This time during the month of November we remember those of our community who have died during the past year and we hand over to their families the plagues that bear their names that hung on the Remembrance Tree. More people seem to have passed on this year than most and our tree has been quite full. The question we may well ask is where are they, and what is life like for them now? This is the question that every conscious human being has to ask at some stage, even if they never voice it; if there is a heaven then what is it like? Like most of you I grew up believing that it was a place so great and wonderful that no eye could see or heart conceive and that our loved ones who were there continued to love and care for us. For all of us who lost a loved one quite young that was wonderfully reassuring to know where they were and that they still loved us. Unfortunately so many young people today who grow up in homes where faith is not practiced are being deprived of that comfort. Knowing how important that was in my own life I deem it to be nothing short of tragic to see that happening especially with parents who want to give their children everything and yet turn a blind eye to not giving them what they most need that can sustain them through life.
So what is heaven really like? That is truly the big question? Having read numerous accounts of people who have passed over and come back in what has come to be known as a Near Death Experience the reality they describe is remarkably the same. Whether they be Christian, Buddist, Muslim or Jew doesn’t seem to make much difference and they all say the same thing and it’s very much in line with what our faith has taught us. You may even know some of those in our own community who have had this same experience.
Let me share with you one remarkable account of an Indian lady who is a Hindu and living in Hong Cong. She was in the terminal stage of cancer suffering from multiple melanoma with her body mass down to three and a half stone. Her body functions ceased and while her heart beat almost flatlined she passed over. While there she was offered a choice as to whether to stay or to return and do some important work on earth. Leaving that place of absolute bliss was very difficult and she feared going back into a body that was as good as dead. Yet she knew that if she chose to return, her body would be fully healed. And so it was, because within three weeks the doctors were amazed to find no trace of her tumors and she quickly regained full health. This was on a par with any of the miraculous healings we hear of in Lourdes and other sacred shrines.
When fully recovered this lady was quizzed over and over by all sorts of experts, medical and otherwise, as to what she had witnessed while she was away from her body, and they all agreed that given the terminal state of her body there was no way she should be alive.
She said that there were no words that could come close to describing such a wonderful experience. She could only use the analogy of a warehouse larger than you could ever imagine. During life you live there with just one small flashlight and everything you know about this vast place is what you have seen by the beam of the flashlight. Everything you need is there and if you can’t find it its just because your beam is shining somewhere else. Then we shine our light on so many things but with our limited understanding we are left wondering what they are and so we live with a lot of unanswered questions about certain happenings and how they are all related. At any stage we can only see what our light is focused on and we can only identify what we already know. Such is the reality of our life on earth where we have such limited understanding and poor awareness.
Then she said imaging someone turning on a switch that illuminates the entire building. It stretches much farther than you can even imagine and there is a sudden burst of brilliance, sound and fabulous color so much more beautiful than you could ever have imagined. Every shelf is packed with everything your heart would delight in, everything that tantalizes your senses and emotions. Looking back on your life you realize that you were just a speck in that vast universe that surrounded you and now you see how everything has its place and how everything is connected. Everything you knew before is already there but you see it in an entirely new light where it is suffused with colour, sound and texture. Everything that once seemed so banal and ordinary we now see and having been sacred all along. In that space you have a great sense of belonging and being utterly at home and that you are part of a much bigger picture that is so alive infinite and altogether fantastic.
This lady then saw her father coming to meet her. They hadn’t had a good relationship. As an Indian he had tried to arrange her marriage to someone she didn’t love and she rebelled but now it was different, and the cultural pressures that he had tried to impose upon her didn’t matter, and she just felt his unconditional love. It was as if she was meeting her real father for the first time and felt safe and cherished in his presence. He had died many years earlier and she realized that while physically absent his essence had always remained with his family.
It was 24 hours later before she came out of that state and I use the word ‘state’ deliberately because a big revelation for her was that heaven was more a state of being than an actual place. Regaining consciousness the switch was turned off and she was back to her flashlight. Yet nothing could take away the wonder and beauty of the experience. Having had a glimpse of all that existed in that warehouse noting could ever cancel out or make her doubt the reality of what she had seen. Even with her little flashlight she found herself looking at everything and everyone in a different light. The awesome sense of divinity in everyone and the sacredness of everything never left her and ever since her work around the world has been to spread the message of what she has seen to as many as possible.
Hers is without doubt an extraordinary story and far from being any way morbid its very reassuring for all of us, and for so many who have a fear of death, and the unknown, it’s a source of great comfort.
Some of you may have an interest in reading the full account of her experience. If so, the name of her book is Dying to be Me and her name is Anita Moorjani. I can recommend it as really inspiring as well as being a very good read.