Several years ago I experienced a life changing event when I heard Dannion Brinkley speak about his near death experience. He had been on the telephone during a thunderstorm, and lightning had hit the phone pole, traveled through the phone line, and into his ear. His heart stopped, and he was pronounced dead, but never lost consciousness. He had many experiences that you can read about in his book, “Saved by the Light”.
The one that banged me on the head was the “life review.” Dannion stated that what he had done to others in the world, he experienced. He had been a bully as a child, and as he relived the bullying episodes, he felt the sting of the blows that he dealt to others. When he called people names, he felt the humiliation that they felt. He joined the military, and excelled as a marksman. In his life review, he would feel the dying person’s pain, and also the grief of the family of the dying man.
He also experienced the positive experiences. When he was kind and helpful to others, he felt their appreciation and joy. It gives another understanding of the expressions, to paraphrase the Chinese philosopher Confucius said, do only what you would have done to yourself. In the words of Jesus, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
Dannion recommended that each night we make our own “day review,” and try to imagine how things would have felt on the other end of our actions. If it felt good, then wonderful. But if it felt bad, how can it be made right?
Whether you believe there is an “end of life review” or not, you have to ask yourself the questions, “Can I live with what I’m putting into the world?”
This time of year, many students are graduating. They are looking at their pasts and looking at their futures. How will they be remembered? A senior at Island School tutors a little girl in third grade, and has helped her bring up her GPA. This little girl always has a hug for her tutor and is now “tutoring” her younger brother. Where will that chain of goodness end? How will she be remembered?
Shawn Calica from Hale ‘Opio and Alu Like speaks to students in schools and from other organizations about alcoholism. He explains that a true alcoholic often can’t stop drinking until either the alcohol is gone, or they pass out, or get very sick. They may never drink to find out that they are alcoholics. He asks his students, “How would you feel if you are the one who offers them the first drink, and it starts them down the road to a life filled with heartache and disappointment for them and their loved ones?”
A boy recently appeared in Teen Court who was indirectly responsible for providing seven kids with marijuana possession — all from the same high school. What will he be remembered for? How many family members and friends of these boys were affected? What if some of those seven teenagers go on to use methamphetamine, or “ice,” all the while wreaking havoc on themselves or someone else. How would that feel in a life review? How does one make that right?
I remember hearing a presenter at the County Drug Summit in 2006. She had been an ice user, and had introduced two of her cousins to ice. They were killed in a car accident and tested positive for ice. She lived with that guilt every day. She had turned her life around and was at the summit trying to help others choose not to use drugs.
Dannion also turned his life around. Because of his experiences, he began volunteering in nursing homes. He would talk to patients who were afraid of dying, and tell them that he felt the most incredible love and acceptance while on the other side, and no pain once the life review was over. It would give them peace and hope. He coached people to be kind to each other.
Then he died again.
He had heart failure partly as a result of the first electrical shock. He went through the tunnel and saw the light, experienced the same negative effects of his earlier life, and then began to experience the peace, comfort and hope that he had given to the nursing home patients. Again he survived and continues to teach.
Everyday we have so many choices we get the opportunity to make. Do we choose kindness over meanness? Forgiveness over revenge? Respect over disrespect? How will we be remembered? How many will feel the results of our choices? How will you feel about the choice you made later? So many Teen Court respondents tell me that they wish they could take back their poor choices. I suggest to them that they share with others what they’ve learned. It’s much easier not to make a bad choice, than to try to undo it.