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So, last Thursday I talked a bit about my beliefs concerning life-after-death. Fascinating topic for almost all of us, I would imagine.  Many comments, on my post and on Nancy‘s mention their own experiences with Near Death Experiences, actual death experiences, or ghost encounters.  As far as science is concerned, the jury is still out.  I don’t put all my faith in science – that would be folly, I believe – scientists are too often proved wrong.

However, personal experiences are just that – anecdotal, personal experiences – and really give us no scientific “evidence” of their concrete reality.  That doesn’t matter (to me) in the long run, because many of the stories that recount actual experiences are so entirely believable, that I am nevertheless convinced of their veracity.  The preceding sentences might sound like I am hedging my bets – I am not.  I am making an effort to express what some of the overall views on the subjects are.

I did have my own “near death experience” – or what seems in my memory to be similar to one.  But there were differences in my own experience to many of the others I have heard of, in that it was not entirely pleasant, nor do I remember a “light.”  But I was left with no uncertain feeling:  I was not going to die.  I absolutely refused! Fortunately, our dog, Elvira, apparently agreed with me, because she likely saved my life.

I had recently returned home from one of my extended hospital stays during which I battled a near-fatal systemic infection.  Once the antibiotics had begun to take hold, I pleaded to go home, and with our promise to continue the IV antibiotics through home infusion, and have the home health care nurses visiting once or twice daily, I was allowed to return home.  My mother, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease had recently come to live with us.  She was reasonably stable and able to handle being on her own at home for short periods of time.  The afternoon of my experience, my mom was downstairs from my bedroom.  I should mention that she had become quite hard of hearing, and could not always hear me if I called out.  This was acceptable to us at the time, and Ashley felt all right (as did I) leaving me home alone with her for brief periods because the telephone was right by the bed, and if necessary, I would call the nurses or EMT’s for any needed help.  Our wonderful dog, Elvira, was always very protective of me, and had been my constant shadow since the day she came into our lives when she was 5 weeks old.  She was a German Shepherd, Shetland Sheep Dog cross (as near as we were able to determine.  She had all the markings and coloring of a German Shepherd, but with the “feathers” of the Sheltie.  Her size was somewhere in between the two, and she weighed about 45 pounds.).  Until my mother moved in with us, Elvira always stayed on the bed with me, or would lie on the floor beside me.  When my mom arrived, Elvira knew that she also need some guarding, so each night she positioned herself in the hallway between our bedrooms so she could keep an eye on both of us.  She was, quite simply, amazing.

That afternoon, I had started feeling quite unwell, but was hesitant to call for help yet.  I was hoping the feeling was temporary, and was going to give myself some time.  My next memory is of being at the bottom of a whirlpool.  I could see the water swirling above me as I sank lower and lower down.  I had a sense of “leaving” that is difficult to describe.  I was not frightened – I was MAD!  I knew that I was dying.  I do not know for how long this experience went on.  Likely for only a few seconds, but it could have been more than an hour.  The next thing I remember is a very sharp and heavy “WHUMP” on my chest.  My eyes popped open, and Elvira was standing on top of me, her front feet placed squarely over my heart, and was whimpering and licking my face. I remember trying to call out for my mother.  Hearing no reply, I just barely managed to reach over to the telephone – there was almost zero strength in my body – and called the nurse’s emergency line.  She and a partner were there in minutes, and I was once again whisked away to the hospital.  When I arrived there, a test of my blood oxygen level was taken and it revealed that I was virtually suffocating.  I did not have that sensation at all.  I was feeling very little, actually.  On hearing my story about Elvira, the physician allowed as how she had probably saved my life.  My two vivid memories of the incident are the whirlpool and Elvira’s jolting leap.  I have no way of identifying what my experience was – and it really does not matter. I only know that it was. And that it was as real as any other documented happening in my life.

I have not had a visual human-ghost experience.  As told in my poem about one of our cats, Forrest Gump, his spirit has visited us, and still does on occasion and he is quite visible to both Hubs and me.  Hubs has had a couple of visual experiences with the human variety – he will have to tell his own stories, and two of our sons have had similar experiences.  I have had one experience.  I did not see anything, but our cat Justin certainly could, and I heard something, very distinctly, that alerted me to the presence of something near.

The threshold to our bedroom makes a very distinctive creak if it is stepped on in exactly the right spot, and with enough weight.  In takes well over 100 pounds of pressure to make it creak – in other words, a child or animal does not trigger it.  We have tested it numerous times. In the middle of one night, I was abruptly awakened by that very creak.  Justin, who was on the bed with us, was similarly awakened, and immediately jumped to the foot of the mattress, and sat straight up, his head lowered, his ears cocked back, and his hackles raised.  His tail twitched rhythmically. Our attention was directed exclusively to the entrance to the bedroom. Justin stayed in his watchful and wary position for a full 15 or 20 minutes. I could see nothing at the door – no shadow or outline, but I knew someone was there.  The presence did not scare me so much as startle me. I did not immediately think “ghost,” but as time went by and there was no other noise or detectable movement in the house, the feeling of a presence led me to the conclusion that we were being “visited.”  When I sensed the presence was gone, so did Justin.  He relaxed, turned around, walked back to the head of the bed and went back to sleep.  I remained awake for a while, but I eventually went back to sleep too.  Hubs was deeply asleep through the whole thing, I believe.  He might tell you differently.  I cannot remember if I woke him up to tell him or not.  This I know:  something or someone was there, and stood at the door watching us.

(This particular clip from SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” gives some amazing auditory evidence of a presence.  BTW – EVP‘s are Electronic Voice Phenomena, which are sounds that are not heard by the human ear when they occur, but are later heard electronically via recordings.  That is the reason many times the hunters are “talking over” the EVP’s.)

Hubs and our sons and I are great fans of a SyFy TV program called Ghost Hunters, (see the clip above), which is on each Wednesday evening.  A very sane and level-headed couple of men along with their associates set about to gather evidence of ghostly encounters or to debunk any such claims with logical explanations.  They are reasonably scientific in their approach, and are quite hesitant to declare any place as “haunted,” although they occasionally declare a place so, or at least the site of something paranormal, or something they themselves cannot explain.  The program is fascinating and basically, just fun.  There have been some chilling moments, but they are generally more interesting than anything else.  I am quite sure there are nay-sayers out in “TV land” about the veracity of their methods or claims.  I don’t care.  There will always be those, and my personal opinion is that Jason and Grant, and their associates, they are on the “up and up.”  There are several other programs on TV that involve ghost hunts or similar things.  Most are laughable and much less convincing, but they are all quite fun in their own way.  Both Hubs and I are interested in these programs, but far from obsessed, and we both exercise a healthy amount of objective skepticism.  So be it.  Are there ghosts?  Are ghosts the active, conscious presence of people who once lived here in our dimension, or are ghosts merely impressions left in the atmosphere – residual memories of persons who once lived?  Perhaps a combination of both?  I do not know.  I sort of suspect that I will never know – at least on this side of eternity!  It is fun to speculate. My speculation leans in the direction of the very real existence of ghosts or spirits.

From a theological perspective, I could probably expound a great deal.  To spare you all, I will not.  I will just add that the very real presence of the Holy Spirit is constantly a part of my life.  It is no huge leap for me to believe in the presence of other spirits – good or evil.  Let me know what you think!  I am always eager to read your own opinions, or of your experiences – so comment away!  Until then, this is enough. . .