Vicki Umipeg's Near-Death
Umipeg, a forty-five year old blind woman, was
just one of more than thirty persons of whom
Dr. Kenneth Ring and
Sharon Cooper interviewed at length during a
two-year study concerning near-death
experiences (NDEs) of the blind. The results of their study
appear in their book
Mindsight: Near-Death and Out-of-Body
Experiences in the Blind. Vicki was born
blind, her optic nerve having been completely
destroyed at birth because of an excess of
oxygen she received in an incubator.
Yet, she was able to see for the first time in
her life during
her NDE. Her story is a particularly clear
instance of how NDEs of the congenitally blind can
unfold in precisely the same way as do those of
sighted persons. As you will see, her NDE is absolutely indistinguishable
from those with intact visual systems. The
following is an excerpt from Dr. Ring's book
Mindsight reprinted by permission.
Vicki told Dr. Ring she found
above her body in the emergency
room of a hospital following an automobile accident.
She was aware of being up near the ceiling watching
a male doctor and a female nurse working on her
body, which she viewed from her elevated position. Vicki
has a clear recollection of how she came to the
realization that this was her own body below her.
The following is her experience.
"I knew it was me
... I was pretty thin then. I was quite
tall and thin at that point. And I recognized
at first that it was a body, but I didn't
even know that it was mine initially.
"Then I perceived
that I was up on the ceiling, and I thought,
'Well, that's kind of weird. What am I doing
"I thought, 'Well,
this must be me. Am I dead? ...'
"I just briefly saw
this body, and ... I knew that it was mine
because I wasn't in mine."
she was able to note certain further identifying
features indicating that the body she was observing
was certainly her own.
"I think I was wearing the plain gold band
on my right ring finger and my father's
wedding ring next to it. But my wedding
ring I definitely saw ... That was
the one I noticed the most because it's
most unusual. It has orange blossoms on
the corners of it."
something extremely remarkable and provocative about
Vicki's recollection of these visual impressions,
as a subsequent comment of hers implied.
was," she said, "the only time
I could ever relate to seeing and to what
light was, because I experienced it."
told them that following her out-of-body episode,
which was very fast and fleeting, she found herself
going up through the ceilings of the hospital until
she was above the roof of the building
itself, during which time she had a brief panoramic
view of her surroundings. She felt very exhilarated
during this ascension and enjoyed tremendously the
freedom of movement she was experiencing. She also
began to hear sublimely beautiful and exquisitely
harmonious music akin to the sound of wind chimes.
a noticeable transition, she then discovered she
had been sucked head first into a tube and felt
that she was being pulled up into it. The enclosure
itself was dark, Vicki said, yet she was aware that
she was moving toward light. As she reached
the opening of the tube, the music that she had
heard earlier seemed to be transformed into hymns
and she then "rolled out" to find herself
lying on grass.
She was surrounded
by trees and flowers and a vast number of people.
She was in a place of tremendous light, and the
light, Vicki said, was something you could feel
as well as see. Even the people she saw were bright.
"Everybody there was made of light. And
I was made of light. What the light conveyed
was love. There was love everywhere. It
was like love came from the grass, love
came from the birds, love came from the
becomes aware of specific persons she knew in life
who are welcoming her to this place. There are five
of them. Debby and Diane were Vicki's blind schoolmates,
who had died years before, at ages 11 and 6, respectively.
they had both been profoundly retarded as well as
blind, but here they appeared bright and beautiful,
healthy and vitally alive.
And no longer
children, but, as Vicki phrased it, "in their prime."
Vicki reports seeing two of her childhood caretakers,
a couple named Mr. and Mrs. Zilk, both of whom had
also previously died. Finally, there was Vicki's
grandmother - who had essentially raised Vicki and
who had died just two years before this incident.
In these encounters, no actual words were exchanged,
Vicki says, but only feelings - feelings of love
In the midst
of this rapture, Vicki is suddenly overcome with
a sense of total knowledge.
"I had a feeling like I knew everything
... and like everything made sense. I just
knew that this was where ... this place
was where I would find the answers to all
the questions about life, and about the
planets, and about God, and about everything
... It's like the place was the knowing."
revelations are unfolding, Vicki notices that now
next to her is a figure whose radiance is far greater
than the illumination of any of the persons she
has so far encountered. Immediately, she recognizes
this being to be
Jesus. He greets her tenderly,
while she conveys her excitement to him about her
newfound omniscience and her joy at being there
he communicates to her.
it wonderful? Everything is beautiful here,
and it fits together. And you'll find that.
But you can't stay here now. It's
time to be here yet and you have to go back."
Vicki reacts, understandably
enough, with extreme disappointment and protests
"No, I want
to stay with you."
But the being
reassures her that she will come back, but for now,
she "has to go back and learn and teach more
about loving and forgiving."
however, Vicki then learns that she also needs to
go back to have her children. With that, Vicki,
who was then childless but who "desperately
wanted" to have children (and who has since
given birth to three) becomes almost eager to return
and finally consents.
before Vicki can leave, the being says to her, in
these exact words, "But first, watch this."
Vicki then sees is "everything from my birth"
in a complete panoramic review of her life, and
as she watches, the being gently comments to help
her understand the significance of her actions and
thing Vicki remembers, once the
life review has
been completed, are the words, "You have to leave
experiences "a sickening thud" like a
roller-coaster going backwards, and finds herself
back in her body.
replete with visual imagery, were the rule, not
the exception, among Ring and Cooper's blind respondents.
Altogether, 80% of their entire sample claimed some
visual perception during their near-death or out-of-body
encounters. Although Vicki's was unusual with
respect to the degree of detail, it was hardly unique
in their sample.
the initial onset of visual perception of the physical
world is disorienting and even disturbing to the
blind. This was true for Vicki, for example,
"I had a hard time relating to it (i.e.,
seeing). I had a real difficult time relating
to it because I've never experienced it.
And it was something very foreign to me
... Let's see, how can I put it into words?
It was like hearing words and not being
able to understand them, but knowing that
they were words. And before you'd never
heard anything. But it was something
new, something you'd not been able to previously
attach any meaning to."