What comes next?  That’s a question more relevant than ever to the aging Boomer cohort as we draw closer to the end of this life. Is this all there is? Or is there really an afterlife?  

When middle-aged neurosurgeon Eben Alexander’s book, Proof of Heaven, detailed his visit to the afterlife while he lay “brain dead” in the hospital, it was yet another data point in studies that first captured public attention in 1975. That’s when Raymond Moody, M.D., PhD wrote the first book documenting near-death experiences, now commonly known as NDEs. It became a best-seller.

I remember reading Moody’s book, Life After Life,  back then—I was only 24, but the topic of what comes next already fascinated me. 

Science has come a long way in the 40 years since, but it still hasn’t answered the basic question of where consciousness resides.  Could it really go on after death?

Any anesthesiologist will tell you medicine knows little about consciousness--how anesthesia works, for example, remains a scientific mystery. That’s a daunting thought if you’re about to have surgery.

While we assume consciousness is a function of the brain, medicine isn’t so sure. Credible studies indicate consciousness may reside outside the brain, which means it may not die when we do.  That makes NDEs more credible, as do the increasing number of physicians who have reported their own NDEs. Alexander is not the only one.

Although some scientists claim near-death experiences are the final pings of a dying brain, that explanation doesn’t work for the many verified instances in which people report seeing things like sneakers on third floor ledge, while they were “unconscious” in a hospital bed.

 Consciousness may go on, but where?  Is there some sort of life after this one?  The largest medical study into near-death and out-of body experiences thinks that consciousness may, in fact, survive “death.”  Led by respected scientist Sam Parnia, M.D., the study was published in the journal, Resuscitation, whose editor admitted that medicine still knows very little about what happens when we die.  

Part of the problem is that the topic is controversial and many traditional scientists steer clear. But this subject, especially, calls for the open mind of science.  

Doubters categorize near-death experience stories as fantasies akin to the fables of primitive culture.  Of course, we like to think our culture is modern and science explains all. 

Until it doesn’t.

What if these older cultures were right? What if we can’t see the forest for the trees? What if reputable scientists prove this one day?  It’s an intriguing proposition, especially for those of us who are drawing closer to “the veil.”

If those questions interest you, you might want to follow or even attend an unusual gathering in June, when physicians, scientists, shamans, ministers, hospice workers and mediums sit down together to explore such topics at Fifth Annual The Afterlife Awareness Conference in Norfolk, Va.  Dr. Moody and Dr. Alexander will kick off the nearly three-day conference, which will include sessions by professionals in science, medicine, spirituality and grief.

For more information about the afterlife conference, visit http://www.afterlifeconference.com/

Carol Cassara is a writer and ordained minister who believes in living fully in every color of the rainbow. Her essays have appeared in Skirt! magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, on public radio and other venues. After a long career as a corporate communications executive, she is enjoying having more time to write, travel and just enjoy life. When she's not traveling the world, she lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and crazy little maltipoo. Her daily blog inspirations for creating our best lives can be found at www.carolcassara.com.