Growing Our Human Potential

On Death, Part 3: Meeting Tom Sawyer

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In Part 2, I shared some personal encounters with death and how these initially resulted in a strong fear of death, along with the realization that this was not a topic to talk about. Death is a fact of life, that most people ignore until they experience the death of a loved one, and then quickly try move on. Contemplating death is not something that we condone in our culture. We are expected to accept what we are taught and leave it at that.

Over time, this approach to hiding from death no longer worked for me. Wanting to change this, I began to put myself in situations where I experienced encounters with death, with some surprising experiences that began to put several dents in my armor that death was something bad, scary, and ugly. These dents motivated me to learn more, and life had a way of honoring this request. I was in my early thirties, which was best characterized as a spiritual quest. I had done a lot of personal work related to my childhood issues and trauma, helping me to stabilize in my life and to develop a healthy self-esteem. But there was something deeper within me that was still missing. It felt like a hole within my soul. It did not hit me until a colleague left the following quote on my desk. I did not understand the concept of synchronicity yet, but this was a great example.

Throughout your life, there is a voice only you can hear. A voice which mythologists label ‘the call.’ A call to the value of your life. The choice of risk and individual bliss over the known and secure.

You may choose not to hear your spirit. You may prefer to build a life within the compound, to avoid risk. It is possible to find happiness within a familiar box, a life of comfort and control.

Or, you may choose to be open to new experiences, to leave the limits of your conditioning, to hear the call. Then you must act. If you never hear it perhaps nothing is lost. If you hear it and ignore it, your life is lost

Jennifer James

I was in tears as I read this. It was as if this had captured the exact essence of what my spirit was saying inside of me. I was tired of my life and trying to fit in to what society defined as success. I was a round peg in a square hole. This quote represented what my life’s focus became. And as the saying goes, “when the student is ready, the teacher will come.” He did! Actually, many did!!

In this episode, I will devote the time to an encounter with a man who had died. And of course, his name had to be Tom Sawyer. So sit back and I hope you enjoy my own personal travels with Tom Sawyer as I would explore death and learn from someone who had a first hand account with this. It does not get any better than that!!

Some background leading up to this encounter. I received a circular of classified ads from my neighbor. I was looking for a couple of items. At this time I was going through a very difficult time with respect to a divorce. I was working my way through the grief and loss process, along with understanding and working on my own issues that had plagued so much of my life-to-date. I had finished counseling but continued to attend support groups so that I would continue to move forward, not backward. “The Call” quote was pulling me into a new direction, but I had no idea what to do. One morning I had decided to use some of my vacation time. I needed a break from work that I no longer had the same zest for. I was sitting in my living room that morning and the circular my neighbor gave me somehow fell to the floor on the other side of the room. “Hmmm” I thought. Oh, it was probably on the edge of the desk I surmised. I walked over to pick it up and noticed something on the page that it had opened to. It was for a spiritual conference to be held at the nearby university! It was starting that day. I had one of those feelings about this that prompted me to look into this.

There was a number to call and I was immediately connected with a man. He laughed since he said that he rarely answered this phone, but “knew” he needed to in this case. Okay, no idea what this meant, but I was glad he answered. When I inquired about the conference I was delighted. It sounded very new-age-ish but when I explained my quest to seek a deeper understanding to life, he said that I would be very happy there. I hung up the phone and within 30 minutes arrived where the conference was being held. The gentleman I spoke to had already spoken to his wife regarding the sessions he thought I should attend. It was a week long conference. Once again synchronicity was at work, yet I was still oblivious to this. Over time that would change.

It would be easy to share several podcasts just on the conference, but for sake of getting to the debut event, what I can say is that I loved it. There was a wide range of individuals attending and we all shared a similar quest, to learn more about life and beyond. The individual sessions were outstanding and shared ideas that really resonated with me. One session was an American Indian sharing what their traditional beliefs were. I loved the simplicity and how this was practiced in their tribes. Another session was a woman who was able to read me like a book. I was chosen to sit in a chair as she conducted her “reading” of me. I said nothing, but what she shared was specific and spot on. I witnessed her do some amazing things with myself and others. Some of what I was learning and experiencing felt a little extreme for me, but I kept an open mind with a degree of skepticism while I listened and observed. It was not enough to scare me away since my conversations with some of the participants were on the very topics I was struggling with. They were deep and meaningful, just how I liked it.

An irony (the word I used at that time), was that the local newspaper was at the conference, and of all the people they interviewed, it was me they selected. They learned that this was my first event and that I was a professional at a large local company. I was outed and everyone in my company learned what I was up to. There were those who were intrigued and asked questions and others who simply ignored me. My final quote they printed was “although I remain somewhat skeptical, the experience here felt right, and therefore I will maintain an open mind.”

The conference ended with a talk by Tom Sawyer. He was known by most everyone there who had listened to him several times. But they kept coming since they stated how each time they learned something new and profound. He began by sharing a story of his near-death experience, a new term and concept to me. I had never heard of people dying, having a powerful experience, and then returning to life.

His story captivated the audience and I was glued to everything he said. He worked for a town in their highway department. He loved working on cars and did all of his own maintenance. He sounded like a real down-to-earth guy. A great first impression. He continued his talk and shared the specifics of how he died. While working on his car, specifically under his car, the car fell off the jacks and crushed him. This was due to an air pocket that laid dormant under his driveway, until that moment. He shared incredible details and accounts of him dying and taking his last breath. The EMT’s arrived and found no vitals and immediately started to the hospital. It was at this time that the modern day adventures of Tom Sawyer began, beginning with realizing that he had left his body. Once again the detail was incredible. He was in tears often which was surprising to see a blue collar kind of guy showing these. It certainly made it more credible. I was so interested that I was hanging on every word. I could understand know why others kept coming back to his talks. I was feeling so overwhelmed yet fascinated with this. OMG I kept thinking, is this really true?

Note: there are those who do not believe these are actual near death experiences, attributing this to functions in the brain during death. I respect this and probably would have accepted this. However, it was the experiences with Tom following this talk that convinced me that there was something very real about what he was sharing.

His story is captured in the book Sidney Farr wrote, who I also came to know very well. You can also view some of his videos on YouTube, along with what are now hundreds or maybe thousands of others sharing their own NDE stories.

The essence of his story was that like many others, he experienced the “light” and felt this incredible love, which was the real version of unconditional love. He had a “life-review” where he witnessed incredible detail to include not only what he did, but how each event impacted himself and others around him at a very deep and spiritual level. This included an example of where he actually felt the impact he had on plants when he had a loving thought or feeling towards them. He was actually able to experience this as the plant did, and at the cellular level. He talked about how he was there with no body, but as an entity that was a part of the whole universe (or now what I would refer to as consciousness). The talk lasted for hours and every detail was so amazing to hear.

I walked out with Tom after his talk and to his car. I had to get an up close and personal contact with this person! He showed me a revolver in his glove compartment. This is one of those WTF moments. Here was this most amazing loving person, yet owned a pistol. I asked him about that and he told me that he shot a squirrel just to know how it felt to kill something. This guy was a cool dude, not that I was into killing, but because he was NOT a person that wanted to be put on a pedestal and was simple a blue-collar kind of guy who had a most amazing experience. This really impacted me in terms of developing a great respect for him early on.

He lived in the same city as me and over time I would visit him and meet his family. He truly was a down-to-earth guy and enjoyed chatting about cars and his sons. But it was during my visits that I would hear and be witness to some amazing events that would forever shape my view about death and who we are. Here is a smattering of some of these stories.

We were chit-chatting at one point about whatever, when he interrupted and said a bank had blown up in Colorado. He continued with our discussion as if nothing had happened. I stopped the conversation and said, “What did you say?” particularly since this was no ordinary news item. He said that this related to one of the changes that occurred during his NDE, that he was highly intuitive and he would become aware of events from time to time. He explained that this was a double-edged sword since often this was information that he really did not want to know, but on the other hand that it was a gift that he was able to use this information to make spiritual interventions. I would witness this a hundred times over the next few years. I asked for more details and he really did not have any more related to the bank incident. He turned on the news and it was about 15 minutes later that the “Breaking News” alert flashed on the screen and of course it had to do with a bank blowing up in Colorado. I sat in disbelief yet amazement at what I just witnessed.

Just a note on spiritual interventions. One story Tom shared helped me grasp this. He became aware at one random moment, that a plane in the air was about to crash with another plane. As he became aware of this he began to send love and affirmations to the pilot (e.g. I am a great pilot). Suddenly he experienced the pilot sitting upright in his seat and realizing the situation and avoided it as the last moment. We all have this capability Tom stated, and simply thoughts related to love, positivity, to others, particularly whom we have negative thoughts toward, can make a real difference!

Over time Tom had shared stories at public and private events regarding some of his other intuitive events. I will never forget the story of his connection to a LT-111 plane crash in Texas. Similar to the prior story, Tom had become intuitively aware of the crash, but it went well beyond that. He had intimately connected with each of the passengers, knowing who they each were. All at a spiritual level. This was the real challenge associated with some of his events in that he would know incredible detail about what was happening. He was in tears whenever he shared this story due to the intimate connection he had made with the passengers, who were all killed in the crash.

It was observing situations while with Tom, that really made me a believer, similar to the bank blowing up incident. I mentioned in a prior podcast that one of the triggers for my spiritual quest was a divorce. I struggled with this since this played into my fears of abandonment and sense of unworthiness that originated during my childhood and plagued much of my early adult life. I had moved on which was significantly helped due to a recent trip to Sedona, AZ, which was with this spiritual group. An amazing story in itself, but it was there that I had my first amazing experience that some characterized as out-of-body. I did not care what it was called, all I knew was that something had happened and it was very real to me, and not drug or alcohol induced. I wrote about this in my book, Discovering Michael: An Inspirational Guide to Personal Growth and Self-Discovery.

I was over at Tom’s house. At that point I was in a new girlfriend relationship that was great. I was in this relationship for a year, and once again was becoming real antsy. Something deep again was stirring within me. I was accustomed to this feeling, which was always about pushing me out of my comfort zone again. I was not ready to settle down and instead wanted to focus on furthering my understanding of life and how I fit into it. I shared this with Tom and he grabbed a piece of paper and wrote what is on the image below.

He was looking not at me but through me when he was writing this down. Tom explained that what he wrote down was what I was asking myself and the terms that he picked up by intuitively connecting with me. Holy Shit Sherlock, this was unbelievable. At first I had no idea of what the words meant. Tom suggested that I take it home and reflect on this. I did. The questions all shared a common theme. They all had to do with choices and each example required a “go” or “no-go” decision that had to be made. I was a fueled and ready to go rocket. You cannot just leave a fueled rocket on the launch pad. And like a loaded gun, it was only waiting for me to pull the trigger. Like with “cake batter” and “fresh fruit”, you only have so much time before they will spoil. Ultimately, it was the last response, “partner or friend” that reflected upon the what I had originally inquired about, to move the relationship to a friendship status or further engage in this relationship. This would be characteristic of the next decade where I would make significant decisions, all in favor of pursuing my thirst for understanding the meaning of life that eventually led me on my modern day vision quest.

But it was this experience with Tom that helped me first-hand grow to accept that death is not what I had previously feared, but a transition to something. With each experience and chat I had attended, this belief grew stronger and stronger. It was real with Tom, not something I read about. My conclusion was that his NDE experience was real, which upon stating that, meant that there is indeed life after death. I would continue to research NDE’s and listen to more amazing stories that would further confirm my new belief.

On several occasions Tom had something to share directly with me. Another example. I was heading to Florida with a friend to visit a mutual friend. I mentioned this to Tom when I was over at this house and before I left he told me to avoid 727 aircraft. I asked for more details, but this was all he knew. Well this is all he had to say since I had complete trust in his words now. On the way to the airport I mentioned this to my friend who was a bit curious yet unbelieving. I simply said, just keep an open mind. We arrived and our flight was cancelled. At the counter while making alternate reservations, I asked what type of plane it was that was cancelled. She replied a Boeing 727. My friend wrote it off to coincidence. En-route to our destination, West Palm Beach, and not on a 727, the pilot stated that we were being detoured to Fort Lauderdale airport. No other information was given. When we arrived at Fort Lauderdale, we had learned that a Boeing 727 had crash landed in West Palm Beach! Need I say more…

Tom had international interest not only in his NDE, but as a resource related to his newly acquired knowledge of math, science, quantum physics along with his intuitive abilities. He would meet with scientists, mathematicians to help solve key problems, while also being guests on panels and TV shows such as Phil Donahue. Tom remained very humble and never let these things get to his head. Tom would share the details of some of these meetings, sometimes in public, but mostly in private, since these were topics that were best kept out of the public eye.

The stories go on and on, but I hope that what was shared helps you to understand the impact upon Tom Sawyer had on me and countless others in order to better understand death. The personal experiences I had with him helped me to realize what we are all capable of in our life, and the impact we can each have even if we did not have a NDE. I was inspired to listen to more NDE accounts along with what they learned. How often I would hear these words, “I am looking forward to the day of my natural death.” This was a far cry from what for me was previously to fear and avoid death.

For those that want to learn more related to NDE’s, check out the IANDS (International Association of Near Death Studies) organization, who often has local meetings and chapters featuring talks from those who had NDE or similar spiritual awakenings. There are amazing books written by NDE researchers, Dr. Bruce Greyson (“The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences” and several more including his latest, “After“) and Kenneth Ring (“Lessons from the Light“, “Heading Towards Omega”, and more) . Many who have had NDE’s have written books on their experiences. I had the fortune of getting to know David Bennet, author of “Voyage of Purpose” and was featured on the Morgan Freeman’s “Story of God“. Another absolutely amazing experience touted by Wayne Dyer when he was alive, is the story of Anita Moorjani, author of “Dying to be Me“. She died from cancer only to be revived and within one week to be cancer free. These are regular people, like you and me, that had an extraordinary experience with death and came back to tell about it.

Those skeptical should watch the YouTube video on “Eben Alexander: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey through the Afterlife.” He was a skeptic too until he had his NDE and shares the incredible detail of his experience.

One final note on Tom Sawyer. Like so many other NDEr’s, he devoted his life to helping others. Yet the fame from this never once went to his head. He was the definition of the terms he taught so many, being humble and full of reverence. I am aware of some major ways that Tom helped to save the world, while also helping individuals like me and countless others. He was the focus of my YouTube series titled, “The Ripple Effect” where I talked with individuals that Tom had also impacted. For me, these experiences pushed my needle past a belief that there was something after death to Certainty.

Thank you Tom from the core of my heart for having and then sharing your experience to many and making a huge difference to all. Although I can visualize you responding from the beyond, “aaahhhh, So What, Now What?” In other words, what are you going to do with this learning? Tom Sawyer finally died in 2007, this time not returning. BTW – his tag line from his death experience is that he was the only one kicked out of heaven. You would have to know Tom to truly appreciate this.

About Me

Michael is an award winning author, speaker, facilitator and coach on the topics of Personal Growth, Self-Discovery and Enlightenment. Visit my website for more information (

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