I don’t know how it happens but I often find myself in impromptu spiritual discussions. They happen with all sorts of people in all sorts of places: with a Jewish New Ager during a trip to Peru; with a Pakistani poet during a taxi ride; with a famous actress after a radio interview; with a couple at an adjoining table at a Soho restaurant.
Last week’s conversation happened at a bookstore in Oxford. A young guy named Andy was serving at the counter. After handing me change for the 99p book I bought (on public speaking) the chit-chat began.
‘I’ve heard it’s a good book,’ Andy said, pointing to my purchase. ‘Do you do any public speaking?’
‘Yes, I do,’ I said.
‘What do you speak about?’ he asked.
‘Faith and spirituality.’
‘Oh, so you believe in God?’
‘I do indeed.’
‘Well, I’m not sure whether God exists,’ Andy said. ‘I’m quite scientific in my thinking and want proof for everything I believe. But my girlfriend believes in God. Do you believe in evolution?’
And so our conversation began, covering the science authors we’d read (like Stephen Hawking and Paul Davies) and whether evolutionary theory and belief in God could coexist. I mentioned a number of scientists who believed that they could.
‘Science is a wonderful tool for understanding the world,’ I said. ‘But keep in mind that it has limits. Good scientists recognise this.’
‘What do you mean?’ Andy said.
‘Well, take emotions for example,’ I said. ‘I can’t scientifically prove to you what I’m thinking and feeling right now, but I assure you I’m thinking and feeling something. The same goes for love. We all know that love exists but you can’t put it on the examination table and dissect it. Science is a wonderful net to catch and classify things, but some aspects of reality slip through it.’
‘I see what you mean,’ Andy said. ‘Actually, there are two questions that I really want answers to.’
‘What’s the first one?’ I said.
‘I want to know what happens when you die. While I like science, I’m not convinced that matter is all there is. I’d like to believe that we do live on after death but I can’t prove it. And by the time I find out it will be too late.’
Glimpses of Heaven
I’ve interviewed a number of people over the years who have claimed to have died and experienced something of the afterlife. I don’t doubt their claims but when medical records are lacking or unobtainable to prove their death, I’m a little cautious. (The exception is 90 Minutes in Heaven author Don Piper who I interviewed in Open House Volume 1, whose story seems strong.)
The fact is, though, that many people attest to glimpses of an afterlife. As I later reflected on my conversation with Andy, I thought of the stories collated by Trudy Harris.
Trudy is a former hospice nurse who has accompanied hundreds of people through their final days on earth. Throughout her career, Trudy has heard story after story of individuals experiencing supernatural phenomena as they approach death:
- becoming aware of an all-loving Presence who leads them to review their lives and the choices they’ve made
- being encouraged to reconcile with estranged relatives, get things in order for their children, or see friends for one last time
- having visions of angels and deceased loved ones
- even smelling sweet scents and hearing angelic choirs
Trudy shares some of these stories in the Open House interview below, and in her books Glimpses of Heaven and More Glimpses of Heaven. She also shares how she was initially skeptical of such claims due to her medical-scientific training. Trudy was a reluctant convert to glimpses of the afterlife.
Do such stories constitute ‘proof’ of an afterlife though? I can’t see how they can in the scientific sense. But then again, the net of science lets a lot slip through.
And each of the people Trudy discusses died without returning to life. The best these stories show is the possibility that a life beyond death exists, and that Someone is drawing us to enter it. Such things are equally hard to disprove.
The Conversation Continues
A customer approached the counter and Andy turned to serve them. I’ll recount where our conversation went when it resumed in a second post next week. I did ask one question of Andy before I left.
‘What’s the second question you want answered?’ I asked.
‘Oh,’ Andy said: ‘What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?’
I thought it best to leave that one for another customer.
Question: What faith do you have in an afterlife? Heard of an experience like those Trudy Harris has collected? Share your comment now.
Listen to the Trudy Harris interview below, or right click here and ‘save target’ to download.