Fear of death? “No! Why?” Dieter Becker’s (74) answer comes confidently and quickly. This may not necessarily be the case for everyone. A near-death experience took away all fear for the Regenstaufer. That was almost eleven years ago now – she has never let him go. The Bavarian shares his experiences openly, you could say: he lives the topic. In the meantime. Before that, it took him years to process it.

April 2013: Early in the morning at home in his bedroom, Becker suffers a prolonged respiratory arrest due to sleep apnea. These are pauses in breathing during sleep that can last seconds or even minutes. Becker cannot say how long this situation lasted. However, what he experienced is very present for him: a deceased friend came up to him in a white robe – untypical for her. She looked fit, young, healthy, “like she was on vacation.”

He describes the atmosphere as warm and beautiful. They were moving towards a dull light that radiated a “magnetic attraction”. In the situation he realized that he had to be dead. “I’ve never experienced anything like that,” he tells AZ. He came to again at that time, with tears streaming down his face, as he later reported. “I know every detail, it was so impactful.”

Since then he has worked a lot on the topic, contacted other people with such experiences and prepared several lectures – from near-death to after-death contacts to reincarnation. From the beginning, his intention consisted of three parts: to process what he had experienced, to pass on his knowledge and to take the topic of death out of the taboo zone, as he lists it.

Becker is not alone in this experience. In Munich, for example, there is a self-help group. The association’s chairman, Josef Hornung, tells the AZ that the association currently has 28 members. “I think that compared to before, people are less inhibited about talking about their near-death experiences,” he says.

The association sees itself as a contact person. “Here they can speak openly with other experienced people, are taken seriously and experience acceptance and understanding.” Because the environment cannot always handle it and “alienation” can occur. Hornung describes: “A near-death experience can trigger many problems. At first there is usually great confusion about the most intense experience they have ever had in their life.”

A near-death experience is almost always “connected with a complete change in life” – in his experience, many partners cannot deal with it and separation often occurs. “What remains is a loss of orientation and an attempt at reorientation, often with a professional and social change.” Becker also perceives life differently. “Material things don’t matter.” In the end, what does winning the lottery count? And: “You become more tolerant.”

A look into medicine and science. The AZ asked the President of the German Brain Foundation, Frank Erbguth from Nuremberg, about this. According to him, near-death experiences can be easily explained medically. First of all, it is important to him to say: “These are not experiences from the afterlife, but from this world. It takes place in a dying or stressed brain.”

As a neurologist, it is not a sensation in this sense for him: “In certain situations, the brain can produce images and worlds of experience that differ from everyday life.” This can be explained “with a combination of electrical and chemical messenger phenomena.” If these get out of balance, the brain produces “the typical experience content” such as images of a tunnel, bright light at the end or the biography passing by in pictures.

Why are the scenes described often similar? “If the mechanisms are similar, it is logical that the products are more or less identical,” says Erbguth. In general, pleasant, comforting perceptions are reported, but Erbguth wants to add that up to a third of the experiences have a negative or threatening character. “It’s not just the great light phenomena and peaceful feelings.” What exactly is going on in the brain? Tunnel images, for example, would appear if carbon dioxide levels increased. This is the case, for example, when the heart stops.

Erbguth also addresses “out-of-body” experiences – that is, you look at yourself from the outside and see your own resuscitation. Research knows that they arise in the brain between the temporal and parietal lobes. As a long-time intensive care physician, he advocates respectful behavior during resuscitation. It is quite possible that elements of this are perceived by the patient.

And what about sleep apnea like Becker’s? This is also a variant of why the brain can get too little oxygen. But Erbguth gives the all-clear: “Usually you wake up before things get critical.” The American neuroscientist Bruce Greyson is considered the father of near-death research and developed the Greyson scale years ago to make the descriptions more tangible for science. Erbguth calls this scale a “plausible instrument”.

These are 16 basic questions such as: Were your senses unusually clearer than usual? Did you feel like you understood everything? Did you have a feeling of inexplicable joy? It is assumed that scores of seven or more can be considered a near-death experience. Erbguth finds the consequences of such borderline experiences exciting. “People usually deal with it positively afterwards. They are more open to life and have increased spiritual inclinations.” It often also makes it clear that life is limited. You become more reflective, more mindful.

Science could potentially use this in the future. According to Erbguth, there are initial approaches with virtual reality glasses: What happens if you play near-death images with them? Can this change people in a positive way? But this is still in its early stages and “there is still no final scientific position” on it. For Dieter Becker from Regenstauf, death has since become something normal that also influences life. He also takes age lightly. When asked about it, he answers: “For the second time, 37.” Short silence. “As old as Peter Maffay. But don’t worry, I don’t sing.”

At one of his lectures, Dieter Becker also spoke about after-death contacts. According to his own statements, he also came into contact with this. That was about two years after the near-death experience. A recently deceased friend sent him a message that everything was okay. Why him of all people and not the family? “It always takes two,” says Becker.

The broadcaster has to be ready, but the person contacted also has to be receptive. He was able to provide details about his acquaintance afterwards that he had not previously known. Of course, Becker is also aware that there are people who cannot believe this. “I don’t hold that against anyone,” says the 74-year-old.

By Rosemarie Vielreicher

The original for this article “Affected person about near death: “I know every detail, it was so drastic”” comes from Abendzeitung.