An Atheist's Reunion: Barbara Interviewed by Boca Magazine

Barbara was interviewed by Boca Magazine along with several other individuals who live in Florida about her near-death experiences forty years ago.

Below is the transcript of her interview. You can also find the magazine and related articles under "Tunnel Vision" at

An Atheist’s reunion

Unlike Tatyana Richmond or Emile Allen (two others who were interviewed for this article), who had both pondered the existence of the divine prior to their NDE, Barbara Whitfield shut it out. For about half her life, she identified as an atheist. “I was abused as a child,” Whitfield recalls. “My mother was mentally ill and addicted to heavy drugs. I had a terrible childhood, and around 10 I decided there can’t be a God if I’m being treated this way.” Whitfield certainly didn’t believe we lived beyond our bodies, which makes her experience in 1975 all the more remarkable. In 1973, while living in Royal Oak, Mich., Whitfield had been pushed into a swimming pool. Her lower back snapped, and for the next two years, she was treated conservatively, with opiates and muscle relaxers. Tired of being constantly numbed, Whitfield eventually opted for a spinal fusion operation at Beaumont Hospital. It was expected to take two hours, but a fractured vertebra, undetected on X-rays, prolonged the operation to five and a half hours. Two days later, while recovering from the surgery, Whitfield, then 32, began to die from complications— specifically, internal bleeding caused by ileus, a disruption of the digestive tract. 

“I blanked out and woke up in the middle of the night in a hallway,” she says. “I don’t know how long I was unconscious. I went into a tunnel, though I had no words for it when it happened. My whole identity was up near the ceiling … it was like having an automobile and all of a sudden giving it up. “I went into blackness, and my grandmother was there,” she continues. “Time didn’t matter. It was eternity. I don’t know how long I was there, but it seemed like we were together for 19 years, because that was how long we had been together before she died—and we relived them.” Whitfield didn’t perceive her grandmother physically so much as feel her heart, her love. She says that her grandmother told her she would always be there, waiting for her.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, a medical team was busy saving her life through blood transfusions and a stomach pump. “This year it will be 40 years since the experience,” says Whitfield, now 71. “When I reflect back, it’s just as vivid as the week I had it. 

We’ve done research on this—10, 20, 30 years later, it doesn’t fade.” Indeed, Whitfield has become an NDE researcher, working with the InternationalAssociation of Near Death Studies—a career change bolstered by her time spent as a clinician for Mount Sinai in Miami, where she worked from 1978 to 1985 (an Atlanta resident now, she still has a seasonal home in Florida). Patients discussed NDEs with her, and she realized she wasn’t alone. She’s written several books about her experiences and the phenomenon in general—TheNatural Soul, Spiritual Awakenings and Final Passage—and has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and other national TV shows, often sparring with debunkers. One appearance on “Larry King Live” was teased thusly: “Was she out of her body—or out of her mind?” “I don’t think we’ll ever have scientific proof, because there are too many people in the world that refuse to believe,” Whitfield says. Her belief system, of course, fundamentally changed, along with everything else in her life. Nobody wants to face the brink of death, but if there’s a theme connecting these disparate NDEs, it’s that the experiencers’ lives were forever altered, for the better. “I look back on it now, and am so grateful it happened to me,”

Whitfield concludes. “If I had continued on the path I was, I probably would weigh 300 pounds and be on a lot of psych drugs. Except for my children, the rest of my life was totally out of balance. It was a gift to get me back on the road to growth.”  

1 comment:

Ariela Solsol said...

Dear Barbara,

Many years ago, I had an NDE/Mystical Experience with a profound prophetic warning for the United States of America. Everything I see now happening in the world scene seems to be leading us straight into what was revealed to me so many years ago. It is possible that this account may be of interest to you in your research.

Since you have so much experience with NDEs, I would so appreciate your opinion on this prophetic but troubling NDE. Please recommend which one of your books would be the best to start I am interested in reading all of your books!!! Thank you so much for your research and work in this field! Blessings!


Ariela Solsol