Near Death Experience

Today we are pleased to present William J. Bartean as our guest poster on the topic of the paranormal/supernatural.  Born and raised in Austin, Texas,  William is a 54-year-old microbiologist with undergrad and postgraduate degrees in Microbiology from a New England university.  William has been divorced for the past eight years, with four wonderful children, three handsome sons, and one beautiful daughter.  In William's spare time he devotes himself to such endeavors as golf, skeet shooting, tennis, jogging, rock hunting and participating in Regenerative Farming with Planetsave, in an effort to combat Global Warming. 

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To begin, I must say to one and all, that I have not ever believed in the paranormal or in any type of supernatural phenomena.   I have been an avowed atheist for as far back as I could hold a cognitive thought process.  I was never allowed to believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy or any other childhood nonsense.  So, from the very beginning, my perception of life was colored by my parent's way of thinking.  This being said I did find it remarkable that so many people believed in a supreme being who is creator over all (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) in this universe. That's as far as I will go in my proselytizing as I promised the owners of this blog.

What also puzzled me is why are there so many people who believe in an afterlife or a Heaven, as it were.  Again, I considered the very notion of afterlife absurd.   Eight years ago, my entire perception went about a fundamental change (which I will get to in a moment).   Oh, I can't say to you I believe in a supreme being, Heaven....but, the subject of an afterlife has caused me to carefully weigh my teachings, my very work as a researcher.  I know there are those who say that death causes the brain to undergo certain chemical changes to induce people into believing they see a bright light, long dead relatives and so forth.  I am at a crossroads on this issue.  But, let me begin my story.....

In October of 2007, I had just completed the paperwork on my divorce to my wife of 27 years.  We were in the 90 day period of waiting before it went into effect.  I was devastated.  I was unable to concentrate on my work, I was not eating well and was losing weight (that's about the only good thing about a divorce).  I decided I needed some time away from work, family, and friends.  So, I decided to take a month off despite the protests of my superiors who warned me I might not have a job when I came back.  I told them I was more than willing to take that risk.  But, I knew that they would never do that.  I'm too valuable to them even if I do say so myself.   So, I packed as many belongings as I could get in my 2004 Jeep Liberty and took off from my quaint New England home.  I had no real destination in mind.  I was just going to go as far west as I could go.  Hell, I might even write a book about my adventures!  Things never quite turn out the way you want them to in life.

I took off on a Sunday morning from my home and decided to make my way to Davenport, Iowa where one of my best friends from college had given me an open invitation to stay with him and his wife.  So, off I went.  I was in no hurry.  I would drive about 4 or 5 hours and then explore wherever I was on I-90.  As it just so happens, I noticed this incredible rock formation on the third day of my journey in northern Indiana.  Those rock formations appeared to be prehistoric.  I just had to stop.  I got my handy rock hammer, steel brush and started looking around.  After about an hour, I decided it was nothing there that would warrant any further analysis.  So, after taking a couple of samples, I put my tools away and got back in my Jeep.  I noticed traffic had picked up on the interstate since I had been rock hunting (one of my hobbies).  I was going to have a hard time getting back on the interstate and into the flow of traffic.

I remember getting into the merge lane and no one was letting me merge back onto the interstate.  I was pissed!  I found myself driving on the emergency lane now still trying to get back on the interstate.  I was concentrating on the driver-side mirror and felt myself going down a slope. I was probably doing about 55MPH.  It was too late to stop in time for the parked semi-tractor trailer.  The last thing I remember was a loud WHOOSH, like a large gust of wind, had hit me.  I didn't feel any pain,  Everything around me was totally black and silent.  I had no idea where I was.  I just knew I was not on I-90.  I'm thinking...."This must be death...I'm dead."  But, I knew that was not possible.  Dead men don't think or even dream.  I think, therefore, I am.  I still had my sense of humor.  So, reasoning told me I was still alive.  But, where was I?  The total darkness began to give way to a tiny dot of light above me.  The tiny light began to lighten everything around me.  It still was not like daylight.  But, I could see.  It was like wearing dark sunglasses in the sun.  It was about that much light.  In front of me was a building.  I noticed I was standing up.  Before the light, I did not know if I was sitting, laying or standing.  So, I started walking to the building.  It was a sort of plain, concrete building that you see in industrial complexes all over the country.  As I was walking, I noticed there was an echo from my steps.  This scared me for some reason.

The building had no parking lot.  It was just a very fine grain of sand, not unlike what you would find at any of the white beaches in Florida.  I remember opening the door and walking inside.  There was a spiral staircase and a desk like what a receptionist would have to greet visitors.  But, there was no one around.  "HELLO!" I yelled.  It was an immediate echo right back.  Suddenly, without any warning, I was once again surrounded by total blackness.  This time, I felt my body moving at an incredible rate of speed!  I don't know how long this lasted.  But, I suddenly found myself laying down in an open field.  The sky was an incredible blue, more beautiful than any other blue sky I've seen in my life.  There was a mild temperature.  A light breeze was blowing.  This seemed real to me, unlike the building with the echoes.  I stood up, looked around and saw only a smattering of trees to my right.  I was in a field of maybe knee-high grain that seemed to whistle with the light breeze.  I slowly looked around.  There was nothing to see.  I remember I decided to walk in the direction of the trees.  They appeared to be about a mile away.  But, no matter how much I walked, I didn't seem to be going anywhere.  I was frustrated beyond words.  "Where am I?  What do you want with me," I asked fervently to the blue sky above.  Nothing in reply.  I pinched myself to make sure I was real.  I felt the pinch, but there was no pain.  Just a slight pressure.  "Yes, you are real.  And, you are in a real place, William," said a voice completely out of nowhere.

I know this sounds like all the other proverbial stories of an afterlife.  The man in a white robe, and a white beard floating toward you.  That's exactly what happened. It's almost a cliche.  But, that is what I saw before me.  Now, I was really scared.  He came to a stop approximately 10 feet in front of me.  "Am I dead?  Is this Heaven?" I asked the long-robed man (whose feet didn't seem to even touch the ground).  The white-robed man looked at me with an amused look on his face.  "Heaven?  How can you be in a place in which you do not believe, William?"  I really hate people answering a question with another question.  But, decided I was in no position to bring that up.  "I don't know where I am.  I'm scared and I'm alone.  Please help me. Please", I pleaded with the white robed man. I started sobbing.  I don't remember the last time I truly cried.  "There, there William.  You have nothing to fear.  You are in no danger. In fact, you are about to go back to your life soon enough.  But, you are in a sort of weigh station of life right now.  I want to remind you that Man doesn't have all the answers to the vast universe as you and others of your persuasion seem to think.  Man has this idea that his answers are absolutes. You are babes lost in the wilderness of ignorance. You know as much as an infant child, maybe less in some respects.  Just remember this....open your mind to other possibilities, William.  Now, I've done as I was told to do. The rest is up to you."  After saying this, the man in the white robe gave me a kindly smile and faded away into nothing.  What I typed above is what he said as best as I can remember.  I think I got the gist of it, regardless.

After the man in the white robe vanished, I thought sure I was going to wake up from this dream or nightmare.  I was wrong.  I stood there for a length of time of which I'm still not sure how long it really lasted.  So, being the impatient man I am, I asked, "Okay, what's next?  Is this all there is?  Is this my eternity now, to spend it here in this cow pasture?"  Those were the wrong questions to ask.  Upon that last question, the wind picked up quickly, very quickly.  I was now in the middle of the pasture with gale force winds.  The blue sky, that was so pristine and beautiful, now was dark, foreboding with rumbling clouds rolling.  I was very afraid, very confused now.  The wind was so powerful now that I was in danger of being blown away completely.  Eventually, that is exactly what happened as I had nothing to hold onto to prevent myself from going airborne.  As I'm flying through the air, I screamed out, "Is this all you got?  You can't do any better?"  I got my answer on that one also.  The wind died down completely, and I started falling.  I was falling so fast until my eyelids would not stay shut.  I tried to scream, and nothing came out.  I felt as if my body was going to be ripped apart by the speed I was approaching.  Then, I came to an abrupt stop in an evil, sinister darkness.  Looking around, I saw distant fires and heard screams pleading for mercy.  I felt an intense heat of which I have never felt before.  It was unbearable.  I thought to myself, "Is this what religions refer to as hell?"  I was completely ignorant about what the various regions believed due to my parents refusing to let me read the Christian bible or any other religious documents. Yes, I tried reading the bible and other religious literature. I just couldn't get interested

I felt as if my flesh would melt right off me.  I knew I would not be able to stand this for very long.  I too began to ask for mercy, for a reprieve from this godforsaken land of hell-fire.   I received no answer this time.  I tried walking on the slippery rock and gravel that was before me now.  I slipped and remember feeling tremendous pain and heat in my left knee.  I got up and tried walking again, only to fall onto my left knee again.  The pain was more than I could take.  I was now screaming, screaming for all I was worth.  It was a scream of outrage, of horror and despair.  I remember screaming, crying and asking for mercy from someone, from something.  Anything.  Finally, I said something I thought I would never say, "God...please help me. Deliver me from this horror." 

My next conscious thought was looking up at some florescent lights that were above me.  I was in, what appeared to me, a recovery room.  I had a tight plastic wrap around my chest, my right arm was in a splint, I was able to move my left hand and felt another huge wrap around my head.  I tried moving my right leg only to discover my foot was heavily wrapped as well.  My left leg was very painful, but I could move it.  As it turns out, I had suffered head trauma and other injuries so severe, I had been placed in a medically induced coma for 36 hours.  The physicians thought I would most likely have brain damage.  I had a broken right ankle and foot.  I had a crushed sternum, two broken ribs and a dislocated right shoulder.  That doesn't take into account all the contusions and cuts I had.  I was told when I regained consciousness my chances of surviving this were still about 50/50.  Four weeks later, I amazed everyone by sitting up in my bed to eat solid food.  All in all, I was in the hospital for six weeks and in rehab for three months.  I endured five more surgeries to my shattered right ankle, foot and to my sternum over the next three years.  I still go in to see doctors about pain in both legs.  I have dizzy spells and probably will for the rest of my life.  Doctors are amazed I'm alive.  Quite frankly, so am I.

As I was leaving the hospital for my journey to the rehab center near my home, one doctor came up to me to ask a question.  "William, do you remember a fire of any type breaking out in the car upon impact with the tractor-trailer rig?," he asked.  I told him the last thing I remember was seeing the semi and knowing there was no way I was going to avoid hitting it.  He said there was no report of fire breaking out when I hit the semi.  The doctor further stated he was one of the doctors who evaluated me when I was brought unconscious into the ER.  One of the things he noticed was that I had a third-degree burn on my left knee about the size of a baseball.  When he came back to check me out post-op, the burn was virtually gone.  He had never seen any kind of burn fade that quickly.  A third-degree healing time is much longer, at least three weeks, he said.  I told him he must be mistaken.  No one had mentioned anything about me having a burn.  He shrugged and walked off.

Of course, I had an idea why my left knee was burned as I already stated.  But, I did not want to talk about my experience and it was an experience.  I do not now believe it was a dream or nightmare.  Do I believe I was in hell?  I don't know how to answer this.  I know all my education and training teaches me that God, Heaven, an afterlife is for the simpletons of the world.  I also know what I experienced and I will go to my grave believing it was all real.  It was all too real.  So, I am on a journey of discovery, much the way I am as a microbiologist.  I collect samples, weigh evidence and reach conclusions based on what I learn.  I'm doing presently the same thing in my search for evidence of an afterlife.  My Near Death Experience (NDE) was my first bit of tantalizing evidence.  I am continuing my journey into the unknown even now.

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