Have no fear of dying. That’s the mantra of Bill Hatfield of Brooks, near Hinton.
Known as “Little Bill” during his boyhood in New Richmond in Wyoming County, the former U.S. Army sergeant died on the operating table in 1990, an out-of-body experience the 57-year-old grandfather says he will never forget.
“I just popped out of my body and floated up to the ceiling,” explained Hatfield. “I was alone, all by myself, out in the universe. I could hear music, and I could see figures in the distance. I never felt so peaceful.”
What Hatfield is describing is a near-death experience, a phenomenon that has occurred throughout history in all parts of the world.
The lifelong Hinton resident had his NDE, as it is known in the medical field, while undergoing heart surgery in 1990 at a North Carolina hospital.
Dr. Raymond Moody created the term “near-death experiences” in his 1975 book Life After Life to describe the clinical death experiences of people he had interviewed.
One study found that 8 to 12 percent of 344 patients resuscitated after suffering cardiac arrest had NDEs and about 18 percent remembered some part of what happened when they were clinically dead.
It is possible that near-death experiences like that described by Hatfield have helped to create the world’s religions – ideas about heaven and hell and other beliefs about what may happen at or after death.
Although most people who have come close to death say they remember nothing, as many as a third have later reported that “something happened.”
No two NDEs are identical, but a pattern has evolved from the many reports from throughout the world. Any single experience is likely to include one or more of the following aspects:
- Feel that the “self” has left the body and is hovering overhead.
- Moving through a dark space or tunnel.
- Experiencing intensely powerful emotions, ranging from bliss to extreme distress.
- Encountering light, usually a golden or white illumination, magnetic and loving.
- Receiving some variant of the message “It is not yet your time.”
- Meeting deceased loved ones or sacred beings.
- Reliving one’s life, sometimes from the perspective of others.
- Gaining an understanding of how the universe works.
- Returning to the body.
Meanwhile, no one knows why some people have NDEs and others do not. More than a dozen theories have been put forward to explain these experiences, but none of them together fits all cases.
Like other things that have no rational explanation at the present time, NDEs may at first seem unbelievable. However, to those individuals who reported such events, the experiences are genuine.
According to Hatfield, death is a part of life, and his NDE has given him a new perspective.
“It was one of the most powerful and emotional experiences of my life,” he said. “I’ll never be the same again, and I have no fear of dying.”
Top o’ the morning!