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Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, December 2014

Glimpses of the Afterlife
by: Brent Raynes

Dr. Arthur Cushman

Here of late I have become especially interested in Near-Death Experience (NDE) accounts, or really any afterlife reports that otherwise suggest a continuity of existence beyond physical death itself. I suppose quite naturally this is to be expected as one enters their retirement phase of life as I have, though truthfully I have been intrigued by such stories going back to my teenage years. Who doesn’t from time to time stop and wonder what awaits them in the great beyond, that fateful day when their physical body exhausts itself and it is time, as Shakespeare said, for their soul to shuffle off of its mortal coil?

It has long been a subject of grave interest to me, if you’ll excuse the unintended pun. Through the years, I have spoken personally to a fair number of sane, sober and credible seeming people who shared directly with me about their own firsthand glimpses or experiences with something that seems to lurk beyond the veils of this existence here.

Recently I was talking with Dr. Arthur Cushman, a Nashville area neurosurgeon who was working at Baptist Hospital back in 2005 when something very extraordinary occurred. Dr. Cushman, and a Nashville oncologist named Dr. Carl Willis, both independently, just a few hours apart, described having had separate visitations from a cancer patient who had just passed away. For Dr. Cushman though the patient, Burke Aldridge, was also a long time friend. His wife, Faye Aldridge, had been his office manager for a number of years, and the family had taken trips together. “The night he died I went in his room and Faye read the 23rd Psalm to him while we both held his hands,” Dr. Cushman explained to me. “I had the feeling that I would never see him again. I left the room crying. The next morning, I went in for rounds. I dropped by and they said that he had passed away during the night. When I went home at the end of the day I just sat down on my bed and he appeared before me. He appeared as he normally would. He did not appear as some ghostly thing.”

“He said ‘Hi Slim,’” Dr. Cushman continued. “That was a nickname that he called me that nobody else even knew. He said, ‘Thank you for all that you’ve done for me. Where I am now, it’s absolutely beautiful and I’m very, very happy.’”

“About a day or so later, they had a visitation [at the funeral home]. I saw his wife, I gave her a hug and then I said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this. Burke appeared to me. It was the same day that he died, right after I got home.’ Then I quoted what he had said and she just looked at me and she [later] said that his oncologist said that he was staying up late and was sitting in a chair and that Burke appeared to him. He recognized his voice. He was from rural Mississippi. He told him basically the identical thing that he had told me. He told him thank you and that he was happy where he was and that he was in a beautiful land. He appeared to me maybe ten hours later.”

“His wife said, ‘Would you write it up and send it to me? Just fax it to me?’ She also asked the other doctor, Dr. Willis, if he would do the same and he said yes. So he did, and then she told me later, ‘You know, this is something very odd. Burke said, just before he died, that I would be receiving a fax from heaven.”

The full story is recounted in Faye Aldridge’s book, A Fax From Heaven and Other True Stories (2009).

A Fax From Heaven is loaded with other accounts of people who have claimed to have glimpsed “the other side.” One of those accounts involved Dr. Cushman again, this time as he treated a Missionary Baptist minister from a small town near Nashville. The minister had suffered a stroke, causing paralysis on the left side of his body. Testing had disclosed that he had a blockage of his right carotid artery. Dr. Cushman examined the pastor and recommended surgery to remove a significant build up of plague from there. Later the surgery was performed and all seemed to go well, until the patient was disconnected from the anesthetic. Then his blood pressure climbed up to what looked like a potentially lethal level. To counteract this, fearing that a brain hemorrhage might result, the anesthetist gave the patient an intravenous medication to lower the blood pressure. However, the blood pressure suddenly dropped to zero and the heart had nearly stopped. With quick actions the medical team used CPR and resuscitated the pastor, with no ill effects.

The following day, the pastor asked to speak privately with Dr. Cushman. He then asked the doctor if he had died, and then began describing how his soul had left his body and then described accurately what had been going on in the operating room to save him. Dr. Cushman was quite amazed at the accuracy of his account. Then the pastor described how he had found himself going down a long and dark tunnel where he experienced a review of his entire life. When he reached the end of this tunnel, he claimed that he encountered a bright and beautiful light, as well as Jesus and angels. In addition, he said he saw many members of his family who had died years ago, all of them looking young and healthy again, and white light surrounding each one. He said that he wanted to stay, but that Jesus had told him that he had to go, that it wasn’t yet his time. Then he awakened in the recovery room.

Dr. Eben Alexander, the author of Proof of Heaven and The Map of Heaven, is a neurosurgeon who, in 2008, suffering from a rare strain of bacterial meningitis, went into a deep coma for seven days. The doctor described how, during his coma, he has a very vivid memory of how a circular “being of light” that produced heavenly music rescued him from a gloomy dark realm. There he saw and heard many wondrous sights as he came to be guided in his otherworldly journey by what he described as an extraordinarily beautiful woman who reassured him without actually speaking in words that he was deeply loved and cared for, and that the universe was a far more vast, better and beautiful place than he could imagine. “All my senses had blended,” Dr. Alexander explained in an interview. “Seeing and hearing were not separate functions. It was as if I could hear the grace and elegance of the airborne creatures, and see the spectacular music that burst out of them.”

Back in 2005, at a conference in Virginia, I met a researcher and experiencer of three near death experiences herself. P.M.H. Atwater, the author of The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences (2007), concurred with the finding of another NDE researcher, Richard J. Bonenfant, Ph.D., that some two-thirds of these NDE’rs had described symptoms of synesthesia (multiple sensing, as described by Dr. Alexander in the above paragraph, who noted how his “senses had blended”). “This alone is a major neurological finding!” Atwater noted.

People who have these experiences are changed in a variety of significant ways; changes that seem positive, empowering, and deeply spiritual. Dr. Alexander has concluded that his experience happened outside the brain, in what he calls “the dwelling-place of Divine consciousness, spirit and soul.” And, by the way, four months after Dr. Alexander had emerged from the coma, he claims that he received a letter with a picture of his biological sister Betsy. He had been adopted at an early age and this Betsy had died before he had reunited with his biological family. He says that he is absolutely certain that the beautiful woman who guided him through spiritual realms during his NDE was the Betsy in his family picture!

Thursday, June 20, 2024