Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Other Side

A book review for all who have lost someone, fear death, or are just curious...

The Other Side was a fascinating read, despite being poorly written.  However, I think the reason behind its disjointedness is a good one.  This book is a litany of quotes, dreams, and impressions from people who have been to “the other side”.  Most have “died”, gone toward or to heaven, and returned to share what they have seen and experienced.  

The author is a Catholic writer and former investigative journalist.  As such, there are many references and descriptions of purgatory, as well as many other references, which pertain to the life of the Catholic Church.  I think this book would be a great consolation to anyone who has any angst about a family member who has died or fears death themselves, but I would hesitate to recommend it, if purgatory and other Catholic doctrine would be a stumbling block.  

Much attention is paid to the transition between earth and the spiritual realm, at which time we are fully (hyper) conscious.  “When the physical body is removed…we step into the spiritual condition we have been building within us.”  The direction and speed at which this transition is made, seems to be most positively affected by one’s capacity to love and most negatively affected by earthly attachments (depicted by threads, ropes, and chains) and sins of selfishness and pride.  The book also addresses those who get “stuck” and where “ghosts” fit in. 

While the details are many, the experiences of the dead and dying usually include a tunnel, a great Light (often revealed as Jesus) accompanied by overwhelming feelings of love and peace, indescribable beauty, living music where “truth is translated into song”, instant knowledge and communication through thoughts, encounters with deceased loved ones (Family is still important!), a decision point, conception that they have a mission, and a review of their life which feels like anything but judgment.  They describe “judgment” as an instantaneous understanding of every thought, word, and deed from your life at every angle.  The feelings accompany what is understood, and you see all from your perspective, from the perspective of those who were impacted (good and bad), and from God’s perspective. 

There is one chapter on hell, but it is forgettable in contrast to the enumerated delights of heaven, especially when the author makes it clear that people who are there have chosen it. 

Integration of the book into ministry

The impact of this book starts with me.  I’ve never really feared death, nor thought much about my own even, but reading this book has shifted my feeling about it from neutrality to excitement.  As one woman who was electrocuted, but survived said, “If I lived a billion years more, in my body or yours, there’s not a single experience on earth that could ever be as good as being dead.”

After finishing this book today, I don’t feel like I could ever pity a dying or dead person again, not for the death experience anyway.  The angst of separating from those you love, and the grief of those left behind will always hurt me as long as I am human.  Otherwise, not being paralyzed by death is a great feeling.  It feels like the appropriate spiritual posture of a Christian who believes in and hopes for Eternal Life. 

For those I am privileged to encounter in my ministry, this book will enable me to listen with a greater understanding and believe that their “stories” are real, as well as “open up” these types of conversations when appropriate.  Just last week, I visited a patient who had suffered his fourth stroke.  He quickly told me that his faith was strong and doing well.  He shared further that he “died” during his first stroke.  He saw the Light and twoA  deceased brothers on a hill of green, of which earth could never conceive.  His brothers were beckoning for him, but he shook his head “no”.  He understood that it wasn’t his time, as the Lord had more for him to do.  One of those brothers died at a young age from leukemia.  He was very ill, and needed help going to the restroom.  While my patient was waiting for his brother, his brother asked him, “Do you see that?”  He didn’t.  “The angels are coming for me.”  And shortly after that, he said, “Do you hear that?”  He didn’t.  “I hear trumpets.  They’re getting louder.”  His brother died the next day…

I believed him.

Finally, this book confirmed many things for me, which could constitute a solid “rule of life” for all:

1.  Think simply.
2.  Be grateful.
3.  Forgive.
4.  Do not judge.  Judgment inhibits your ability to love.
5.  Don’t speak more than you need to.  Use that time to pray.
6.  Never be discouraged.  God does not expect you to be perfect right now; just improve a little each day and you are on the way to perfection. 
7.  Pray to know your mission.
8.  Ask God to show you your life as you will see it one day!
9.  All of our life is reduced to love, humility, and unselfishness.
10.  The core of our being is all that we possess upon death and that core must be filled with the light of love to get to the Light that is Love.  “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.”  1 John 1:5