Do you believe in the afterlife? What do you think happens when we die? Gareth Frank

Do you believe in the afterlife? What do you think happens when we die? by Gareth Frank

The Moment Between is a psychological thriller published by Three Women Press, that brings death to life through the story of Doctor Hackett Metzger, a neurologist who struggles with grief four years after losing his wife and becomes involved in a medical study of near-death experiences just as he meets a woman with a dangerous past. Hackett is reluctantly involved in the study because he doesn’t want to be reminded of his wife’s death and he doesn’t believe in the afterlife. His life and research are about to collide.

The Moment Between is not a fantasy or a ghost story. Instead, it uses fiction to explore the very real phenomena of near-death experiences in a way that forces the reader to challenge their own assumptions about the possibilities of what awaits us all in that moment between life and death.

 

I grew up across the street from the Episcopal Church where my best friend’s father presided as our priest. I went to Sunday school, learned about heaven and hell, but never thought about it seriou

sly. I was a kid, fortunate enough to have seen very little of death. Now in my sixties, it is a subject that is increasingly hard to avoid. Still, when it comes to religion I am an agnostic and when it comes to spiritualism, I am even more skeptical.

 

So how does a non-believer like me explain near-death experiences and the wealth of evidence surrounding them? I can’t. I don’t know that they represent proof of a conscious life after death, and I don’t dismiss that possibility either. The main character in my novel, like all of us must contend with two competing aspects of human nature — the tendency to be rational and the tendency to be spiritual. Each one of us falls somewhere on this continuum.

 

Not too many years ago, these tantalizing glimpses of life after death were almost universally dismissed as mere hallucination, but we are finding more and more evidence that something very real is happening. We still may not know what it is, but a lot of people are reporting physical sensations and memories at a time when medical science says there was no brain activity to support it. Dismissing these near-death visions as mere hallucinations require just as much conjecture as believing that they present proof of consciousness after death. Something is happening, and we who are skeptics should be open to answers.

 

The facts are:

 

  • As reporter Judy Bachrach says in her book about near death experiences, we are living in the days of Lazarus. Modern medical resuscitation techniques have made it a fairly common practice to bring people back to life after they are clinically dead and absolutely no brain function is detectable.
  • Afterlife experiences are surprisingly similar from person to person, across cultures and time periods.
  • A 2008 study followed cardiac arrests at fifteen prominent hospitals in the US and Great Britain. It found that 39% of those who survived and could be interviewed reported memories of their own resuscitation, a feat that medical science tells us is impossible. More than that, 13% reported memories of their conscious mind separating from their body.
  • We also know with certainty that the human mind is capable of incredible feats that appear to be more the realm of mysticism than science, such as savants like Daniel Tammet who recited the mathematical constant pi down to 23,000 digits without error, or actress Marilu Henner who has near-total recall and can tell you what happened on each and every day of her life.

What is consciousness? How does the physical activity of neurons and other brain matter explain consciousness? Science can describe the activity, but can’t explain how it produces conscious thought. It might as well be voodoo. The best explanation was presented 400 years ago by Rene Descartes, “I think, therefor I am.” And that doesn’t really explain anything.

 

The physical basis of thought becomes even more confusing when quantum theory is considered. Physicists have proven that the universe as we know it is defined and shaped by conscious observation. The nature of matter itself is determined by observation. Some theoretical physicists have even theorized that consciousness is the missing variable that Einstein was searching for in his quest for a unified theory of physics. (unifying general relativity with quantum mechanics)

Let me tell you a true story. You can interpret it as you wish, but I believe that the underlying facts are true.

 

On a November day in 2008, Doctor Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, like my fictitious Hackett Metzger, lay dying of bacterial meningitis at Lynchburg General Hospital in Southwest Virginia. He had lapsed into a coma. The doctor’s treating him did a brain scan which showed he had irreversible brain damage and no chance of surviving. He was toast. With assurances that his brain was in fact already gone, his family took shifts at his bedside waiting for the inevitable moment when his heart would beat one last time. But deep within, Eben Alexander was not only conscious, but he was also in the midst of a life-altering experience. He would later say that he crossed the plain of death before returning to this world. During a time when his brain was shut down, he reported looking down on his own body, hearing people talk even as the neurons in his brain were inactive. Seeing people move around the room when no electrical activity flowed from his optic nerve. Having conscious thought, when his doctors said that dreams even were not possible. Upon waking he related conversations that his ears could not have heard and eyes could not have seen.

 

He experienced The Moment Between life and death.

Written by Gareth Frank, Author of The Moment Between

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