What happens after we die? Do we proceed to a place of indescribable beauty, as described in religious texts? Or do we simply cease to exist? And what happens if we return to physical life?
During the past decade, this topic has created great debate - and big business - among philosophers, scientists and experts on religion. With several bestselling books ranging from scientific analyses to memoirs, the subject continues to fascinate millions throughout the country and world.
"People want to know there is more beyond the quality of life they are living right now," says Martha Halda, author of A Taste of Eternity, a memoir chronicling her near death experience and its impact on her life. "Most aren't living the life that hits the mark of what they ultimately want. So often, we don't think of our greater purpose or value until we're near the end of our lives. We want another chance."
Halda knows first hand. On October 8, 1999, she suffered severe injuries when her Ford Expedition landed on her after overturning in Valley Center, Calif., an unincorporated San Diego County community. She was pronounced clinically dead three times, and spent the next two months in a medically induced coma. It took two years for her to recover from her injuries.
During the time paramedics, and then surgeons, tried to revive her, Halda incurred her near death experience. "My angel and I traveled from one place to another, drifting, floating, like watching a butterfly or hummingbird," she recalls. "We just sort of up and went, gliding to the next place of my review, divinely guided.
"My entire forty years was shown to me via imagery, a type of ESP, which included all the human senses. I felt all the feelings I gave someone, received, or caused a person to have," she adds.
Then Halda was shown two scenarios regarding her sons - one if she died, one if she came back. "I begged, bartered to stay in Heaven, it was so lovely, I wanted to stay forever," she says. "I was given a choice, which way to go. After weighing the two, and seeing the future of my sons, I instantly chose to come back. I wanted to be there for my babies."