As the dying prepare to leave this world, they often begin to get a glimpse of what lies beyond through deathbed visits from deceased loved ones, strangers, and angelic or divine figures. Religious beliefs appear to have no bearing on these experiences--even atheists and nonbelievers have reported such phenomena. At times these visits are experienced by others in the room, offering incredible validity to the idea that life truly does continue.
A Call from Heaven will:
A Call from Heaven illustrates that death is not the end and that we all will be guided to the other side, comforting those who are grieving and removing the fear of death for all of us.
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About the Author
Josie Varga is dedicated and passionate about her research into metaphysics and the afterlife. A popular blogger and motivational speaker, she strives to teach others why happiness is all a matter of how we think. The author of several books, she is currently working on a television pilot based on her book Visits from Heaven. She also has a popular group on Facebook for people to share their spiritual experiences and find comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Josie lives in Westfield, New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Comatose to Lucid Right Before Death
Terminal lucidity, seen time and time again, is a term used to describe the unexpected return of mental clarity and responsiveness shortly before death in those who were previously incoherent.
One of the most amazing cases on record is Anna Katharina Ehmer (1895–1922), a severely disabled woman who lived in a mental institution. University of Virginia Researchers Bruce Greyson, MD, and Michael Nahm, PhD, explore Ehmer's case in a paper published in Omega — Journal of Death and Dying.
Ehmer never spoke a word her entire life but, according to reports, this changed on her deathbed when she shocked doctors by singing songs for 30 minutes prior to her death. The head pastor, Friedrich Happich, was asked to join Dr. Wilhelm Wittneben at Ehmer's bedside. When the two men entered the room, they were shocked by what they witnessed. "When we entered the room together, we did not believe our eyes or ears," wrote Happich. "Kathe, who had never spoken a single word, being entirely mentally disabled from birth on, sang dying songs to herself. Specifically, she sang over and over again, 'Where does the soul find its home, its peace? Peace, peace, Heavenly peace!' For half an hour she sang. Her face, up to then so stultified, was transfigured and spiritualized. Then she quietly passed away."
Both Happich and Wittneben wrote similar accounts of what happened. In fact, they pointed out that Ehmer had never given them any indication that she was even remotely aware of her environment. "From birth on, she was seriously retarded," according to Happich. "She had never learned to speak a single word. She stared for hours on a particular spot, then she fidgeted for hours without a break. She gorged her food, fouled herself day and night, uttered an animal-like sound, and slept."
According to skeptics who have reviewed this case, the fact that Ehmer did not speak her entire life does not prove that she couldn't speak. Perhaps, they speculate, she chose not to speak. I tend to agree with the skeptics because it is difficult to authenticate these reports from almost a century ago. However, the idea that such a story would be identically fabricated by two respected individuals doesn't make sense.
Also, this account of terminal lucidity taken in conjunction with those that have since been reported only gives it more credibility. People with Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia with severely impaired mental workings have suddenly regained intellectual clarity shortly before death.
The majority of neuroscientists have, up until now, asserted that once the brain is damaged, normal mental reasoning and perception becomes impossible. But new research suggests that this is not necessarily always the case.
Professor Alexander Batthyany, PhD, teaches courses in behavioral science and philosophy at the University of Vienna in Austria. At the time of this writing, he is currently conducting a large-scale study on terminal lucidity in those stricken with Alzheimer's disease. Thus far, his preliminary findings suggest that normal cognition can occur despite a severely damaged brain. However, his research has found that this only occurs when a person is near death.
Conventional science has no explanation for this. Professor Batthyany has called these deathbed phenomena "close to a miracle," however, he admits, "I am not sure whether miracle is a good word, but it is deeply mystifying given what we know about the relationship between mental function and brain integrity."
I then questioned him about why he decided to undertake such a study.
Why do I study this? How could I not? The day I heard about this phenomenon, I was surprised that so few people look into it. In the beginning, I was slightly skeptical whether I would find cases. Now, I have so many that I wonder how I will be able to cope with all the data which need to be analyzed. ... There is a growing database which seems to point to a far more complex picture of the relation between brain, mind and self than we tend to assume.
Professor Batthyany has conducted several other research projects and his impressive work has been cited in numerous books and publications. In another paper he authored, "Complex Visual Imagery and Cognition During Near-Death Experiences," he studied cases of enhanced conscious awareness and visual imagery during near-death experiences. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies in 2015, in which he writes, "Together with case studies of terminal lucidity and mindsight, our findings of enhanced mentation and visual imagery during severe physiological crises appear to therefore indicate that, at least near death, the relationship between cognition, perception, and their neuronal correlates might be more complex than traditionally thought."
As an example, Alzheimer's disease kills nerve cells and tissue in the brain. Through time, those affected by the disease lose almost all of their normal brain functions beginning with memory loss. Although someone stricken with Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, or any other mental disorder may suddenly become coherent on their deathbed there are no observable changes in the brain. In other words, the nerve cells in the damaged brain don't suddenly become alive and allow communication to take place.
The brain doesn't suddenly fill up with new neurons. The brain remains exactly how it was prior to the terminal lucidity taking place. This means that conventional science is incomplete and additional research certainly needs to be conducted. In addition, according to "Terminal Lucidity: A Review and a Case Collection," published by researchers at the University of Iceland and the University of Virginia, "Several of these accounts suggest that during terminal lucidity, memory and cognitive abilities may function by neurologic processes different from those of the normal brain. We expect that significant contributions to better understanding the processes involved in memory and cognition processing might be gained through in-death studies of terminal lucidity."
One of the more recent remarkable cases is reported by Dr. Scott Haig, a New York–based orthopedic surgeon. In 2007, Dr. Haig chronicled a patient named David, who died from lung cancer, in the TIME article "The Brain: The Power of Hope." His body was so filled with cancer that it spread to his brain. In fact, Haig noted, there was barely any brain left at all, leaving him both speechless and motionless.
The cerebral machine that talked and wondered, winked and sang, remembered jokes and birthdays and where the big fish hid on hot days, was nearly gone, replaced by lumps of haphazardly growing gray stuff. Gone with that machine seemed David as well. No expression, no response to anything we did. As far as I could tell, he was just not there.
The day after his patient passed way, Dr. Haig was approached by a nurse who had cared for David on his deathbed. According to Dr. Haig, the nurse told him that David miraculously woke up and proceeded to say goodbye to his family. She went on to explain that he was lucid and alert as he talked to his family for about five minutes. David then passed out once again before dying within the hour.
At first, Dr. Haig did not know what to think, but two weeks later he had his answer when he ran into David's wife, Carol, who happened to be a nurse at the same hospital. When asked if what he had heard was true, Carol nodded and said, "Oh, yes, he sure did."
Haig had no reason not to believe her, but states what awoke David that day was not his damaged brain but his mind. The two, he believes, are separate. At this point, David's brain at was damaged and basically nonexistent. "Tumor metastases don't simply occupy space and press on things leaving a whole brain," Dr. Haig noted. "The metastases actually replace tissue. Where that gray stuff grows, the brain is just not there."
So, if his brain was "just not there," and David was still able to wake up and converse with his family, wouldn't that seem to indicate that consciousness is outside of the brain?
In conclusion, Dr. Haig wrote, "I fix bones with hardware. As physical as this might be, I cannot be a materialist. I cannot ignore the internal evidence of my own mind. It would be hypocritical. And worse, it would be cowardly to ignore those occasional appearances of the spirits of others — of minds uncloaked, in naked virtue, like David's goodbye."
We cannot ignore the evidence. Just because we may not understand how something is possible doesn't mean that it is nonsense and it doesn't mean it didn't happen. In western Bolivia, stands a famous ancient archaeological site known as Puma Punku. The site contains examples of engineering that are far beyond present-day understanding. Stones weighing several tons are meticulously placed and have no chisel marks.
The stones, it was discovered, came from two different locations miles apart. How is it possible without modern transportation and machinery? Also, close examination of these huge stone blocks reveals that they were interlocked in three dimensions, which makes them strong enough to withstand earthquakes and other volcanic activity. How this was even possible remains a mystery but, again, this does not change the fact that it happened. We may not understand how, but they are real.
Likewise, we may not understand how these deathbed visits and other spiritual phenomena are possible, but they are there. They are happening. And they are real.CHAPTER 2
The Question of Consciousness
Dr. Eben Alexander and Dr. Steve Taylor
The discussion of terminal lucidity brings up an important question: If a person who has suffered severe neurological damage and has been comatose for an extended period of time can suddenly communicate, what, then, is consciousness? That is, if David's brain had been destroyed and, as Dr. Haig put it, "is just not there," is consciousness then outside the brain?
Recently, my husband and I dropped our daughter Erica off at her friend's house. While there, I struck up a conversation with her mother and the topic turned to my books. Her friend's older sister Rachel was intrigued. When I mentioned that my latest book would discuss the topic of consciousness and whether or not it is outside the brain, Rachel chimed in, "How do you know it's not a little bit of both?"
Rachel, an honors student and high school senior, explained that she has always been fascinated by the workings of the brain and plans on becoming a neuroscientist. (I look forward to seeing her contributions to science someday.) Rachel really got my own brain thinking: What if consciousness is both inside and outside of the brain? What if it is, as she put it, a little bit of both?
Consciousness is our perception of the world around us. Simply put, it encompasses our thoughts, our memories, our feelings, and so on. It is what we regard as our reality. Hence, it makes sense that one of the biggest puzzles in science today is whether or not consciousness is a product of the brain or if the brain is somehow a receiver of consciousness. The implications of this question are astounding.
If consciousness is not dependent on the brain, then it can continue without the physical body. If it can continue without the physical body, then consciousness continues after death. If consciousness continues after death, it would suggest that there is life after death.
Daegene Song, a South Korean quantum physicist, claims he has mathematically shown that consciousness arises outside the brain. Although the brain does access our consciousness, such consciousness is not generated by it. "Among conscious activities, the unique characteristic of self-observation cannot exist in any type of machine. ... Human thought has a mechanism that computers cannot compute or be programmed to do. ... The brain and consciousness are linked together, but the brain does not produce consciousness. Consciousness is something altogether different and separate."
Song claims to have generated mathematical evidence that consciousness cannot be simulated by a computer — not now, not ever. No matter how large the computer brain, it will never be self-aware. If consciousness was part of the brain then the opposite would be true: It could be replicated by a computer, according to Song. Since this is not the case, he believes that consciousness is not generated by the brain.
Part of the problem with the question of consciousness is that many try to explain it in material terms. I don't believe that you can explain consciousness as such. In fact, I don't believe you can explain deathbed phenomena or other mystical phenomena satisfactorily in physical terms. If you believe that consciousness is produced by the brain, then when the brain is dead so is consciousness. However, if you believe that consciousness is outside of the brain and the physical body, then it is possible to understand how awareness continues on after death.
Dr. Eben Alexander
On November 10, 2008, Dr. Eben Alexander, a well-known, highly respected academic neurosurgeon, contracted an E. coli infection that put him in a coma for seven days. As a result, the outer layer of his brain (the neocortex) — the area of the brain that controls thought and emotion — was shut down. "When your brain is absent, you are absent, too," he writes in his groundbreaking book, Proof of Heaven.
Dr. Alexander learned more about the true nature of reality and consciousness during those seven days in a coma than he did in his many years of schooling and medical practice. "The more my scientific mind returned, the more clearly I saw how radically what I'd learned in decades of schooling and medical practice conflicted with what I'd experienced, and the more I understood that the mind and the personality (as some would call it, our soul or spirit) continue to exist beyond the body," he writes.
His near-death experience changed his outlook completely. Previously, he would have said if you don't have a working brain, you can't be conscious. Like most of his medical colleagues, he believed that the brain was responsible for producing consciousness. No brain, no consciousness. However, even though Dr. Alexander's neocortex was shut down, he was still conscious and aware. In fact, he says, he visited a realm (Heaven) that was "almost too real to be real." It was a beautiful place of peace and love.
Nowadays when asked about consciousness he will admit he had it all wrong. The brain does not generate consciousness; rather, it acts as sort of a filter for consciousness. Death of the body and the brain is not the end of consciousness or life. Even though Dr. Alexander spent more than three decades perfecting and fine-tuning his scientific view of reality, everything changed after spending seven days in a coma. Even though his brain was not capable of producing thoughts or dreams, he was very much conscious and aware.
Dr. Alexander further explains his views on consciousness by saying that consciousness is primary and generates everything else. "Consciousness is the thing that exists. The spirit and the soul also exist and are eternal. The mystery is in better defining how consciousness interacts with the physical world."
One thing Dr. Alexander said is very clear:
Consciousness (soul/spirit/divinity) creates the brain and all of physical reality, not the other way around. The emerging scientific view is of the brain as a reducing valve or filter that limits primordial consciousness down to the apparent trickle of the here-and-now that we experience in our mundane daily physical existence. The most important consequence of this emerging scientific view is that when our brain and body die, our conscious awareness is actually liberated to a much higher form.
When asked what the message was that he hoped to share as a result of his experience, Dr. Alexander said: "Our souls are eternal; we do not need to fear death. Life does not end with the physical body."
Although everything appears to be separate, this is only an illusion. As Dr. Alexander will tell you, we are truthfully all interconnected, loved deeply and unconditionally.
* * *
Dr. Steve Taylor
The author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality, Steve Taylor, PhD, is also a senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University. He has made Mind, Body, Spirit magazine's list of "the 100 most spiritually influential living people" for the past four years. His articles have been published in more than 40 academic journals, magazines, and newspapers.
In his article "The Puzzle of Consciousness," he explains why we need to not only think outside the box when examining consciousness but "outside the brain." The following is reprinted with his permission.
Over the last 20 years, the field of consciousness studies has become increasingly popular, partly because some scientists believe that consciousness is one of the last remaining mysteries. According to this narrative, we have now reached the point where we largely understand problems like evolution, the nature of life, and the origins of the universe, so now it's time for us to turn our attention inside and solve the problem of consciousness.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Call From Heaven"
Copyright © 2017 Josie Varga.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Dr. Peter Fenwick 13
Comatose to Lucid Right Before Death 25
The Question of Consciousness: Dr. Eben Alexander and Dr. Steve Taylor 30
One Last Hug: Carla Wills-Brandon, PhD 38
Chuck, I'm Coming 45
Two Blankets for a Boy and a Girl 46
My Son Ken 48
Yes, I'm Ready 50
"Peak in Darien" Experiences: Dr. Bruce Greyson 52
Understanding the Dying Process: Penny Sartori, PhD 56
I Keep Seeing People 65
A Soul Departing? 67
Will I Go to Heaven? 67
Life's Mysteries Are Revealed in Its Final Moments: Dr. Michael Barbato 68
Mistakes Are Made in Love's Service: Dr. Joan Borysenko 72
A Patient Named John Loranger 78
I Will See You at 9 O'clock 79
The Angel of Death 81
Prophetic Dreaming: Shelley E. Parker 83
It Wasn't a Dream 91
She Would Get There When She Got There 93
She Nodded Three Times 94
In the Light of Death: Ineke Koedam 95
Who Is in the Back of the House? 100
Aunt Terry 102
I Don't Want to Go 103
Dying to See Angels: Dr. John Lerma 105
Take My Hand 111
Send Me Pink Roses 112
A Shared-Death Experience 115
My Sister Came for Dad 124
A Visit in the Intensive Care Unit 127
Who's There? 130
Atmospheric Changes 131
My Mother Appeared Before My Eyes 134
A Mother's Love 137
Aunt Verna 139
Dream Visits 140
He Has Never Let Me Down 142
Well, Hello, Everett! 143
A Message for His Wife 144
Ethel Mary Kates Tennis 146
A Joyous Musical Reunion 147
Yellow Roses for Nancy 150
Final Gifts: Dr. Betty Phillips 154
Spiritual but Not Religious 157
NDEs in Terminally Ill Patients Differ From Those in Acute Events: Dr. Pamela M. Kircher 161
Final Thoughts 169
Appendix: There Is Life After Death 175
About the Author 191