Can people really see things when they’re “dead”?
No matter what you believe about the afterlife (or lack thereof), there’s no denying that plenty of people have claimed to see visions or have out-of-body experiences after their hearts have stopped. Sceptics might brush those off, but researchers have found that most near-death experiences tend to have common themes: Feelings of leaving or returning to their bodies, a sense of peace, bright lights, and encounters with spirits or people. In fact, medical treatment is good enough now that there’s a difference between clinical death (no breath or pulse, but could still be resuscitated) and biologic death (actually dead). Even cynics might get chills hearing about these otherworldly visions from people who were clinically dead or close to it.
“The most glorious feeling”
In 1994, orthopaedic surgeon Tony Cicoria called his mum from a pay phone during a lake house trip. They’d hung up but he still had the phone in his hand when a blue flash came out. He hadn’t realised there’d been a lightning storm brewing. He felt his body fly backward – and then, confusingly, forward. Cicoria turned around to see his own body lying on the ground. “I’m dead,” he thought. No grief. No ecstasy. Just a fact.
After watching a woman start CPR, Cicoria moved on, floating up the stairs to see his kids getting their faces painted, realising that they’d be OK. “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.” (Weird side note: The doctor who revived Cicoria became overwhelmed with the urge to play and write piano music.) This is what a near-death experience feels like, according to science.
“Just love. Unconditional love.”
After a four-year battle with lymphatic cancer, Anita Moorjani slipped into a coma in 2006. Doctors were sure it was the end – not realising that in her near-death state, she still had a consciousness. Initially, she felt like she was floating above her body with “360-degree peripheral vision” of the hospital room and beyond, she told TODAY. She couldn’t see her late father himself, but she did feel his presence, and he had a message for her. “He said that I’ve gone as far as I can, and if I go any further, I won’t be able to turn back,” she said. “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.” About 30 hours after falling into a coma, Moorjani flickered back into consciousness. Two days later, her organs started to regain function and the tumours started shrinking. Now she’s cancer-free and is a public speaker and author of books like What If This Is Heaven?. This is what professionals who have seen many people through their final moments want us to know.