Jack is in his 80s and is suffering the final weeks of a life with COPD. I visit him often, sitting, listening, reading and waiting with hIm. He tells me that he is insatiably curious about the journey, as he calls it, to the other side.
One of the first things I did as I began visiting Jack was to read books he had been reading to attempt to understand his point of view more clearly. Jack was an avid reader and had a stack of books next to the couch where he spent most of his waking hours.
It was obvious from a quick survey that he was most interested in post-life experiences others reported. In fact, his first question of me was, “Allen, do you think there’s a heaven?” Then, “Do you believe there’s a God?”, quickly followed.
After 45 years in ministry these questions are old friends and I have learned to answer by asking a question of the inquirer in return. “Those are questions that have intrigued me most of my life,” I will began” What are your thoughts on the matter?”
Jack, as most of those who have who I’ve asked that question, began with as story. Even the Bible tells stories about God rather than answering the question theoretically. Most of the Big Questions in our lives find origin in personal experiences and relationships. Jack’s occurred when he was bucked by a horse, caught his booted foot in the stirrup and was being dragged by the horse when a person freed his foot allowing Jack to drop to the ground unharmed. He recalled looking around for the one who helped him, but to no avail. The person was gone. He is certain, to this day, that the person was God or some sort of divine assistant.
“I can see how it would be difficult not to believe in God with an experience like that to remember,”I replied.
Jack then reached into his visible library and handed me a book reporting the post life experience of psychic Sylvia Browne. I am certain I must have looked at it critically as I took it to read. I suppose there was a time when I would have considered reading such authors “beneath me”, but not any longer. After experiencing her inquisitive free flowing narrative style, it became clear the attraction of Sylvia’s work.
When I returned the book a couple of weeks later, Jack handed me another, What Happens When We Die , by Sam Parnia, M.D., then he offered Dying To Be Me, by Anita Moorjani.
These are fascinating, though I’ll grant not definitive, accounts. Like Jack, those reporting them have been changed by them, some even radically. Once they “returned” or got well their post life experiences remained a vital part of their outlook and thoughts about the future. Some began to research other reports of similar experiences. Others, became self style evangelists. All were positively impacted their particular experience to view the afterlife positively even expectantly.
Likewise Jack will tell you he doesn’t fear death. He is, however, insatiably curious. When I asked,”Jack, how is the journey?” Jack will lean back in his wheelchair squint his slitted eyes and say in his own philosophical tone, “Well, that depends on your outlook.”