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Observations placeholder

Cash, Johnny – An NDE from pneumonia, it was more than Light: it was the essence of Light



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Cash – The autobiography of Johnny Cash

I've been close to death, of course. It happened many times when I was high, probably more often than I even knew about.

Crawling from the wreckage of this or that vehicle, I'd sometimes realize that death had passed by without taking me, but there must have been many other occasions when I felt its breeze but didn't recognize it or when just another few milligrams of some chemical would have pushed me squarely into its path.

Only once have I been right up to it and seen it. I was on a respirator in critical care with double pneumonia after my bypass surgery in 1988. There came a moment when, after fighting for breath for so long and not getting it anymore, I felt myself fading away. I could hear the doctors -'He's slipping, he's slipping! 'We've got to do something fast!'- but their voices receded and everything got quiet and dark and calm and peaceful.

Then a light grew around me, and soon it enveloped me, and it was more than light: it was the essence of light, a safe, warm, joyous brilliance growing brighter and more beautiful every moment.

I began to drift smoothly into its very center, where it was so much better than anything I'd ever experienced that I can't possibly describe it. I was unbelievably happy. I've never felt such utter joy.

Then it just vanished. It just went.

My eyes flew open and I saw doctors. I couldn't believe it. Sorrow welled up in me. I started crying, and then I got so angry that I was sobbing and snarling at the same time. I found my wits and began trying to tell them to let me go, to send me back, but they had a tube down my throat, so I couldn't get it across to them; I gave up trying.

And then, after a few minutes, I was glad to be back. I was restored, as they say, to my senses.

I never forgot that light, and it changed me.

When I was still in the hospital and one of my children came into my room, I’d feel a strange, overpowering blend of joy and sorrow, and my tears would roll. After I got home, I'd bawl like a baby over a passage in a book or a scene in a movie. When friends came over, I'd watch them and a solitary little tear would sneak down my cheek.

People got used to it.

They'd see it and smile: there goes John, crying again. It's not so extreme today, but I still cry at almost anything. It can be something as profound as the beauty of a grandchild in my arms or as trifling as the smile of a pretty girl winning a skating championship on TV.

Life has become very moving.

The source of the experience

Cash, Johnny

Concepts, symbols and science items





Science Items

Activities and commonsteps