Scott Degenhardt was a rebellious youth, living on the streets, searching for something. His father Ron was a workaholic prosecutor struggling with heavy drinking, never having been able to show affection or express it to his son.
Then, on Valentine's Day, the day Ron was born, fate began to change everything. Ron doubled over with pain, and soon received a death sentence from his doctor: virulent and inoperable esophagal cancer. Ron wrote a simple letter to Scott: "I would like to be closer to you..."
That night, penniless and without transportation, Scott responded to the letter by walking 36 miles along a desolate highway to an interstate in Florida, where he could hitchhike home to Tennessee.
Scott immediately noticed a striking change when he met his father. The man who could never express emotions, now was sharing them freely. He exuded a spirituality and a heightened awareness that had been missing -- as if a light had been turned on.
For eight weeks, father and son got to know one another for the first time in their lives. And by the time the end approached -- as hospital personnel were constantly draining fluid out of Ron's lungs while family members and even nurses stood by crying -- the healing of the father-son relationship was complete. The strong-willed Ron, maintaining a stiff upper lip to the last moment of consciousness, slipped into a coma.
"I love you," Scott told his unconscious father.
That night, after Scott drifted off to sleep, he was abruptly awakened by a whitish vapor that shot over his bed.
Dad! The white, misty translucence hovering over Scott was Ron from the waist up, but looking about 10 years younger, and smiling.
Telepathically, Scott felt Ron's ecstasy at being free of his worn-out body. How does it feel? Scott asked. Ron answered by throwing more joyful feelings into Scott's mind. Exhilarating, but that word doesn't really convey it, Ron's mind said to Scott's.
Ron and Scott both seemed to be on a higher mental and intellectual plane, where thinking was much quicker.
Suddenly, the thought came to Scott. Is this real or a dream? He looked around the room and everything seemed normal -- until he looked downward. He saw himself! His body was lying on the bed, eyes shut, asleep. He was half out of his physical body, sitting up in his spiritual body. His arms were misty and translucent like his father's form.
Scott began to hear the voices of different beings, speaking indistinctly among themselves -- higher spiritual beings, he intuited.
"They're calling me now. I have to go," Ron said. Ron's spiritual form swooshed off in the direction of an opening that Scott sensed in a corner of the room. As the connection closed, Scott lost consciousness. The next thing he knew he was sleeping and being awakened by the ringing of a phone, which his mother answered first.
I know what she's going to say, but let her say it, Scott thought to himself. "It was the hospital," she said. "Your father has died."
"I know... He was just here," Scott replied, and the whole story poured out. Later Scott routinely had his sanity questioned by others, although not his mother. But the afterglow and elation of his mystical experience kept him "supercharged" for weeks afterward. And the experience's indelible mark, to this date, has left Scott with a certainty that death is not the end.
"We do resurrect after we die. We do have a better life waiting for us. It is far better than we can imagine," Scott says.
In 1994, I asked Scott to join other experiencers for a panel I formed to be interviewed with me on The Phil Donahue Show. Scott's life-changing encounter with his deceased father, ironically, became the foundation of what has become a lasting 19-year friendship. At first, Scott had sought me out, knowing that I had written on spiritual, metaphysical and paranormal subjects and hoping for some explanations. I was privileged to help him realize that his moment-of-death vision -- what parapsychologists call a "crisis apparition" -- was common, not an hallucination at all.
Later, Scott formed a near-death experiencers group locally and went on to research and publish a book to help people deal with a near-death experience: Surviving Death. The book is now available in a digital Kindle edition from Amazon.com and can be read on a computer or hand-held device after downloading free Kindle software.