IN THE LATE 1990S, my heartbeat become irregular and would speed up to an extremely high rate for long periods of time. Sometimes hours on end. Sometimes all day long. During these months I began thinking about death, and what might happen during and after the transition called death. I started remembering people I knew who had died years before and the circumstances of their passing on. I even thought about unsettling dreams I had as early as fourth grade, when a schoolmate passed on. I just could not shake those thoughts.
I had prayed about the recent symptoms, but my prayers were inconsistent and unfocused. Then one evening I started to have sharp chest pains. I thought I was in the middle of a heart attack. I called a Christian Science practitioner for support, and we prayed with "the scientific statement of being" in Science and Health (p. 468). The prayers of the practitioner helped me with my fears that night, but a few days later, with my heartbeat still irregular and my thoughts still focused on death, I knew there was more that I needed to understand. "If I'm going to spend all this time thinking about death," I thought, "I'd better start seeing it correctly." I decided to look up every reference in Science and Health where Mary Baker Eddy mentions the word death—and also relevant citations in the Bible.
One of the passages that was most helpful was this sentence: "In the illusion of death, mortals wake to the knowledge of two facts: (1) that they are not dead; (2) that they have but passed the portals of a new belief" (p. 251). From the different near-death experiences that have been reported in books and on TV shows, it was evident to me that people did not cease to exist when they "died." They were just at a door to another experience. They often spoke about a bright light or a tunnel beckoning them—and some even gave the impression that it was a heavenly experience. So what was that all about? I know that the Bible states, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26). If death is the enemy, how could it be something that seemed so enticing to those people?