Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Warm Light

By Richard P. Holm MD

A man more than 90 years of age came into my office one day following a spell in the hospital for severe pneumonia. While I was examining him, he stopped me, looked into my eyes, and said, "I need to tell you that I think I died one night when I was so sick. Then I came back." 

He spoke about a scroll unrolling rapidly before his eyes, re-running all the experiences of his life. Then he found himself walking through a meadow beside a large lake, towards a warm light, along with others coming from somewhere else, all walking in the same direction. The comforting warm light then told him was not ready, and shortly after that he woke up in the hospital as his fever broke.

I have heard similar stories several times in the thirty-five years since I started interacting with patients. It's been interesting and reassuring that the people who have had these "life after death" experiences often have talked about losing their fear of dying after the experience.

What happens to the soul after death is the great mystery about which all religions seem to turn. In this way they give important support to people as we struggle and suffer in this often tough world. 

I should add that, in my opinion, differences in religion or belief systems, about what happens after death, should not be used to separate people. Rather, I believe such questions should help draw us together as human beings. 

I see it as an honor that my job as a physician often brings me to be there at the bedside of a dying person, when the spirit lifts up from the body, and passes to another place. So it happened with my ancestors before me, and so it shall be when my turn comes to walk toward a warm light.

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