Joan LH Near Death Experience


I was 25 years old, vibrantly alive and radiantly healthy.  I had completed a BA in Theology, with an empathizes in Youth Ministry 2 years earlier. I was not able to find work in my church and owed a lot of money from school loans. Needing a job, and willing to work hard to pay back my loans I accepted a position at McDonald’s. Initially I was embarrassed to be working at McDonald’s with a BA but I ended really enjoying it.  Working as a swing manager I was still working with young people and had great friends.

After 2 years working at McDonald’s I started making plans to go back to school to become an RN.  I enjoyed school, was good at it and wanted a job that I enjoyed and would also enable me to be financially stable.  Life was great and getting better!

Before starting back to school I wanted to find out if there was anything I could do to stabilize my ankles.  I had weak ankles and frequently fell down – without warning.  I would be standing up one minute and flat on the ground the next.  It was funny, but potentially dangerous.  Knowing Nurses spend a great deal of time on their feet I wanted to correct this problem before beginning my studies.

A surgeon recommended a ‘simple’ surgery to tighten the tendon in my left lateral ankle.  I would have a spinal anesthetic.  It sounded like a simple solution to a long standing problem and I agreed to proceed.

I remember two things about my surgery and hospitalization:

1.  I remember completing paperwork as part of the admission process with my mom by my side.  There were lots of papers and I felt excited and nervous at the same time. The chairs were comfortable and the cubicle wood dark.

2. I remember being pushed in a wheel chair by one of the high school girls in the youth group I co-facilitated.  I don’t know who it was but it was lots of fun.

I don’t remember anything else for nearly two years, except my NDE. (Which I will share later)

The events that unfolded, as they were told to me, are the following.

My parents and some friends were waiting for me in the hospital waiting room when they heard a ‘code’ being called in OR.  My mom told me, “I knew it was you.” 

The surgery had nearly finished and my tendon was repaired when the spinal anesthetic went terribly wrong.  Instead of simply keeping my lower body numb, it climbed higher and put my heart and lungs to sleep as well. 

I did code.  I don’t really know how long I was without oxygen because I heard different accounts from different people.  It seems to have been somewhere between 5 and 8 minutes.

They wheeled me past my parents in a hospital gurney into the Intensive Care Unit.  I was originally in a fetal position and the Dr’s did not know if I was ever going to be OK.  They didn’t know if would remain in a fetal position or not.  I was not conscious. 

Apparently my younger brother was visiting me a day or two after the accident and started yelling at me to come back.  He and I were very close and I had always felt particularly protective and loving toward him because he was 5 years younger than me. 

That is when my physical body started to improve. 

I awakened from the coma and had the ability to move all of my body.  I could speak, I could answer questions, I knew who I was and who other people were.  It appeared that I was back to normal … except for my memory.

My parents brought me home just a few days after I had checked in. My mom later told me, “I knew that no matter how you did or did not come out of this you were my daughter and I loved you.  If I had to take care of you for the rest of your life I would have done that.  I just wanted you to be alive – and you were.”

I don’t remember any of this. 

I do remember an incident that frightened me to the core of my being about 6 months after the surgery.  I had gone back to work, with the support of my dear friends who owned the restaurant.  I can’t imagine that I was very effective!  I came home one day, after a staff meeting, and tried to read my notes from the meeting – but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t put the words together.  Nothing made sense.  I had no idea what the meeting had been about – and I felt scared.

It was funny that before this 6 month time frame I was forgetting so much that I had no idea I was forgetting anything.  I was very frustrated that my parents would not leave me home alone!  Here I was 25 years old, a college graduate used to being very independent – living under the surveillance of my parents, once again. 

My mom helped me make several appointments with our local physicians, including those that had been part of the surgery.  We both wanted to know exactly what happened, would it happen again, and would I ever again be ‘normal’.  We did not get answers.  Some doctors cancelled our appointments and would not reschedule.  Others told me that since my physical exam was within normal limits I was fine.

Instead of answers we only found more question. 

Eventually I chose to bring forward a lawsuit  –  not for revenge but for answers.  I had to know what caused the ‘high anesthesia’, would it happen again, and would I ever be ‘normal’.  It was a horrific experience.  I hated suing people but I needed answers, so did my parents.  I won the lawsuit  –  we settled out of court. A lawsuit is an awful thing for everyone involved and we wanted it over ASAP.

In the end I found out that whatever part of my brain improved at the end of two years would function well, and whatever didn’t  –  wouldn’t.  (Since that verdict science has proven that our brain cells do indeed regenerate and I remain hopeful for ongoing improvements to my  memory and brain function.)

Once I became aware of my brain injury, I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my entire life. The doctors wouldn’t meet with me in any quality discussion about my physical and mental experience.  My family couldn’t hear my spiritual/emotional story, and would quickly change the subject when I started talking about what had happened.  I began to question my sanity even though I FELT certain about what had happened.    

My parents were staunch Catholics and there wasn’t room in their perspective for what I had experienced. It didn’t fit with anything they had been taught by The Church about death.  My parents lived their entire lives within The Church and found it easier to discount my experience than the Church’s teachings.  There just wasn’t room for it. I knew they loved me, but I also knew I couldn’t talk about what had really happened with them, or anyone.

I felt memories, deep inside – of something I could not quite grasp on a conscious level. I carried the experience of my NDE within me but it was nearly impossible to communicate to anyone else – because I couldn’t describe it and because they didn’t want to hear it. The experience I had had was WITHIN me.     

Like one of those slippery fish toys children play with in the tub, the tighter I tried to hold onto it (my NDE)the faster it would slip away.  It is difficult to describe but I felt like my body was in this world and most of me was somewhere else.  I didn’t want to be in this body. I wanted to be BACK THERE. 

I longed to talk to somebody about my experience, but nobody wanted to hear it.   They were afraid and I knew it. It was better to keep quiet, I had caused enough trouble by nearly dying.

I was terrified that I would never be able to remember, that I would always have to be taken care of, that nobody would ever understand what I had experienced, and was experiencing, that I would never be a Registered Nurse – or even able to read coherently, that I would always need to be taken care of – like a child.

I took up running. I ran and ran and ran. When I was running I felt free. 

I ran with our German short-haired pointer, Penney. It was uncanny how I felt she understood me in a way no human being could.  We ran together. 

In the running there was peace.  One foot fall after the other, breathing hard, feeling the wind on my face, the fear receded.  I KNEW I wasn’t crazy.  Every cell of my body KNEW what I had experienced was real and when I was running I allowed myself to accept it.

When I stopped running I tried to take care of the people who loved me by denying it, or trying to make it fit with their belief system – my old belief system.  My desire to please my parents outweighed my desire to proclaim my story.  I did not want to be different.

But I was.

I remember feelings and impressions.  I did not see a tunnel.  I did not see a light. I did  not have a life review.  I did not see Jesus or any other enlightened being. My experience was different from most Near Death Experiences.

I simply had this profound experience of Love, Oneness and Freedom.

I went from being in my body to being in a place of absolute Love.  I can only describe it like being in a swimming pool, but even my body was filled with this Loving.  I was one with it, but also apart from it.  I was still me, but I was far more than me.  I was one with everything – and it was ALL good.  I did hear beautiful music, but it wasn’t like our music.  The music itself was part of me, but I don’t think I was singing.  It was more like it was just part of me and I was part of it, but it was much more than just me.  I felt weightless and free – absolutely free. 

I was enfolded in this Loving, and was part of it too.  There was not one single part of me, or part of anything else, that was not love. Individuals did not exist in the same way as we do here. I was still me, but I was also part of The Loving.

I simply KNEW things without hearing a single spoken word. I WAS love. I KNEW religions had it wrong, all religions. There is no way rules and judgment could low from THIS. They made it all so complicated when really it was very easy.  There IS only Love and we’re all part of it.  There is NO way we cannot be loved – no matter what.  We ARE love.

Time did not, does not really exist. 

I have always loved my family on Earth, but I did not miss them at all. I did not think of them, at all.  I was more happy and joyful than I ever remember being. 

I felt absolutely connected to everything and everyone. We ARE inter-connected.  We are all One.  There certainly is no such thing as ‘death’.

This experience has changed me. 

I wish I could say that I’ve never again been angry, never again fallen into the illusion of separation and never again doubted my livability – but that is not true. I am in human form with all the challenges and opportunities this existence provides – BUT – I KNOW I am much more than that – and so are you. 

This experience altered the trajectory of my life and continues to unfold.

I did have a miraculous healing.  Most of my brain functions very well.  I cannot comprehend mathematics, which I was never very good at.  I forget things easily, especially names.  Fatigue makes my memory worse.  I never regained those two years, and have lost large patches of time since then too.  But I am vibrantly, joyfully alive!

I did go back to college though I failed Anatomy and Physiology the first time I attempted it.  For somebody who had always done well academically that felt humiliating – but I passed it the second time. 

I worked as an RN for nearly 20 years, and loved it.  I especially enjoyed working with people approaching ‘death’.  I have no fear of ‘death’ and that in itself brings peace to people approaching their transition.

I studied Theology, some more, and earned a Master’s in Pastoral Theology.  My desire was to bring ‘the Light’ to The Church, by working with children, teens and families.  Eventually it became clear that I simply cannot work within any organized religion.  Religion serves many people and I do not judge it, but nor can I live within their restricted belief systems.  I tried for many years!

I found deep healing through the University of Santa Monica and made peace with the conflicted areas within myself, since my NDE.  While I appreciate my parents’ values I have chosen to live my own life – finally.  Part of that is going public about my NDE. 

My dear mom, and closest ally through all of this, has made her transition and I feel closer to her now than I ever did when she was in physical form.  She ‘gets’ it now and our love is deep. 

I have an insatiable desire to read, to learn, and to help people heal from all the limiting beliefs we carry about ourselves. I have read many books about NDE’s and feel a compulsion to hear other people’s stories. 

I currently work as a Soul-Centered Professional Coach and will soon begin working as a volunteer with Hospice.  I remain passionate about teens and suspect I will be working with them when my own precious daughters are off to college and living their own lives.  For now, my heart sings whenever I help someone awaken to the reality that they are Divine Beings having a human experience – and they are loved just as they are, without DOING anything.

I have been happily married for 18 years and we have had the gift to be parents to two exquisite young ladies, now 14 and 16.  I believe THEY are the reason I came back.  They are going to make this world a better place, just by being in it.  I am very happy and hope to remain in my physical body for many years to come. 

I have a lot more joyful work to do and hope to be in this body for many more years, but when it is my time to go home again I will be celebrating!  I can hardly wait. 

At the time of your experience was there an associated life-threatening event?         Yes     I had a spinal anesthetic to repair a weak/lose tendon in my left ankle.  When the surgery was nearly complete the anesthetic became ‘high’ – it went above my waist and stopped my hearts and lungs.  I was without oxygen for 5-8 minutes (depending on the documentation and who I spoke to.)

Was the experience difficult to express in words?   Yes     I’m not sure I had even heard of NDE’s back in 1985.  I know I didn’t have the words to explain it.  I still don’t – they don’t exist.  It’s impossible to explain an out of body experience through the language of a body.

At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness?    More consciousness and alertness than normal    I was at a high level of consciousness throughout my NDE – in the sense that I remember it with more clarity than anything else in my life.    In the course of every day I have fluctuations of consciousness and alertness but during my NDE I was very alert and conscious. There wasn’t any fluctuation of my energy.

Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience.    I did not have any vision during my experience. I don’t remember seeing anything – but not do I remember darkness.

Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience.    I heard beautiful singing, but not with my ears.  It’s as if I felt the music.

Did you see or hear any earthly events that were occurring during a time that your consciousness / awareness was apart from your physical / earthly body?    No  

What emotions did you feel during the experience?            Peace, calm, joy, freedom, LOVE.  I would say ‘confident’ too but that word is too small for the certainty I felt about who and what I was – there wasn’t any room for things like doubt and judgment – EVERYTHING was peaceful and joyful.  

Did you pass into or through a tunnel?           No      

Did you see an unearthly light? No      

Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice?            No   

Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings?         No   

Did you become aware of past events in your life during your experience?    No      

Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world?          A clearly mystical or unearthly realm    It’s very strange because I cannot describe what this place looked like, but I felt more at home than ever before, or since, my NDE.  It was definitely some other, unearthly world – but I’m not sure it was actually a ‘place’ as we tend to think of it.

Did time seem to speed up or slow down?     Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning         I clearly remember KNOWING that time did not exist.  This has brought me much comfort in my life because when my mom passed, I know that for her it will seem like an instant and we will all be back together.  There is NO such thing as time, it only exists for our learning as part of the illusion while ‘alive’.  We clearly do not need to wish our departed loved ones to ‘Rest in Peace’ – they’re not resting!

Did you suddenly seem to understand everything?            Everything about the universe   I FELT knowledge.  It’s interesting to me that what I most clearly remember is that ‘religions have it all wrong – all religions’.  It was an immediate knowing that we’ve been focusing on rules, on suffering, on trying to ‘get right with God’ when we’ve always been ‘right’ – and in the heart of God.  It wasn’t just Christianity that I felt had it ‘wrong’ but all religions.  Additionally, I had this awareness of the vastness of Love – that NOTHING else existed.  I remember ‘laughing’ at how complicated we had made everything.  It is NOT possible to be separated from God – because we are all part of God.  God isn’t an entity, it’s a living force – and it’s LOVE.

Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? No      

Did you come to a border or point of no return?       No      

Did scenes from the future come to you?       No      

Did you have a sense of knowing special knowledge or purpose?        Yes     The special knowledge that I ‘know’ filled me during my NDE, without hearing a word.  I just suddenly KNEW certain things to be true.  I am just now accepting that part of my purpose for coming back is to help other people awaken to the simple truth:  WE ARE LOVE, we are part of God and we cannot ever be separated from God.  Additionally, since I’ve been ‘back’ I’ve had an insatiable hunger for ongoing education – especially all things spiritual.  The ONLY thing that matters, in the end, is our spiritual growth and we do that by following our JOY – and that flows from KNOWING our oneness.

Discuss any changes that might have occurred in your life after your experience:   Large changes in my life       While some of my beliefs do not appear to have changed as a result of my NDE the opposite is true.  While I always believed in life after death, in God, in caring for humanity and that our lives have meaning the quality and depth of those beliefs transformed.  I went from a mental/physical experience of life and living to a spiritual/emotional experience in LOVE – which completely changed my life.  I have tried, many times, to run away from this ‘knowing’ – to go back to being ‘normal’.  Yet, finally, I have embraced the gift my NDE was and have given myself permission just to go with it – to celebrate it and to share it with others.  We have absolutely NOTHING to fear – ever.   

Did you have any changes in your values or beliefs after the experience that occurred as a result of the experience?    Yes     This was the most challenging part for me.  I wanted very much to make my experience fit into the beliefs of my family and my Church – which were the center of my life.  I got a Master’s Degree to help people, within the Church, awaken to the LOVING God I had experienced, the same ‘God’ I believe Jesus was trying to get us to experience.  It became clear, after 4 years of working as a woman in The Church that there would be no reconciling my beliefs. I left the Church – which was perhaps the MOST painful decision of my life.  I did not do it until 25 years AFTER my NDE, because it was that painful.(I had explored New Thought a few years after my NDE because it felt more in alignment with my experience; however, my desire to remain part of my family – and The Church was more powerful than the desire to live my life – true to myself.  It was part of my learning in this life.)  It has been 5 years since I left the Church, for good, and I have discovered ME, my authentic self, in alignment with my NDE and living from that experience – regardless of who believes me or not, who approves  of me, not.  I am grateful to the University of Santa Monica – and The Loving for guiding me back to my Authentic Self.

Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience?      Yes     My memory is shot! But my intuition is strong, and growing.

Have you ever shared this experience with others?   Yes   I tried to share it with my family and friends shortly after the experience.  Their reaction was disbelief.  I was very influenced by their reaction.  I tried very hard to wish my experience away, and to live by my old belief system.  I was afraid I would be rejected by everyone if I lived my truth – and I had had a lifetime of feeling rejected as a child because we moved every year of my life until 7th Grade.  Rejection is one of my life’s learning opportunities in this life – and my NDE is part of that.  Now, I choose to tell the world!  I love me enough to allow other people their judgments, it doesn’t effect who I am.

Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience?    No    

What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened:            Experience was definitely real    It was part of me, I could not pretend it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t real – although I tried VERY hard to wish it away.

What do you believe about the reality of your experience at the current time: Experience was definitely real           This experience changed my life.  It is part of who I am.  It is a gift and it’s time to share it with the world – it’s part of my purpose.  All we have to do is love, but each of us has our gifts and talents to help others awaken to The Loving – my gifts are rooted in this experience.

Have your relationships changed specifically as a result of your experience?           Yes     It is REALLY hard for me to be superficial.  I cannot play the social games of life.  I like to have fun but for me, EVERYTHING ties into our spirituality – and that is annoying to many people.  I’ve learned not to share everything I perceive, but all of my close friends are on consciously on a spiritual path.  I don’t have a lot of friends but the friends I do have are very close.  People from my former religion really have a hard time understanding/accepting me.

Have your religious beliefs/spiritual practices changed specifically as a result of your experience?            Yes    I went from Catholic to New Thought.

At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience?  Yes    When I held my babies for the first time, I had an experience of unconditional love flowing from me to them.  That is the closest thing I’ve experienced of The Loving since my NDE – though I get glimpses during meditation and some closed eye processes.

Did the questions asked and information that you provided accurately and comprehensively describe your experience?    Yes   

Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you?     The knowing that ‘religions have it wrong’ is significant to me because I now work outside of all religions, to help people awaken to their own authentic goodness.

The knowing that we are ALL inter-connected is another life-altering experience.  It makes it easy for me to accept people, just as they are.

There is no such thing as time is comforting, because I love my children and husband so much that I am comforted to know we’ll all be together, after ‘death’  in a heartbeat.  Lastly, I do not have fear.