Don’t Fear the Reaper

Near-death experiences prove the existence of a happy afterlife, says John McNally.

As a nondenominational independent healthcare chaplain, John
helps people face the emotional maelstrom of catastrophic
illness and imminent death.

“They’re terrified,” he says, “whether they think it’s going to be
‘lights out, show’s over’ or whether they’re imagining hellfire.”

But McNally believes in a fabulous afterlife, evinced by tens of
thousands of personal accounts of near-death experiences recorded all
over the world over thousands of years. “If we were talking about a
couple hundred accounts, it wouldn’t have the weight that it carries,”
he says, citing research compiled by organizations such as the
International Association for Near Death Studies.

No two near-death experiences are exactly alike, explains McNally,
whose talk on Sunday, December 6, at the Unitarian Universalist
Church of Berkeley
(1 Lawson Rd., Kensington) is titled “Fear of
Dying: Is It Justified?” But basic themes recur: People who have been
clinically dead or were otherwise extremely close to losing their lives
report undergoing a “life review,” during which they re-experienced
their pasts in a kind of multiperspective hyper-speed.

“They say it was a learning experience,” says McNally, a graduate of
Berkeley’s Starr King School of the Ministry. “They say … they had a
sense of being asked two questions: What knowledge have you gained in
this lifetime? And how loving have you been? Upon realizing that loving
kindness is what matters most in the world, they’re yanked back to

Appearing with McNally at the church are Lewis Griggs and Sean
Talbot Johnson, each of whom have survived near-death experinces that
affected them profoundly.

“We don’t hear from the ones who don’t come back,” says McNally.
Nonetheless, he’s convinced that “not only are the dead not gone,
they’re experiencing a wonderful new life. From so many accounts we
hear that it’s amazingly wonderful over there, so much more wonderful
than it is here, that a lot of people are really pissed off when
they’re brought back.”

Relationships with those who die “aren’t ending. Those people are
alongside me in spirit and I’ll get to be with them again someday. This
turns our fear of dying on its ear. Instead of this horrible disaster
way of thinking, we should be willing to let this information in and
let it help us: During near-death experiences, people say they felt
more at home and more alive than they ever felt in this life. They
describe heightened senses, beauty, and color so vivid they can’t even
find words for it, and a depth of unconditional love that absolutely
blows their socks off. So … what’s to lose? There is wonderful stuff
in this life. I love my wife. I love the fact that we just bought a
home. I love my friends and family. So I’m not ready to go jump in
front of a truck right now. But whenever my time comes, if that isn’t
the next great adventure, then what is? I know I’m going from what’s
pretty good to what’s fabulous.” 10 a.m., free.


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