10 people share what they saw during their near-death experience

By Alma Fabiani

Updated Sep 7, 2022 at 04:54 PM

Reading time: 6 minutes

We once covered the incredible story of Tina Hines, who had to be brought back to life four times after suffering a heart attack and mustered up the strength to write “it’s real” on a piece of paper moments after she was resuscitated. Following the strong interest we saw in the piece and the intense debate it created on both social media and in our comments section, we thought it would be interesting to delve deeper into the complex ‘afterlife’ theory.

And what better way to do this than by finding out what people who previously came back to life shared about their near-death experience and whatever they saw on ‘the other side’? Here are ten of the most mind-blowing accounts on what to expect after death.

1. “Like you’d pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket”

Though it is common knowledge that American novelist Ernest Hemingway took his own life in 1961, it might come as a surprise to some that the renowned writer also cheated death five times. The very first occasion he did so was during World War I when Hemingway was serving the American Red Cross in Italy. On 8 July 1918, he was badly injured by a mortar bomb and apparently died for a brief moment.

“I felt my soul or something coming right out of my body, like you’d pull a silk handkerchief out of a pocket by one corner,” Hemingway told a friend. “It flew around and then came back and went in again and I wasn’t dead anymore.” He emerged with 237 bits of shrapnel, an aluminium kneecap and two Italian decorations.

2. “I had the vision of seeing a white light”

When actress Jane Seymour was shooting the movie Onassis in 1988, she went into anaphylactic shock—a severe immune system reaction to an antigen that a person has been previously exposed to—when her bronchitis antibiotics were injected into a vein instead of a muscle.

“I had the vision of seeing a white light and looking down and seeing myself in this bedroom with a nurse frantically trying to save my life and jabbing injections in me, and I’m calmly watching this whole thing,” she told the Omaha World-Herald in 2016.

She later explained to HuffPost that the experience had changed her: “I remember looking down at this body that was mine, realising I wasn’t in it, and I totally grasped the concept that your body is really a vehicle,” she said. “You need to service it like a car.”

3. “Oh sh*t, I’m dead”

In 1994, orthopaedic surgeon Tony Cicoria called his mom from a pay phone—cell phones weren’t a thing just yet—during a lake house trip. They’d hung up but the surgeon still had the phone in his hand when a blue flash came out. He hadn’t realised there’d been a lightning storm brewing. Cicoria recounted he felt his body fly backwards and then forwards. He turned around to see his own body lying on the ground. “Oh sh*t, I’m dead,” he thought to himself. No grief, no ecstasy, just a fact.

After watching a woman perform CPR on his body, Cicoria moved on, floating up the stairs to see his kids getting their faces painted, realising that they’d be okay. “Then I was surrounded by a bluish-white light… an enormous feeling of wellbeing and peace,” he told the New Yorker. “The highest and lowest points of my life raced by me. I had the perception of accelerating, being drawn up… There was speed and direction. Then, as I was saying to myself, ‘This is the most glorious feeling I have ever had’—slam! I was back.”

Cicoria knew he was back in his body because of the pain he felt—coming from the burns on his face and on his left foot, where the electrical charge had entered and exited.

4. “I sat in Jesus’ lap”

When she was only nine years old, Annabel Beam survived a 30-foot fall from a tree just outside her Texas home where she had been playing with her sisters. Astonishingly, when the young girl arrived at Fort Worth hospital by helicopter, where teams of brain and spinal injury doctors anxiously awaited her arrival, it was discovered that she was practically unscathed.

Following this near-death experience, Beam began speaking publicly about what she had witnessed while unconscious. “I started to wake up in the tree and I could hear the fireman’s voices. And I saw an angel that looked very small, like a fairy,” she told TODAY.

“ God winked at me through the body of the angel and what he was saying to me was, ‘I’m going to leave you now and everything is going to be okay.’ And then the angel stayed with me the entire time, shining a light so I could see,” Beam continued, adding, “I sat in Jesus’ lap.”

5. “Just love, unconditional love”

In 2002, public speaker Anita Moorjani was diagnosed with lymphoma—a type of cancer that attacks someone’s lymphatic system, part of the body’s germ-fighting network. After four years of battling tumours from the base of her skull to her abdomen, she slipped into a coma in February 2006.

Though doctors were certain this was the end for Moorjani, she’s adamant that’s when she crossed into the afterlife. “I felt as though I was above my body,” she wrote in her memoir, Dying To Be Me. “It was like I had a 360-degree peripheral vision of the whole area around. But not just in the room where my body was in, but beyond the room.”

In her book, Moorjani further revealed how she was reunited with her late father, who told her to turn back because it was too late. “But I felt I didn’t want to turn back, because it was so beautiful. It was just incredible, because, for the first time, all the pain had gone. All the discomfort had gone. All the fear was gone. I just felt so incredible. And I felt as though I was enveloped in this feeling of just love. Unconditional love.”

6. “There was no past, present, or future as we see it here”

The Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) is the largest collection of Near Death Experiences (NDE) in over 23 languages. One particularly touching story which took place in 1980 has been featured on the organisation’s website.

A four-year-old girl was suffering from a high-grade fever and was brought to a hospital’s emergency room. As medical staff rushed around her, she started ‘slipping away’. “I wanted to close my eyes, so I did. The voices in the room continued to echo. I noticed my toes were touching the foot of the bed. I thought, ‘Wow! I am a big girl!’ I felt so proud. I opened my eyes to look, and when I did I was looking at myself. I was blue and lying on a gurney. My eyes were slits. There were people around me frantically working. Mom was crying as she looked on.”

Confused, the girl floated around and later on was able to detail conversations that took place as she was pronounced dead. She also claimed that she was able to “browse through time” and “felt at peace” while doing so. “Time wrapped in on itself. There was no past, present, or future as we see it here. Everything happened now and all at one time. I felt no fears or worries. I began drifting towards a beautiful light and I wanted to touch it.”

Suddenly, however, the girl felt like she was being pulled back down into her body. She eventually woke and the memory of her journey back to the living faded away soon after.

7. “Golden orbs”

In 2008, neurosurgeon Doctor Eben Alexander III contracted bacterial meningitis, sending him into a deep coma. As life slipped away from his body, he felt his mind go through a sort of rebirth and was guided by “a beautiful girl with high cheekbones and deep blue eyes” on the wings of a butterfly to an “immense void” that is both “pitch black” and “brimming with light” coming from an “orb” that interprets for an all-loving God, the doctor later wrote in his book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.

8. “It was the most amazing feeling I ever had”

One night in 1983, Dave Bennett, chief engineer of the underwater research vessel Aloha, was thrown overboard into the ocean. Though he had obviously learned about the effects of oxygen deprivation through his profession, as he drowned, he experienced something unlike anything he’d ever read about.

Bennett felt as if there was some omnipresence keeping him from being alone as darkness slowly faded into light. He decided to move towards it and, as he got closer, “there were waves and waves of love that were just wrapping me in this warm embrace,” he shared later on with an enraptured audience at an International Association for Near-Death Studies conference.

“It was the most amazing feeling I ever had, and it felt as if this love was actually permeating my being and transformed me into this being of life. And as I got closer to the light, [it] appeared to me like it was millions upon millions of fragments of light.”

After spending 18 minutes underwater, Bennett popped back up to the surface.

9. “A room that appeared to be formed from pure white clouds, yet wasn’t solid”

When NDERF contributor Laurie was only 19, she was swept into vicious rapids on a rafting trip. Trapped beneath the surface, water filled her lungs, and she simply knew she was going to die. Then everything went black, then white, as if she was travelling through a tunnel. “Looking around me, I could see a room that appeared to be formed from pure white clouds, yet wasn’t solid,” she explained.

“In the room were three beings, made of shimmering crystal. Light shone through them like a glass prism, forming a rainbow. One was larger than the other two, but all of them spoke to me. I was afraid of them, and they seemed to realise this. Instantly, they transformed into what I recognised as angels. They didn’t have bird wings, they had fibres like fibre optic cables that were shaped like wings and pure light shone through the fibres, forming colours in all shades. When they spoke, their messages were sent telepathically.”

The angels showed Laurie a golden field with beautiful music, as well as a tree and a lake nearby. But then, poof, a kayaking rescuer brought her to safety and the world as she knew it prior to this life-changing experience.

10. “I realised: that’s Jesus”

In 2015, 17-year-old Zack Clements collapsed in the middle of his high school’s gym class. His heart stopped beating for a solid 20 minutes as doctors tirelessly attempted to revive him. While he was unconscious, Clements claims he caught a glimpse of heaven. “I saw [this] line of white angels. In the middle was the prettiest of them all, and I didn’t know who it was at first until he got closer to me. And then I realised: that’s Jesus,” he said in a clip shared by People.

“He put his hand on my shoulder and said I’ll be alright,” he continued. Some netizens have since argued that Clements’ story was a hoax, but at least one thing remains true: being resuscitated after 20 minutes without any lasting brain damage is a miracle indeed.

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