What is it Like to Die? Part 3 – A Different View of Death

This post was originally published in August 2014

For Christians, the Bible calls us to reverse our thinking on a lot of subjects. We are to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and serve if we want to lead. When we are finished living, death is not a final punishment, but the beginning of a new life in heaven and an eternal reward. We don’t see death that way because we can only see one side of it, the side that takes place in our present reality.  To understand the Bible’s view, we need to see death from a different perspective.

As I said in the first post in this series, people have two “parts;” a physical part, the body, that will wear out and die and a spiritual part, the soul or spirit, which will never die.  When a person becomes a Christian, God’s Holy Spirit begins to live in them and for many people it is their first experience with the spiritual world. We are aware of feelings and input that comes in through ways other than our senses. It is both exhilarating and unnerving when we “sense” the Holy Spirit tell us that something is wrong or we just stop doing things we used to do. Our spirit is being changed and the change is reflected in what we do and how we think. That’s how Paul could be sure that a person who had accepted Christ would begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22.  God’s Holy Spirit teaches our spirit to be God-like and demonstrate God’s character.

When we die, our body releases our spirit. I talked in an earlier post about where the spirit will go. In this case, I am talking about those who have accepted Jesus’ death for their sins and their spirits are going to heaven for eternity with God. For those of us on the earthly side of death, all we see is the body stop working and the person we knew is gone. But, if we could see the whole picture, we would see that when the person drew his last breath here, his eyes opened in heaven where there are angels singing, there are the spirits of believers through the ages who have died before him, and he is where God dwells in His glory. The joy, peace, and acceptance are overwhelming. There is a sense of finally being home in the place that Jesus promised he would prepare for us. Here on earth, we only see half the picture, and it’s not the good half.

That is why Christians see death differently. Do we miss those who die? Of course we do do. Do we think that someone died too soon, or too young, or that they lingered too long? Sure. It’s OK to feel that way. God comforts us in our sorrow. Jesus, as God in the flesh, had people in his life die. When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept. But, because of the great hope we have in heaven, we can celebrate death as a graduation or passage. Death no longer means eternal separation from God. As Paul said, because Jesus paid our penalty for sin “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” I Cor 15:54-55.

I don’t want to over spiritualize this.  If you have lost someone to death, it hurts and there is sense of loss that will never go away.  The way you feel is normal and you should not bury those feelings.  It is OK to grieve and take time to heal.  God will comfort you if you ask and He will restore your hope for the future.

Really, the purpose of this short series on death is you.  Do you know what will happen when you die?  I hope that you have accepted, or will accept, Jesus’ death for your sins and that you will spend eternity in heaven.  I became a Christian when I was in college.  There was this girl, I don’t even remember her name, who wanted to share the gospel with me every time I talked to her.  I humored her and I knew enough from attending church to respond to her questions and tell her that I just hadn’t made my mind up about Jesus.  One day, I thought I had her.  I said, how about all those people in other countries who will never hear the gospel, are they just going to hell?  She didn’t even flinch.  She said, “Dave, this isn’t about them, it’s about you.  God loves them and I trust he will treat them justly.  But, you have heard the gospel, you have to decide what to do with it, you have no excuse.”  I never forgot that.  It was a couple years later that I committed my life to Jesus in a little country church when I was home on summer break.  My life was forever changed.  If you are not a Christian and you have read these last few posts, you have all the information you need to make a decision.  What will it be?  I trust that God will speak to you and that you will accept the wonderful free gift of grace and salvation that He is offering.

What is it Like to Die? Part 2- My Experience

This post was originally published in August 2014

The week of June 8th I could feel a flare coming on and the medication was not working fast enough to control it. I expected that it would land me in the Cleveland Clinic, so Wednesday night, June 11, I went downstairs to pay some bills and get things cleaned up. The next thing I remember is that it was now 4 AM and I knew I needed to get to the hospital. I called Mary Ann and told her (I couldn’t walk upstairs). I don’t remember the ambulance ride or any part of the admission process, maybe a spill-over of the effects of the sedation.  I remember Mary Ann telling me that they were going to vent me. I knew that had caused problems with other RP patients and I signaled her not to do it. They warned my that I could die as a result and that it was necessary if they were going to fly me to the Cleveland Clinic. I didn’t care about dying, but I did want to get to the Clinic if we could. I signaled OK and I was out.

The next thing i remember is waking up at the Clinic 8 days later. (It had taken 36 hours for a bed to open so I remained on a vent and sedated in Cincinnati until Friday August 13th (I know, lucky for me).  I was flown to Cleveland Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, June 14, the doctor asked Mary Ann to step out of the room so he could put a line in my neck and I had a heart attack. While Mary Ann and our daughters prayed for me over the phone in another room, the “Code Blue” team gave me CPR for 30 minutes.  When my heart started, they put me in a medically induced coma to prevent or limit any brain damage that may have been caused by the lack of oxygen.  After 8 days in the coma, I responded to my name and could answer “yes” and “no” questions by nodding my head. Do you know who you are?  That was a softball, I responded to my name, right?  Do you know where you are? I knew where I was supposed to be, so I guessed right. The effect of the sedation wore off and I was “waking up.”

I’m retelling this story in case you have just found the blog and missed the longer version of the story in my initial post in this series. I also want to remake the point that I was out cold. During those 8 days, folks visited me, talked to me, read to me, prayed for me and I was completely unaware.

I have read 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real (both great books) and I would have expected a different kind of experience as I laid close to death. But, I didn’t hear angels singing , see people who had died before me, or get a glimpse inside the Pearly Gates. My only recollection from that time is what seemed like a short dream that I can’t even place in time.

It was night-time and I was in a strange city and needed to get home. I walked into the parking lot where my rented car was. I could hardly walk and I knew I needed to get home. It was a small red car. The cars in the lot were parked so closely together that I couldn’t get in mine. Someone I couldn’t see told me that there was a way to walk home so I started to walk. I was on a big concrete platform, like an outdoor performance pavilion and there were rows of concrete benches where the audience would sit. There was a wet slippery ramp that led down from the middle of the stage that I needed to go down. There were no guard rails. As I moved toward the ramp, I fell off the front of the stage. I was going to fall about 6 feet and land on the first concrete bench. I rolled to brace for the impact. I stopped in mid-air and “woke up.” Something told me that what had happened was not real but reflected a spiritual battle. In the end, God said “enough,” stopped the fight and spared me.

For now, I am taking the experience at face value. There was a spiritual battle going on while I was sedated and God intervened to end it. I may remember more as time goes on, but I think it is lost in the sedation.  Mary Ann is better at talking about that time and I will ask her to write a post describing her experiences during my heart attack and the days that followed.

No pithy lessons here.  I am still processing the experience and I’ll share insights as they come.  I guess the one thing this demonstrates is that we don’t always get answers.  Our job is to trust God to lead us and follow where He goes.  Even at times where we have only enough light to see what is immediately ahead of us.  Take the step you see and trust that the next step will be there.

On Death and Dying

I am not an expert on the topic of death and dying.  I have only died once and, obviously, I wasn’t very good at it because I am writing a blog post two years later.  But, the experience was still a cause for some reflection.  You can read about it starting here.  I originally wrote the reflections on death and dying from the Cleveland Clinic two years ago.

Like most of the posts on The Digital Disciple, the posts  were written to help me sort out my ideas and to share them with others who may find them later.  I know the process helped me and I hope it has helped others.

The posts approach the subject from a faith perspective.  Unless someone is talking only about the physiology of death and dying, I don’t see how it is possible to take a different perspective.  What happens up to the point of death may be physiology.  But, talking about what happens to the person when the person’s body dies involves faith.  It’s like talking about the beginning of the universe.  The discussion from the instant of the big bang may be science, but the discussion of the instant before the big bang is faith.  It’s hard to walk around the edges of either topic without crossing over.

You may have a different perspective and I invite you to share it in the comments.  Or, if you prefer, use the “Contact Me” link on the top of the page to sent me a private e-mail.

Welcome back to The Digital Disciple Blog

hs-1-250pxSeptember 8, 2016

Welcome to the relaunched Digital Disciple blog.  The blog is still about life’s journey and the lessons learned along the way.

I have begun by re-posting some pieces that I wrote from the Cleveland Clinic in 2014.  You will find them if you scroll to the bottom or select The Cleveland Clinic in the categories to the right.  I have also added a Site  Map (see the list of pages in the right column) that gives a short introduction to some of the content and makes things easier to find.

If you would like to receive e-mail notices of new posts, please fill out the subscription form on the top right side of the page.  All of the old subscriptions have been deleted.