Sunday, May 10, 2015

"Life After Death" Season 1 Episode 19

The episode "Life After Death" first aired on June 29, 1977 . The story was by Charles Panati and it was written by Deborah Blum.

We open with a hospital scene and Nimoy narrating a "code blue". We learn that this means someone has died in a hospital. We are introduced to Dr. Thomas Rockwell. According to Nimoy, he is on intimate terms with death. He worsk at Santa Monica Hospital in California, and works with up to 90 patients a day who are close to death. The medical deifnition of death has been challenged by science and medical advances. "In the past death was idenitfied as the point in which the heart stopped beating." New technologies are challenging this idea. Some cells in the body can live on after th ehear stops. There are times when the hear can be restarted. I certainly see this is a big issue in 2015, so I'm guessing this may have been a cutting edge idea in 1977. "What is it like to die?" Nimoy poses the question and reminds us that man has asked this question for centuries.

With an eerie introduction, Nimoy reveals we will be hearing not from Doctors or scientists, but from people who have experienced death. This remind me of the old "Faces of Death" series that was made just after the "In Search Of... " series. I agree with Nimoy, the accounts of people who have died and been brought back to life are very interesting. Nimoy describes an example of a story where a person feels like they are falling and then floating above the scene of the accident they just experienced. There is another account that describes strange sounds and lights, and again the floating above. In most cases a strong feeling of euphoria seems to overtake the person. These stories in themselves aren't scary, but the way Nimoy tells them gives a bit of a creepy feeling. Its no wonder that many are reluctant to share these stories.

Now a personal story from the mouth of one person who had such an experience. Catherine Heyward had Hodgkins Disease and was told she was dying. She started getting weak and ill in early 1973.

Catherine tells a creepy story of watching herself die and again the feeling of floating over herself watching people tend to her body. She describes turning toward a tunnel and a bright light accompanied by the euphoria and a feeling moving upward. She saw a figure that she says she knew was God. While this is happening the Doctor who was on call at the time describes the methods use to bring her back. Catherine tells us that "God" told her to go back and that she had a task to do. Also, that if she did it, she would return to him. The extreme measures the Doctors were going through ended up bringing her back to life. Catherine discusses the anger she felt at being brought back. Its an interesting and creepy story that leaves no reason to doubt it. Especially since she miraculously recovered from Hodgkins Disease without reason.

Next we are introduced to Psychiatrist Dr. Charles Garfield. He has been working with patients who are dying and studying the psychology of death, He is still around working on the same topic! Garfield describes a story of a patient who had an advanced lung cancer and his work with this person. As a result of this experience, the patient decided to counsel cancer patients. This man is named Ruderman and he tells us how he had been given less than two years to live.

Garfield tells us that about 15% of the people he works with seem to accept death. The overwhelming majority get angry and emotional when faced with death. Ruderman tells us how the operation he had seemed to give him a new lease on life.
(Ruderman looks a bit like Abraham Lincoln)
Ruderman discusses how his mental imagery carried him through the surgery and he seems to imply that this is what cured him. Its a bit weird and I'm not entirely sure what his point is, other than what he experienced was quite strange.

Garfield analyzes the event for us and draws the conclusion that the will to live for his family is what drove Ruderman to heal himself. Yes, Garfield is implying the mind can heal the body. Very interesting, and more than I expected this episode to address.

"Independent accounts of the out of body experience are remarkably similar. What they tell us about the nature of human consciousness may have great significance. The fact that the experience cannot be adequately explained by science has led many to question the finality of death." I can't help but think about Nimoy and what he experienced just a few months ago when I started this blog. Did he remember this episode?

I'm not sure what to think of this episode. It was interesting, and a little creepy. I have no reason to doubt that these folks had these experiences. My own Mother tells similar stories of when she had a heart attack and died for a few moments in 1991. But there does seem to be an element to these stories that feels contrived to me. I believe something happened to these people, but I'm not convinced it was heavenly, supernatural, or anything other than a hallucination. Either way, it was a good episode to get the old mind thinking! Its also a bit different form some of the episodes that came previously.

You can watch this episode "Life After Death" below.

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