful. There was love and peace emanating from all of them. I would loved to have stayed there. I would just loved to have stayed there.

Gilmer came back, but it was three weeks before all of his organs started working.

“Of course, it’s your family around you who are suffering,” he said. “You don’t realize it. Even if you moan with pain, most of the time you don’t know it.”

Rick Branson, Marion, told about his mother, Billy Branson, who clinically “died” in a car accident that broke her neck and spine, and crushed her lungs. She spent many years recovering from paralysis and partial paralysis.

Rick said his mother, who has written a book on her experiences, believes in “New Age type” philosophy, hypnotism and past-life regressions.

Billy, contacted at her home in Emporia, said the accident occurred in 1950 when she was 18, and that it was one of three times in her life that she has been “clinically dead.”

She said on the first occasion, her lungs were crushed and ruined, and she had to “go into the other world in order to breath.”

“I was pronounced dead with several doctors in the room, and the priest gave me the last rites. I was a Catholic at the time. They left the room with only my father there holding me.

“I saw the earth getting smaller as I left to go to another world. I went into a room with nine men around a table. I stood at the end of the table, and told them about the accident, that it happened too soon, that I wanted back in my body. I had things to still do, children to raise.

“They left the room, came back, and agreed, but made me understand that a person has to have good reasons to come back.

“At that moment, my lungs were completely healed, and scarred over. I was desperate to get healed, and understood that was the only place to get help.

“My father was holding my wrists, watching my nails turn dark, when he felt the heart start, and called the doctors back in.”

Billy said her spinal-cord injuries eventually were healed through persistence and what she sees as the control of her own mind over them. She still uses a cane.

The next time Billy “died” was when her heart stopped in reaction to anesthesia, she said, during surgery in 1953. She said she went through a tunnel just as described in life-after-life books, and came back through the tunnel.

During that experience, she said she was with other people she knew in what appeared to be a kitchen preparing for dinner. But she

couldn’t remember who the other people were when she returned.

The third time her heart stopped, Billy said, was when her teeth were being worked on, and she reacted to novocaine. She said she saw nothing that time.

Dale Anderson, psychology instructor at Tabor College, said for researchers there is little doubt that people like those described in this story are telling the truth about what they saw.

He said the question is whether the perceptions are internal, something coming out of their own minds, or whether they are external, something they are actually seeing that didn’t come from themselves.

Anderson noted that Scripture gives little basis for what to expect to see at death. For instance, in the Bible, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus gave no account of what he’d seen.

He pointed out that skeptics say death is a traumatic experience, and those experiencing it usually have viewpoints about what is supposed to happen.

Anderson said skeptics also say human vision is set up to inhibit or filter out part of the light spectrum, and that the appearance of bright light at death may be this system shutting down.

Anderson said many students of the subject also believe that “we can’t know” until the experience comes for us, and that God hasn’t given all the answers to humanity.

He suggested author-psychologists Raymond Moody and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross for further reading on the subject.

“There is still a lot to be known on the subject, and an interested person needs to do a lot of reading and studying,” Anderson said.

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