This Science-Based Guy Believes in Spirits
By Richard P. Holm, MD
I am a physician who believes in evidence-based science. I am also old, approaching my own “last chapter” from pancreatic cancer. I share this, not to engender pity . . . none. Rather, I share this in order to give you a sense of my potential bias as I write about the question; do we have a spirit or soul that is more than a brain-chemical reaction that will go away at death?
Of course, the ultimate answer to that question is, nobody knows. Some archeologists believe that religion first began when someone wondered what happened to the life force or spirit of a young boy after he died. Where did it go? Archeologists speculate that “job one” for the early church (and, for that matter, churches of today) was to reassure and comfort the family after the death of a dear one. However, just because it reassures us, doesn’t prove the soul exists, but there are other experiences that do.
I remember my mother explaining to me one night before prayers that there is so much more going on than we know, so much that cannot be explained by physics and chemistry. She described waking up in the middle of the night in Minneapolis during WWII, filled with dread at the same moment that my dad was landing on some Pacific Island in full combat. That was something about which she could not have known due to radio and mail silence. How DID she know? Do we have spiritual connections we simply don’t understand?
During my career, at least three patients described a near-death-experience with all its typical raiment including an out-of-body experience, a warm and comforting light, a life-review (like a movie) and reassurance that there is nothing to fear about dying. A recent meta-survey indicated that this happens in 17 percent of people who are resuscitated and in equal percentages throughout all cultures and religions. It is also amazing to learn that the warm light is seen even by people blind from birth.
Even as a stubborn science-based guy, together with years of experience as a geriatric internist and hospice director, I truly find a community faith with a loving and inclusionary church very reassuring. I have reason to believe that there is a spirit within us that connects us all and that doesn’t die with our bodies.
I have been at the bedsides of many dying people, while their spirits lift from the body and pass through the porthole of eternity. Being there has brought me to believe that the soul is more than a brain-chemical reaction that goes away after death.
Richard P. Holm, MD is founder of The Prairie Doc® and author of “Life’s Final Season, A Guide for Aging and Dying with Grace” available on Amazon. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook and broadcast on SDPTV most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.