On Dying and Living to Tell About It

Joan's Blog on Near Death

When we share stories by contributors to The Meaning of Forever book project, love shows up as one of the abiding qualities in the variety of experiences people have with their departed loved ones. This seems to be true of near-death experiences as well, and as Dr. Joan Olinger writes, that feeling of transcendent love and the knowledge that life continues after expiration of the physical body are two lasting benefits cited by those who have died and been brought back to life.

Because near death experiences are one more way to show that life continues, regardless of whether we have a physical container, The Meaning of Forever Project is also seeking stories about these experiences. Read Joan’s blog, first posted July 7, 2017, to see how NDE’s can be a source of great comfort in grief and a means for releasing fear.

By Dr. Joan Olinger

What would it be like if you knew for certain that you do not die when your physical body dies; that, Instead, you continue as yourself, with your individuality intact?

We are so fortunate to be living in an age when people can be brought back to life, even after they are clinically dead; that is, when their heart stops beating and they stop breathing. Many of these people have told of their experiences in the time between their physical deaths and their resuscitation.

When my Father passed on a few years ago, I was deeply distressed. My distress was relieved to a great extent, however, when my brother told me that Dad once had a near-death experience after a heart attack. From then on, he was not afraid to die. Knowing of this occurrence gave me great comfort. It was proof that the essential part of my father—some call this soul—continues independently of his physical existence. My brother said our dad’s story helped him lose some of his own fear of death.

Convincing Stories

In 1975, in his groundbreaking book called Life After Life, Dr. Raymond Moody wrote of accounts by people who had been brought back to life, and he coined the term “near-death experience” (NDE). I read Dr. Moody’s book as a young woman and became very interested in NDE’s (See my May 11, 2017, blog about why The Meaning of Forever Project is so important to me).

About 15 years after reading Dr. Moody’s first book, I met a patient in her forties who had been pronounced dead and been resuscitated. Her near-death experience transformed her life. Having not done anything artistic since Grade 8, she became an artist and a poet, and won contests for her creative work. When I asked what happened during her near-death experience, she said it was very hard to put into words. Then she said she had gone through a tunnel, met with a brilliant, loving light, and that she was “in love” the way she and I were sitting in that room. I took this to mean that she had felt totally surrounded by love.

Dr. Pim van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist and one of today’s most prominent scientific researchers of near-death experiences, is a contributor to a book called Surviving Death by Leslie Kean. In that book, Dr. van Lommel writes: “The NDE (near-death experience) is almost always transformational, causing enhanced intuitive sensitivity, profound insights and re-evaluations of life, and a loss of a fear of death.”

“Transformational” Experiences

In his book God and the Afterlife, Dr. Jeffrey Long writes that near-death experiences often include the following: a) an awareness that the experiencer is no longer in their physical body, b) heightened senses, c) going through a tunnel, d) seeing a brilliant light,  e) intense and usually positive emotions, f) going to heaven or otherworldly realms, g) meeting with deceased relatives, friends or mystical beings, h) a review of the person’s life, i) learning special knowledge; and, j) returning to the physical body. He gathered this information scientifically through a questionnaire administered by the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (INSERT LINK), which he established.

In the process of working on The Meaning of Forever Project, I have had a chance to read many books, watch some incredible documentaries and talk with several friends who have had near-death experiences. Through this process, I too have lost my fear of death, and I take comfort in knowing that departed loved ones are just fine and enjoying their new existence.


Here are some of those books:

John Burke, Imagine Heaven. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2015)

Jeffery Long and Paul Perry. Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences (New York: Harper Collins, 2009)

Jeffery Long and Paul Perry. God and the Afterlife, (New York:  Harper Collins, 2016)

Leslie Kean. Surviving Death: A journalist investigates evidence for an afterlife, (New York: Crown Archetype, 2017)

Pim van Lommel. Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience (New York: Harper Collins, 2010)

Disclaimer: These books, and these authors, do not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of The Meaning of Forever Project.


The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at themeaningofforever@gmail.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.

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