The Near-Death Experience of a Death Row Inmate: Michael Bane
All things considered…Tennessee’s Death Row is a relatively calm place. Well, it was until it wasn’t on September 5, 1994. After a congenial game of cards, a deranged and unstable prisoner by the name of Henry Hodges crept up beside and behind fellow prisoner Michael Bane and slit his throat. Immediately, Hodges howled in laughter, “I just killed you!” Bane fell to the floor. Other inmates cried out for help. Most of the guards were too afraid to intervene. Chaos ensued for what seemed like several minutes. Finally, two of the guards put pressure on the bleeding. “There was just a bunch of blood, some pressure, relief that somebody was finally helping and then I slowly drifted off to another place.” When I talked to Bane earlier this week, it was that “another place” that I was most interested in.
It’s interesting how quickly people discount the experiences of other people simply based on the societal juxtaposition that people are coming from. Surely, human experiences are human experiences no matter what human they come from. For thousands upon thousands of years, all types of humans have recounted near-death experiences. Countless books, articles and various other recollections have been written about the phenomenon. Something beyond our present comprehension is happening…repeatedly. The primary question that remains is of course, what?
“I was completely outside of myself.” Most people describe some sort of bright light in this moment. Not Bane. He described a simple place of being. “It wasn’t here. It wasn’t there. It just was.” In the place of being, there was little light. There was just a sense that this was a place of expectation. “It was almost as if I was waiting in an invisible line…being prepared for what was next.” The more he described, the more I was reminded of ancient ideas of a purgatory or a place to be made whole before one encounters God. Bane described being led forward before being given a message from a gentle reassuring voice. “It’s not time yet.” In the blink of an eye, Bane was back among the living
Bane and I talked about the meaning of it all. I explained that I thought that it was about being brought into a deeper place of being…becoming the image of God that we were created to be from the very beginning. Bane reiterated how much he felt like he was being prepared for something much greater than anything he could have ever dreamed of. The more we talked the more I thought about the cleansing nature of drawing closer and closer to God. We are cleansed to be prepared. Bane beautifully recounted, “If I was there…then we’re all going to get there.”
The beauty of the near-death experience of Michael Bane shouldn’t be lost on any of us. Indeed…thirty years after it all happened…there’s still hope to find there. That is…if we’re brave enough to take a second to go there.