Author’s note: This is the second of a two-part story of Chris Brethwaite who runs the Kansas City chapter for the International Association for Near-Death Studies.
Unexplainable experiences Chris Brethwaite of Raytown first encountered in the early 1970s showed him there was life after death. Today he helps people who’ve had similar experiences.
“It’s one thing to read about an near-death experience in a book or a magazine,” he said. “But when you sit down with an experiencer and they share their experience firsthand, you can hear the sincerity in their voice. You can see the emotion of the experience in their eyes.”
Chris contacted the International Association for Near-Death Studies, Inc., a support organization for people who’ve had a near-death experience, and offered to start a local chapter.
“They have chapters in most major cities,” Chris said. “They didn’t have a chapter here in KC, so a couple of years ago I asked about starting a chapter and they were interested.”
The international group has been around since the early 1980s and not only offers experiencer support, but provides information on near-death experiences to the public and researches incidents of near-death experience.
Near-death experience is a term coined by Dr. Raymond Moody who in 1975 wrote one of the first books on the topic, “Life after Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon – Survival of Bodily Death.” This experience is when a person dies and is brought back to life, but reports that while dead they communicated with dead relatives or angelic beings.
Ken Prather of the International Association for Near-Death Studies shared his own near-death experience with Chris at the group’s 2007 leadership conference in St. Louis.
“Ten years ago he was walking home from work and a carload of guys leaped out and beat him – I’m sure killed him – with baseball bats,” Chris said. “He was in a coma.”
While Ken was unconscious, he saw and communicated with angelic entities.
“One minute he saw a baseball bat coming at his head and the next minute he was talking to celestial beings,” Chris said. “He had a very profound near-death experience.”
Ken has mobility issues as a result of the attack, but doesn’t regret what happened to him.
“When I was talking to him, he said they’d never found the five guys who did this,” Chris said. “He said if he’d ever see them on the streets one day, ‘I would buy them a beer. What happened to me was such an incredible experience that what they did to me was a small price to pay for it.’”
Chris believes Ken because he’s heard the same results from so many people who’ve had a near-death experience.
“These people are changed. They become more loving, caring, altruistic, non-judgmental. Sometimes their spouse thinks someone else came back,” Chris said. “If it was just the brain manufacturing stuff they would be able to put it in human language. There are not words to adequately use to express what they experience.”
Each person who has had this experience, Chris said, is adamant it was real.
“The experience was more real than this world,” he said. “These people have lost their fear of death. I think for that to happen it has to be a profound experience. If all of us were 100 percent convinced there was something beyond this lifetime, I think we would get more joy out of life.”
The Kansas City chapter for the International Association for Near-Death Studies meets the third Sunday of every other month at the Unity Temple on the Plaza. The meetings are free and open to the public, but there is a love offering for the church.
“Me or somebody else will talk for the first hour on one given topic,” Chris said. “And for the second hour we talk about what anybody wants to talk about. Usually people will share paranormal experience with the rest of the group.”
These experiences range from after-death communication to deathbed visions, ghosts and reincarnation.
“Any topic that has any connection with life after death we explore,” Chris said.
Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt
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