Friday, November 02, 2007

Dr George Ritchie

One of the giants in the field of near-death studies just died. Dr. George Ritchie passed away on Monday, October 29th, in Irvington, Virginia. He reached the age of 84 before returning to the place he was most familiar with, that special place many of us visit during our near-death experiences.

George's near-death episode, that occurred when he became seriously ill while in the Army barracks where he was sent to be trained for duty during World War II, is still today one of the most striking ever recorded. Years later, when he was giving a talk about what happened to him then, Raymond Moody, Jr., M.D. was in the audience. This was the first such experience like this that Dr. Moody had ever heard. He was so taken by it, that he resolved to find others and investigate the phenomenon further. This one event led to a research project that became the book "Life After Life," and spawned the term "near-death experience." Following this, George authored his own book titled "Return from Tomorrow," a small but straight-forward telling of what he witnessed while dead, of his time with Jesus and what he was shown, and the difficulty he had locating his body in the morgue when he returned.

Even considering some of the amazing narratives given over the years since by experiencers, including the thousands who have personally touched my life and were a part of my research, I have yet to discover one that touched me as deeply as his did. There's something about his book, and the telling of his story, that stops you in your tracks and demands that you rethink, not death, but life itself.

As I sit at my computer writing this tribute, I need only turn around and there on my wall is a photo of George and I at a conference. I see it every day. There is so much joy in that photo. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of interacting with George numerous times, hearing him tell his story, visiting as friends do. Once I sponsored him to give the keynote address at a conference I held. While standing at a back wall overseeing the event, I accidentally leaned against the light switches and turned them off. My mistake was immediately corrected, but the embarrassment remained. George just laughed it off and kept talking as if nothing had happened.

I'll never forget that moment, nor the love beaming from his eyes, comforting me, and saying in essence, "All is well."

George, now it's my turn. As I gaze at your photo, love beaming from my eyes, I can say to you, truly, "All is well." PMH

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