My mother would have turned 85 Monday. My dad would be 83 this summer. Both are gone now, dying three years apart in a nursing home I pass by several times a week. Unlike their siblings, they did not live independently into their 80s or 90s. It just wasn’t meant to be. Instead both declined over years until death became a blessing.

If consciousness is just the workings of neurons and synapses, how do we explain the phenomenon of near-death experience? By some accounts, about 3% of the U.S. population has had one: an out-of-body experience often characterized by remarkable visions and feelings of peace and joy, all while the physical body is close to death. To skeptics, there are more plausible, natural explanations, like oxygen deprivation. Is the prospect of an existence after death “real” and provable by science, or a construct of wishful thinking about our own mortality?

Radiolab: After Life

Jul 22, 2012

Airs Monday, July 23 at 8:00 p.m.  What happens at the moment when we slip from the other side? Is it a moment? If it is, when exactly does it happen? And what happens afterward? It’s an episode full of questions that don't have easy answers. Radiolab stares down the very moment of passing, and speculates about what may lay beyond.

Forest Park Cemetery in Shreveport prepared nearly 5,000 luminarias for a weekend ceremony to honor loved ones who've died.