As I've mentioned previously, my search for "what awaits me" has included reading about Near Death Experiences, or NDEs. I have found this very useful so I thought I would summarize what I've found and what it means to me.
NDEs are as they say, the experiences of people who have died, presumably seen an image or vision of "the other side" but survived to be able tell their story. The most interesting aspects of all of this to me, is that there are tens of thousands of these stories that have been studied, many "deaths" have been scientifically verified (ie. they meet the legal definition of "being dead"), and there is an incredibly consistency about what they saw. Lets talk about these common elements and what they say or mean to me.
First of all there seems to be a complete cessation of pain and discomfort and a corresponding feeling of very positive energy. This appeals to me greatly as I anticipate less-than-comfortable final days. This seems to be the first separation from the physical body and is either followed by the experience of watching your old body as people are working on it, or immediately beginning a journey to a light, often through a tunnel. Sometimes they are met by a "shining being" or dead relative who seems to be there to guide them through the transition.
While there have been all sorts of reasons given for the tunnel effect (birth canal, etc.), it doesn't seem to be that important except as a transitional step. Meeting a relative or other being who is there to guide you, however, is very appealing to me as well. Given the shock and surprize of "crossing over" it is comforting to think that you won't be left alone to figure out where the heck you are! For some reason, I expect it will be my father, if anyone, who will greet me, perhaps because of the connection I had with him when he passed 4 years ago. I suppose it could also be my mother with whom I had a special bonding experience as she passed last September. Either way, I would love it to be one of them!
While there are many variations in what happens next, including meeting with other beings, other long-dead relatives, etc. it appears that you go through some sort of life review. Kind of like watching your life fly before your eyes. It seems to be happening all at once so you experience everything that you've ever done and everything that has ever happened to you. Sometimes there seems to be some testing going on to see if you're ready, although they already seem to know the answer, and it is at this point where someone tells you that you have to go back. Sometimes you want to go back and sometimes you might not, but it seems you have no real choice in the matter. It's interesting to note that the need to go back is because someone needs you, which would seem to be somewhat self-initiated, but often it is because you are not "ready". This is what many people believe and is consistent with some Bhuddist thought, that we keep going back (through reincarnation and presumably NDE if something else happens that wasn't "planned") until we are ready or have reached some level of perfection, or whatever. You might think that I would want to "go back" at this point if it were to happen to me, but I really don't expect that to happen with a deteriorating disease, nor to I think I would want to return to the quality of life of my dying day. Enough is enough!
It appears that most people who have experienced an NDE come back changed, with a much better view on life, new attitudes, and new behaviours... all good. I like the sound of that and, to all those who have experienced NDEs, welcome back. I don't think I'm going to get that chance but these experiences shed some important light on what may come next. While NDE's vary in length of time and seemingly in depth, they can't go all the way (by definition) so we really don't know what is ultimately out there. But it's enough to know, or think, that there is at least a transitional "place" or "space" where the lights don't go out. If this were a few isolated cases, I would be more likely to remain skeptical and perhaps except other explanations, however we're talking about thousands and thousands of cases with incredible levels of commonality and some very convincing corroboration.
So I think I'm going to go with that at least. It's something. It can't really be proved one way or the other, but that is what is so good about this analsys. I only need to believe it to be a real possibility that is better than the alternative. It's a positive thing, a hopeful "belief", and it's something I can live with. And die with.
I've had a rough week with tests for potential blood clots in my legs and a severe attack of pain and nausea which resulted in a trip to Emergency. My palliative team felt that this attack, which wasn't even touched by my regular and breakthrough pain meds, might be a symptom of a major nerve compression, common with advanced prostate cancer, and potentially leading to paralysis. Pretty scary. Thankfully, it wasn't that but it was serious enough to pump up my pain meds with steroids and anti-inflammatories. As a result, my pain is under much better control, although we have to find something sustainable. Dianne has been great, getting me a lot of help from our team and the services available to us. She's keeping me going now. Have received a new hospital bed and a home oxygen supply over the past few days at her urging. I even used some portable oxygen at my daughter's wedding which really helped me get through the night.
Regardless of everything else, my little girl is married, I walked her down the aisle, I danced with her, and I'm a happy, happy man!