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The Near-Death Experience of Tom Sawyer

    • 957 posts
    August 27, 2014 12:33 PM MDT

    Tom Sawyer is a former bicycle racer who had a near-death experience when a pickup truck fell on him, crushing his chest. He was clinically dead for 15 minutes, yet he came back to tell about his strange experience of going though a tunnel, meeting a "Light that was God", and being sent back to tell people about death and the unconditional love of God. What makes Tom's experience especially profound was what happened to him after the experience -- how it affected his life, changed his personality and gave him abilities and knowledge that he could use in many ways. While he was alive (Tom died in April of 2007), he shared his near-death experience on such shows as Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, Unsolved Mysteries, and Good Morning America.


    What Tom Sawyer Learned from Dying
    By Sidney Saylor Farr, Tom Sawyer, Rev. Daniel J. Chesbro


    Tom Sawyer & the Spiritual Whirlwind
    By Sidney Saylor Farr


    RELATED LINKS: on Thomas Sawyer

    Tom Died. Or Did He? (pdf) By Barbara Harris Whitfield



    3. Tom Sawyer's Life Review

    Original Link

    I know that I experienced a total life review, but I have never been able to fit it properly into any of that basic chronology. It had to have happened from the center of the tunnel or the movement within the tunnel, prior to what I call the confrontation with the light. And the best way to describe it is to give you an example.

    When I was around eight years old my father told me to mow the law and cut the weeds in the yard. We had a cottage in the back and a double house in the front. Aunt Gay, my mother's sister, lived in the cottage out back. Aunt Gay is a very delightful person; she's a friend of mine as well as my aunt. Aunt Gay was very clever, as was my mother I'm sure it's a genealogical trait! Everybody liked Aunt Gay. She was always fun to be with. Certainly all the kids thought she was a cool person to know. She had described to me her plans for some wild flowers that grew on little vines in the backyard.

    "Leave them alone now, Tom," she said, "and as soon as they blossom we'll make tiaras for all the girls, and flower necklaces for some of the guys."

    And then everybody could pitch in and she'd teach them how to weave such things. That was typical of her. We were looking forward to that.

    However, my father told me to mow the lawn and cut the weeds. Now, I had several choices. I could explain to my father that Aunt Gay wanted the weeds left to grow in this particular area. If he said to cut them all, I could have explained to Aunt Gay that father had just told me to mow the lawn and said to cut that patch of weeds. I could ask if she wanted to make her request to my father. Or, I could methodically and deliberately go ahead and mow the yard and cut the weeds. I did that. Well, worse that that, I even came up with a name for the job. I called it "Operation Chop-Chop." I deliberately decided to be bad, to be malicious.

    And I went ahead, feeling the authority that my father gave me when he told me to cut the grass and the weeds.

    I thought, "Wow, I got away with it; I did it. And if Aunt Gay ever says anything I'll just tell her father told me to do it. Or if father asks me I'll say, well that's what you told me to do."

    And I would be vindicated. It would be okay; it would be a perfect Operation Chop-Chop. End of story. My Aunt Gay never said a word to me; nothing was every mentioned; I got away with it totally.

    Guess what? I not only relived it in my life review, but I relived every exact thought and attitude; even the air temperature and things that I couldn't have possibly measured when I was eight years old. For example, I wasn't aware of how many mosquitoes were in the area. In the life review, I could have counted the mosquitoes. Everything was more accurate than could possibly be perceived in the reality of the original event.

    I not only re-experienced my eight-year-old attitude and the kind of excitement and joy of getting away with something, but I was also observing this entire event as a thirty-three-year-old adult; with the wisdom and philosophy I was able to attain by that time. But it was more than that.

    I also experienced it exactly as though I was Aunt Gay, several days later after the weeds had been cut, when she walked out the back door. I knew the series of thoughts that bounced back and forth in her mind.

    "Oh my goodness, what has happened? Oh well, he must have forgotten. But he couldn't have forgotten, everyone was looking forward to Oh no, knock it off. Tommy is he's He's never done anything like that. I love him so Oh, come on, cut it out. Gee, it was so important. He had to know ... he couldn't have known."

    Back and forth, back and forth, between thinking of the possibility, and saying to herself:
    "Well, it is possible. No, Tommy isn't like that. It doesn't matter anyway, I love him. I'll never mention it. God forbid, if he did forget and I remind him, that will hurt his feelings. But I think that he did, though. Should I confront him with it and just ask him?"

    Thought-pattern after thought-pattern. What I'm telling you is, I was in my Aunt Gay's body, I was in her eyes, I was in her emotions, I was in her unanswered questions. I experienced the disappointment, the humiliation. It was very devastating to me. It changed my attitude quite a bit as I experienced it.

    I experienced things that cannot be perceived. I watched me mowing the law from straight above, anywhere from several hundred to a couple of thousand feet, as though I were a camera. I watched all of that. I was able to perceive and feel and know everything about my Aunt Gay regarding our relationship in that general time frame and regarding Operation Chop-Chop.

    In addition to this, and what is probably more important, spiritually speaking, I was able to observe the scene, absolutely, positively, unconditionally. In other words, not with the horrendous emotional ill-feelings that my Aunt Gay experienced not knowing for sure, and yet being afraid to question for fear that she would inflict some kind of dis-ease, or ill feelings on my part. God forbid, if I did it by accident and her reminder would hurt my feelings. And yet she experienced hurt in losing the flowering weeds, not being able to do the things for all the children she had promised, and constantly questioning whether I could have done it on purpose. I did experience that in this unconditional way, with this unconditional love that is only God's eyes, or the eyes of Jesus Christ, or the light of Jesus, or the light of Buddha enlightened, the spiritual entity.

    It is that combination that is God unconditionally, not "Boy, Tom, you sure did a good rip-off," or "There, Tom, now do you feel bad enough?" Or, "You sure were bad."

    None of that, only, as in the eyes of God, simple, pure, scientific observation, complete, totally, non-attachment. No judgmental aspect whatever. This is simultaneous with the total devastation of what I created in my aunt's life. And the arrogance, the snide little thoughts, the bad feelings, and the excitement of what I created in my own life at that young age, that was one event.

    I wish that I could tell you how it really felt and what the life review is like, but I'll never be able to do it accurately. I'm hoping to give you just a slight inkling of what is available to each and every one of you. Will you be totally devastated by the crap you've brought into other people's lives? Or will you be equally enlightened and uplifted by the love and joy that you have shared in other people's lives?

    Well, guess what? It pretty much averages itself out. You will be responsible for yourself, judging and reliving what you have done to everything and everybody in very far-reaching ways. Very small, seemingly inconsequential things such as the day when I, nine years old, walked through Seneca Park and loved the appearance of a tree. In my life review I could experience a bit of what the tree experienced in my loving it, two little photons of love and adoration. It was somewhat like the leaves acknowledging my presence. Can a tree experience that? Yes, it can. Don't go kicking trees anymore!

    You do have that effect on plants. You do have an effect on animals. You do have an effect on the universe. And in your life review you'll be the universe and experience yourself in what you call your lifetime and how it affects the universe. In your life review you'll be yourself absolutely, in every aspect of time, in every event, in the over-all scheme of things in your lifetime. Your life.

    The little bugs on your eyelids that some of you don't even know exist. That's an interrelationship, you with yourself and these little entities that are living and surviving on your eyelids. When you waved a loving goodbye to a good friend the other day, did you affect the clouds up above? Did you actually affect them? Does a butterfly's wings in China affect the weather here? You better believe it does? You can learn all of that in a life review!

    As this takes place, you have total knowledge. You have the ability to be a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst, and much more. You are your own spiritual teacher, maybe for the first and only time in your life. You are simultaneously the student and the teacher in a relationship.

    My life review was part of this experience also. It was absolutely, positively, everything basically from the first breath of life right through the accident. It was everything.

    During this life review I experienced what I can only describe as "in the eyes of Jesus Christ." Meaning, I watched and observed this entire event as if I were in the eyes of Jesus Christ. Which means unconditionally.

    It does not mean, "Gee, Tom, by being Christ-like, you don't hit people, you love people."

    No to that. Nor was it, "Wow, God has really made you a very good specimen and your reflexes are superior. You did an excellent job in beating that man up."

    No to that either. It's not judgmental or negative. I can't describe it other than with the unconditional love of Christ, the Christ who has absolute unconditional love. You will have the experience of observing something without any emotion or righteousness, or judgmental attachments. You will be able to observe history only as history, without the emotional attachments to the facts and figures. I want to also say that, to offset that, there were experiences of absolute love and joy.

    Well, having had this life review, I was also given a choice. I could decide to return to my normal life, which meant that I would survive the truck accident, my heart would be beating and I would be alive and physically, basically, okay. If I decided to return to normal life it would be facilitated on my own desire.

    If, however, I decided to stay and become part of that light, enter into it, be homogenous with it, that would be done. I would never again on my own decision be able to choose to return to normal life.












    • 42 posts
    August 28, 2014 12:15 PM MDT

    These videos are fascinating but poorly organized----the narrative is chopped up in weird ways and chunks are missing----some repeated and there is a tai chi video mixed in that has nothing to do with Tom Sawyer. That said, I watched every segment to hear what he had to say. I think it is worth the watch.

    Tom has a forthright way about him and a level of thought that is clearly able to distinguish subtleties of language and thought. He words his statements carefully and seems to have a clear sense of what he is trying to get across.

    • 39 posts
    August 28, 2014 7:53 PM MDT

    I didn't watch the videos but I read the description and recognized "how it is".  There is no judgment as we decide.  We have to learn to do what we observed occurring in the review every day of our lives.  We must review our decisions, our actions, our thoughts, our desires, and determine where we have determined to center our desires.  This is life as a spirit in a human form.  This is our assignment.  As part of that, we have to decide just how close we want to reach to meet the standard set for us--Jesus.  Now, some folks are of other religions, but the standard, the rights the wrongs, the best the worse, they are the same no matter.  It is about what leads us as a group, as a creation, closer to our Maker--loving or living selfishly.  

    • 39 posts
    August 29, 2014 5:50 AM MDT

    I want to add that I am reading a book that contains an abridged version of St. Ignatius' "Spiritual Exercises".  After reading a number of NDEs, I realized that the life review is the same as one of the exercises, which is to be done on a daily basis, recommended by St. Ignatius.  The aim of the exercises is to draw us closer to God so that we may live our lives according to His will.  The end of the day "examen" could be applied to people of all faiths.   It involves reviewing your day in prayer and asking God to reveal to you where you could have done better and asking for aid in not repeating where you fell short.  It helps to establish an awareness that God is always near and to incorporate an understanding of why your spirit came to the physical world.

    I really appreciate that Tom Sawyer's review has been included on this site.  

    • 290 posts
    August 29, 2014 6:17 AM MDT

    Norman, these videos are really old, probably originally done on VHS or older.

    Tom was my friend in the early days of NDE research. His story in in Heading Toward Omega, some of my books and the last chapter I did on him (showing up after he died) is posted above. Tom had quite a following, even organized and guided tours to the Holy Lands. Although Tom never had much of a formal education, that never stopped  him from speaking up about what he knew with some of the greatest minds in the research. He loved quantum physics and after his NDE, not knowing what Quantum meant, went to a library and asked the librarian there if there was such a word. Among his new found knowledge there was always deep humility that protected him from an inflated ego. The first time we met was at the Greyson's house in Ann Arbor Mich and we sat up all night and laughed and cried over how we had changed after our NDEs. That was in 1982.

    • 39 posts
    August 29, 2014 8:03 AM MDT


    I just read your article "Tom Died, or Did He?"  It brought tears to my eyes.  What a wonderful and loving man.  I am sorry that I will never get to meet him.  Thanks for giving  a glimpse into his personality.  Watching his video there is something about him that makes me want to give him a big hug.

    • 957 posts
    August 29, 2014 12:01 PM MDT

    Barbara, what can you tell us about "the Priesthood of Melchizedek" that Tom was apparently a part of? Do you know much about it? I will include the description that was included in the first video of the nine-part video series above.


    Description that is included in Video 1 of the 9-part series on YouTube:

    Video Volumes 1-9: Rare video footage on the perceptions and teachings of the late and well-known near-death experiencer, Tom Sawyer, of Rochester, NY. YouTube now affords the world an opportunity to witness the extraordinary wisdom and love of Tom Sawyer. Dan Chesbro and the Order of Melchizedek are pleased to be able to share these profound truths with you. Enjoy, and pass it on!

    Tom Sawyer experienced a profound near-death experience (NDE) on May 23rd 1978, and a second NDE in January 1990. During his first NDE, Tom was told that part of his assignment upon returning to Earth was to facilitate the Order of Melchizedek into being; during his second NDE, Tom received further instruction that he was to teach the Priesthood of Melchizedek. Tom Sawyer fulfilled his assignment in facilitating the Order into being through his close personal and working relationship with Dan Chesbro. He fulfilled the instruction to teach the Order through the talks he gave at the 'Visions of Tomorrow' annual conferences and other venues such as these video recordings.

    This series of audio-visuals is being made available by the generous efforts of Dan Chesbro, Founder, Teacher, and Prophet, Order of Melchizedek, and Convener of the School for the Prophets through the Sanctuary of the Beloved. With assistance from Tom and divine guidance, Dan was called to ordain the first Priests into the Order of Melchizedek in this cycle on Easter Sunday, March 22, 1986. Dan continues to ordain Priests into the Order of Melchizedek, and has re-opened the School for the Prophets. There are currently more than 17,000 Priest worldwide that Dan has ordained. For further information on The Order of Melchizedek, Ordinations into the Priesthood, Dan Chesbro, and the School for the Prophets please visit: There is only God -- there is only Love.

    Submitted by: Sandy Stewart, Ordained Priest in the Order of Melchizedek (1988), Certified Melchizedek Instructor (School for the Prophets - 2009), Sound Healing Facilitator, Crystal and Sacred Geometry Teacher. For more information on Sandy's workshops, please visit

    • 42 posts
    August 29, 2014 6:21 PM MDT

    Hi Barbara, I had first heard about Tom Sawyer from Kim Clark Sharp (Seattle IANDS) and then read about him in Ring's book. Quite a fascinating character--a real live wire. It would be nice to know more about his "future" revelations. How did he die?

  • September 1, 2014 6:46 PM MDT

    A couple of books were written about him. They were taken from transcripts of talks he gave over the years and written by Sidney Saylor Farr. If you look up What Tom Sawyer Learned From Dying and the second book The Spiritual Whirlwind you might find them even though they're out of print. Sidney has passed now but her son Bruce Lawson still has some unsold books available at their original price. Tom's first death occurred while working on his pickup truck in his driveway. The truck was jacked up and had the front wheels off while he was adjusting the transmission linkage. There was an air pocket under the asphalt which gave way and squeezed him down to 3" thick for over 15 minutes. That was in 1978. He finally died for good in 2007 of pulmonary fibrosis which took away his ability to breath, truck or no truck.

    • 957 posts
    September 1, 2014 9:24 PM MDT

    Hi Richard. Thanks for this information. I was aware of the first book you mentioned (and had it linked above), but was not aware of the second book. Thanks to you, I've added a link to that book too. How can those of us who are interested contact Bruce to order copies of the second book? "(Tom Sawyer & the Spiritual Whirlwind")

    Thanks, Richard. Interesting observation too about the way Tom died (not being able to breathe) mimicking the way he died during his near-death experience! 

  • September 3, 2014 6:34 AM MDT

    Hi David, I've asked Bruce if it's ok to put his contact info on here and am awaiting an answer.

    It has occurred to me to say that Tom's NDE was notably profound in a couple of ways. First, he bypassed all imagery during his NDE. He didn't meet people, hear music, or see cities of made of Light. Instead he went directly to the Light itself. The only reason he could give for this was the comment that he was 'open minded' and not was distracted by any of the aspects of his life review. I've never found a way of fully explaining what he meant by that, nor could he.

    Also, having been absorbed into the Light and losing all individual identity in the Oneness, rather than being himself in the company of the Light or bathed in the Light, he came back with a memory and a perspective from the point of view of spirituality. We are often stuck with viewing spirituality from a human point of view, we then sometimes have difficulties matching up our translations of it.

    • 957 posts
    September 3, 2014 5:06 PM MDT

    Thanks for asking Bruce about sharing his contact info. 

    I appreciate your comment about Tom's NDE, too. That's something to think about...

    • 290 posts
    September 4, 2014 6:32 AM MDT


    Very interesting take on Tom's NDE. Tom and I discussed our NDEs several times and never came up with that parallel to mine. I had no imagery either. Unless you want to call the barriers to the tunnel imagery? 

    And the sensory experience of merging with this God Energy and seeing through It's eyes and heart -- my Life Review. 

    Working with Bruce Greyson and his NDE scale, Tom's NDE scored higher than mine because he "Saw" the light. I merged with It but there was nothing on the "Greyson NDE scale" to give me points. I am making this destinction because as Bruce has explained many times:

    He and everyone who studies the NDE says: Tell me about your NDE. And many times the person says -- I can't. There are no words. Then Bruce says, OK. But if you could, Tell me about your NDE!

    And then the person talks about it -- but as they had originally said, I can't. There are no words.

    So what we are getting, or telling, is really a distortion of what the NDEr experienced. 

  • September 4, 2014 7:08 AM MDT

    Thank you Barbara, a very good point. I guess what I was trying to address was why Tom came back with so many answers and such heightened sensitivity, not to venerate him but to grasp what was going on for him. Any ideas?

    • 290 posts
    September 5, 2014 6:36 AM MDT

    Oh! Boy! Don't get me started!! In a nutshell (LOL)

    Tom was the perfect person to deliver the messages he gave freely to everyone.

    He had a humility about him. There was absolutely no pretense that I ever detected. Tom was "every man."

    Because he didn't have a "higher" education, his delivery wasn't confusing. In other words, there was no pre-conditioned vocabulary or belief systems -- no blurring of the message. 

    And when we would "hang out" at the University with full professors, Tom was never intimidated. I asked him about it one time and he said that he knew he had a message to give and nothing was going to stop him. His statements were "clear as a bell."

    When Tom paused as he did often, that meant more to the listener than all the words. He became overwhelmed with emotion and that translated almost directly into the hearts of others. And he was always real (as far as I could tell.)

    And his wife, Elaine being so upset about it -- her not wanting him to change, made the whole thing more real. He did change -- a lot-- and she was the perfect proof of it.

    You just had to Love Tom.

    BTW I got a divorce after 9  years of trying. There have been studies on divorces after NDEs and more women then men get divorced but there are a lot of divorces. I could tell that Tom was hurt by Elaine's attitude but he stuck it out because he knew he loved her.

    • 290 posts
    September 5, 2014 7:08 AM MDT

    I also think Tom was pragmatic about the role he had in the early days of NDE research. He knew he was the right "guy" to bring back the Light. And he never confused being the messenger from the Message.

    His only angst (besides Elaine's attitude) was becoming overwhelmed with emotion. It was incredibly endearing from my point of view but hard for him because his old "Bad boy" image couldn't believe he felt this much emotion. In trying to find the right words, he would be back there feeling it again. So would I but it was more acceptable for women to feel and display that kind of emotion. He played a hard role in those early days and so did I. We both could see and discussed many times (without naming names because that wasn't "light" like!) the ego inflation around us, not so much from the researchers, but other NDErs. And he tolerated it. I didn't. I walked away. He had a handle on it and just kept going. Tom was also very private so I can't  tell you what was really going on deep within him but I can tell you he understood it and no matter how hard things were for him -- he kept going as a servant of the Light.

    • 957 posts
    September 5, 2014 9:41 AM MDT

    Thanks for the illuminating responses, Barbara. I've noticed the same differences you have between many NDErs and researchers. It's been a challenge for me to be as tolerant, understanding, and accepting as Tom apparently was. 

  • September 5, 2014 6:32 PM MDT

    Hello again all, in response to the inquiry about where to get the books about Tom Sawyer, Bruce Lawson's email is <> He has trouble selling the books overseas but is very able to sell them in the USA. He says he has quite an inventory of them left.

    • 957 posts
    September 6, 2014 4:35 PM MDT

    Thanks, Richard! I'll fire off an email to Bruce now...

    • 5 posts
    July 19, 2016 4:58 PM MDT

    I've  just been reading David's  book, Love the person your With, and I came across Tom Sawyer. I was fascinated to read such things as The Priesthood of Melchizedek, or the Order of Melchizedek and School of the Prophets. Anyone who has been acquainted  with Mormonism will be familiar with these terms. Men within Mormonism have bedn ordained to the Malchizedek Priesthood since 1830. Early church leaders attended a School of the Prophets. Is this just a coincidence, or was Tom tapping into something here?

  • July 19, 2016 7:44 PM MDT

    Hello, I really know nothing of Mormonism so I can't speak to that and I don't recall Tom ever addressing it. As far as I am aware there was no connection, but that may be due to my limited awareness. I heard Tom talk, a lot, but I certainly don't have his sensitivity or connection to spirituality. 

    • 5 posts
    July 19, 2016 8:04 PM MDT

    Thanks Richard. I'm impressed to invetigate this further. The resemblance is uncanny.

  • July 19, 2016 8:23 PM MDT

    It'll be interesting to hear what you come up with. Thanks Terry.