• Peter Cummings

Everything Is Different

Updated: Nov 7, 2020

When I returned from the trip where I nearly died, I finally came to a startling realization: There was nothing "nearly" about what happened to me.

When I returned home from Costa Rica, I spent some time just thinking about what had happened to me. I was feeling different inside my own skin. I felt off, uncomfortable, but I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling. I had survived a close call with death, and an experience like that will shake up a person. I wondered if perhaps for the first time in my life I was feeling mortal. I still carried within me the youthful feeling of invincibility, but maybe the walls were cracking and my age was starting to show.

The more I processed what happened to me underwater, the less I could explain it. After a few days of contemplation, I was sure that I had a near-death experience—an NDE. That thought, more so than barely escaping the rapids, shook me to the core. It flew in the face of all I believed and undermined my personal philosophy about death, and more directly, the existence of God. I dismissed the experience as hypoxia, and tried to reassure myself it was all in my head.

I worried people would think I was crazy. In my profession, reputation is everything. If I started rattling on about dying and seeing Heaven, I would look like a nut job in court.

Admittedly, at the time I didn’t know a lot about near death experiences, other than what I had seen in a movie or two. Based on what little I did know, I didn’t think what happened to me qualified. I thought I should have talked to God or deceased relatives and been sent back with a clear purpose or mission. None of that happened. What I experienced didn’t seem to fit with anything I knew— not science and certainly not the afterlife, which I didn't believe in anyway. I needed to learn more on all fronts. I didn’t say anything to anyone about it, I was still trying to get my head around it all. I felt as though I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I worried people would think I was crazy. In my profession, reputation is everything and if I started rattling on about dying and seeing Heaven, then I would look like a nut job in court.

I started by doing some reading on the subject of near-death experiences, trying to see if my experience shared any similarities with others. I read several articles and a couple of different books. Almost all of the books and stories were profoundly religious and involved God, Jesus, Angels and orders to return back to life in order to fulfill some greater purpose. The books were filled with Bible quotes and relied heavily on the Scriptures. My impression was that people almost always came back deeply religious and committed to God. That didn’t happen to me, so maybe I didn’t have a near death experience, maybe it was a dream.

I ended up doing a deep dive, reading everything about NDEs I could get my hands on, hoping to find not similarities to my experience. If I'd had a true NDE, it would change everything for me. I was an atheist, agnostic on a good day. Despite my grasping at the straws of my reality, I couldn’t get over the immense feeling of love and acceptance I had experienced, more intense than any dream I’d ever had. There had to be more to what had happened to me. I was determined to find it.

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