It's one of life’s unanswered questions: what happens after you die? Does Heaven exist — and do those on ‘the other side’ guide you back to life if it’s not your time?
The subject has fascinated theologians and scientists alike, with the latter attempting — yet not succeeding — to convince the former with their explanations of neurochemical responses in a dying brain.
A new series on Netflix, Surviving Death, speaks to people who are convinced they’ve seen what lies beyond. Here, JILL FOSTER speak to five survivors about their experiences...
A SHADOWY FIGURE LED ME BACK TO LIFE
Steven Robinson, 57, is a motivational speaker from Leeds. He says:Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
When I was 18 I was in involved in a motorbike accident that resulted in the loss of my right arm. My lungs were punctured, I suffered internal damage and lost a lot of blood.
The operation to try to save me took nine hours, but I later learned my heart had stopped and I’d ‘died’ three times on the operating table — I presume that’s when I had my near-death experience, although it may have happened during the coma I was in for several weeks.
The strange thing was that it was really very pleasant and, if I had the chance to do it all again, I would. It was pitch black, there was no light at all, but I remember such a feeling of peace and security, as if I were being protected by something or someone.
I’ve no idea how long I was in that place — possibly the edge of death — but, at some point, the ‘someone’ I’d sensed seemed to lead me back into consciousness.
Steven Robinson, 57, (pictured) claims a shadowy figure led him back to consciousness
What was really strange — and this did make me jump — was that when I opened my eyes from the coma, the figure who I instinctively knew had guided me was standing at the bottom of my bed. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female, it was just a shadowy figure in a human adult form and I thought I was imagining it.
I rubbed my eyes and even hid under the cover for a few seconds, convinced that when I came out, it would be gone. But it wasn’t.
It stayed with me for quite some months afterwards, even after I’d come home from hospital five weeks later — never saying anything but simply standing at the bottom of my bed — and I felt comforted by its presence.
I later learned this phenomenon is well known in spiritual circles as The Third Man — a usually unseen being that intervenes at critical moments to give comfort.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
I’ve closed my mind to it now, so no longer see it, but for all I know it may still be there. That doesn’t scare me.
The nurses were quite worried because I seemed so happy afterwards. I don’t recall telling them about the figure, but my mum says that I had yelled that there was someone in my room.
Before the accident I’d been religious, always praying before bed, but now I felt I didn’t need to do that any more. I felt religion was a man-made construct, but that there was an afterlife and a spiritual world, and I’d made a connection.
The experience gave me so much confidence to do things in life that I wouldn’t have done before. I’d been afraid of flying and horses but, after the accident, I trained as a pilot and competed in dressage.
I was also super-shy as a youngster, but now I give motivational talks to hundreds of people at a time, and was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list in 2017.
The logical side of my brain says that what happened to me was the drugs or my brain playing tricks. But I truly believe it was more than that and that it transformed my life.
I COULD SEE MYSELF IN THE HOSPITAL BED
Molly Murray, 33, is a life coach specialising in helping people heal after trauma. She lives with husband Gordon, 39, a teacher and minister, and son Jack, five, in Ayrshire. She says:
When I was 15 and on a boating trip with my family, a speedboat driver wasn’t paying attention and crashed into the side of us. His boat came down on my head, causing severe traumatic brain injury.
I was airlifted by helicopter and put in an induced coma at the hospital, while specialists tried everything, but they couldn’t stop the inflammation on my brain and my family were told to expect the worst.
Molly Murray, 53, (pictured) claims she saw herself lying in a hospital bed through a light
While in the coma I had one very intense experience of being drawn towards a bright, white light which seemed to be calling me forward. I wasn’t scared at all.
The light was circular and radiated out, like a vision you might imagine if you were about to see an angel. I was bathed in this light, and it felt hopeful and inspiring.
I’d always been religious and something told me that this was Heaven. I felt so uplifted.
Through the light, I could see my body on the hospital bed. I could see the details of the hospital room — the lamp, the curtains, the cabinet — and watched myself as I lay there.
Somehow, I knew that my body needed me to return.
I could have happily gone into the light, but I just knew it wasn’t the right time.
When I woke up, the details of the room were exactly as I’d seen them, even though there was no way I could really have seen them because I was in the coma.
It took me years to recover from the accident, having to learn to speak, walk and read again. But what happened that day gave me a deep peace about death.
Although I want to live a long time, I’m almost excited by what will happen when I do die.
MY DEAD GRANDMA SPOKE TO ME
Bill Fenton, 33, is a chef. He is married to Vicki, 27, and the couple live in Thurso, Highland. He says:
The last thing I remember before my near-death experience in 2019 is an anaesthetist telling me I needed to be put on a ventilator.
A couple of days earlier, my wife, Vicki, had phoned for an ambulance after I’d woken up in agony, coughing constantly and screaming in pain.
At the time, I was in remission from Hodgkin lymphoma — cancer of the white blood cells — but I’d developed pneumonia.
Bill Fenton, 33, (pictured) claims he saw his late grandmother appear from a bright light during a bone marrow transplant
As I’d had a bone marrow transplant nine months earlier, doctors at my local hospital were so concerned that they had me flown by helicopter to a larger hospital, and my family were told it was unlikely I’d survive.
While unconscious on the