Monday, February 3, 2014

Proof of Heaven a Good Read for Grieving

On Saturday, I finished reading Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D.

I didn't go out and buy it after Ethan's death in search of some vision of heaven. Like a friend I made over the summer who had lost her son to a drug overdose a few years ago, or this blog that I began in September, it was one of the many things already in place when the need arose.

The book wasn't even something I picked up during December at all, and, although fewer than 200 pages, it took far longer to read it than I would have liked because if I got it out while the three Es were around, someone was sure to remove my book mark.

But with tears streaming down my face from the poem "When Tomorrow Starts Without Me," which was written by David Romano in 1993 and included near the end of the book, I finally finished it Saturday afternoon.

I had been warned that, being written by a doctor, the terms often slipped into medical and scientific and that it could be a heavy read at times because that terminology would be unfamiliar. But understanding that Alexander wrote the book at least partly to try to persuade fellow doctors that the Near Death Experiences, dreams and visions that he had once joined them in dismissing were real, helped me to skim the portions that were too difficult. They weren't necessary for me to understand to get what I needed from the book.

The book tells the story of Alexander's journey to the afterlife during a coma that should have ended in his death. He contracted bacterial meningitis and lapsed into a coma during which he was effectively brain dead. The part of his brain that could have dreamed or hallucinated his experience was not functioning and when he awoke, his family was in fact being called in to say their final farewells before life support was removed.

Before falling ill, Alexander attended church, but had no belief in his soul, a consciousness separate from brain waves, or an afterlife. He was a secular physician with no room in his mind for the NDEs of others or the visions they shared with him. From a purely scientific standpoint, he gave them no weight.

His trip beyond sent him back with a new understanding of life in that it is only a small portion of who we are and will be. He came back wanting to share the message that we are all loved, that we have purpose, and "All is well," which was his second phrase after awakening.

Alexander's glimpse of heaven wasn't what we typically come to expect or may have read in other stories recounting a NDE. But at the same time, he didn't spend as much of his story trying to describe what it looked like as what it felt like, both in an emotional way and in the way it felt to be there. His vision, however, helped me some with my grief.

The most meaningful bits for me came at the end of the book when he began trying to put what he had experienced back into perspective with his physical life and his understanding from training and years of experience as a neurosurgeon.

He wrote about his first visit back to church and how "I shuddered as I recalled the bliss of infinite unconditional love I had known... I understood what religion was really all about. Or at least was supposed to be about. I didn't just believe in God; I knew God."

And later "I felt like I was doing what every soul is able to do when they leave their bodies, and what we can all do right now through various methods of prayer or deep meditation. Communicating with God is the most extraordinary experience imaginable, yet at the same time it's the most natural one of all, because God is present in us at all times. Omniscient, omnipotent, personal -- and loving us without condition."

"The entire length and height of the physical universe is as nothing to the spiritual realm from which it has arisen -- the realm of consciousness (which some might refer to as 'the life force.').

"This other, vastly grander universe isn't 'far away' at all. In fact, it's right here -- right here where I am, typing this sentence, and right there where you are, reading it. It's not far away physically, but simply exists on a different frequency. It's right here, right now, but we're unaware of it because we are for the most part closed to those frequencies on which it manifests..."

He also writes about feeling at one with the universe and how all things are interconnected and everywhere at the same time in this other frequency.

Suddenly I knew how I saw Ethan in a sunbeam. For just a moment, perhaps, my frequency shifted enough to recognize his spirit there. I knew how my new friend whom I've never felt grieves that she can no longer feel her son, because her frequency has shifted the other way. I understand how sometimes I can almost see and feel him, because perhaps he is there, just the other side of my physical limitations, wanting me to know he's OK, while at the same time he's everywhere else and with God and my grandparents and the girl he knew in school who was killed in car wreck. Time and relationships and the things that bind us in this life aren't important or even real in the heaven Alexander saw.

There have been rebuttal books written from a "Christian" standpoint, but Alexander's book doesn't discuss theology or Christianity, or even very much what heaven itself was like, just his individual experience and his revelation that consciousness extends beyond our physical life and that, despite all his scholarly skepticism there is a God.

How we make our way to heaven, deal with our belief in God and our Savior, and make our peace with life in this earthly realm are up to us, but reading about a one man's conversion from unbelief to belief helped me. I believe it can also help others who are grieving, as well as those who are seeking answers and willing to accept a truth outside the realm of science and a heaven that doesn't need streets of gold to be the place where we can meet our God and Savior.

1 comment:

  1. I've hear many good things about this book since its release! So glad you found it helpful during this difficult time in your life. :)

    Sending out hugs and healing...