James Patrick Johnson | Beyond death

James Patrick Johnson This is the story of the beginning of a journey; my journey.  Because of one unspeakably horrible experience in my life nearly thirty years ago, I have gone to places, done things, and worked with people I never dared dream possible. One life-changing event altered and expanded my humanity in ways that language, at least my language, cannot adequately describe. Even if human language was perfect and fully expressed every dimensional aspect of the depth and breadth of my experience, my reality, few would believe it. It is just too fantastic; yet it is also true.

As I attempt to describe below, I was killed, burned to a crisp, and then visited “the other side” before coming back to this human existence. I have since traveled eight more times “out-of-body” or “after-death.” The words I have with which to convey these experiences are poor tools for the task, but they are all that I have. And I know that those wondrous beings on the other side, well, “They are not finished with me yet.”


In 1984, after a decade of firefighting, I was working as assistant chief training officer in the Shreveport Fire Department.  My duties were many and varied: I served on committees, managed the basic Recruit Program, and was a member of the department’s Hazardous Materials Response Team.

I was in the classroom one afternoon, working with technical specialists and captains, when our chief officer, Dan Cotten, stepped into the room. Dan announced a hazardous materials problem at a nearby cold storage facility and told my friend and colleague, Captain Percy R. Johnson, and me to respond to the call. We climbed aboard the HAZMAT truck and left immediately.

On the way, we began to anticipate what we might face there. The cold storage facility itself was located just a few short miles from the Fire Academy.  Its close proximity was a good thing, especially if we needed additional support.  We’d been told that somehow the facility’s mechanical equipment was leaking anhydrous ammonia, a chemical commonly used in commercial refrigeration units. Our onboard manuals informed us that anhydrous ammonia was classified as toxic and corrosive.  Not good. Toxic and corrosive chemicals require very high levels of personal protective equipment, so we knew we’d be wearing full body protective gear, including encapsulating butyl rubber suits and special respirators, if we needed to approach the leak source.



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10 Responses to James Patrick Johnson | Beyond death

  1. Reba Saxon February 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Patrick, what wonderful piece of writing, thank you! Your experience is very moving; I know that what you are writing is true. We were friends in high school and I saw you at a reunion a while back. I’ll have to say there was something different about you, something different from the others there. There was genuine love behind your eyes when you spoke to me and to others. You are a lucky man to have realized what so many take so long to see, and to practice for such a long part of your life what makes life worth living. Thank you again, my friend, for reminding us.

  2. Emily Branch February 26, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Uncle Pat,

    You know how much our whole family loves and supports you! You were one of my very first examples of courage and triumph through adversity. Thank you for continually sharing your story with countless others. Your writing is beautiful. The truth will set you free – but first it may anger those who do not have the capacity to understand it. To thine own self be true – now and always.


    • fdnydream November 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

      Hello Emily, my name is Josephine Smith and I think your uncle knew my father (Fdny ff who passed away on 911) I’m trying to get a hold of him because he wrote a beautiful piece on my fathers legacy forum. If you can give him my email address I would appreciate it so much.
      Thank you so much,
      Josephine Smith

      • Emily December 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

        Oh I’m so sorry I’m just now seeing this. My uncle pat transitioned to the other side two days ago. They are, in fact, now done with him here. He will be able to continue to feel our love and us missing him. He was a wonderful and genuine man.

  3. Dawn Thomas March 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Hi Patrick, I spoke with someone just this week who had died for 6 minutes and said they have no recollection of anything other than coming to in the hospital. This just sunk me. Throughout my life I have never worried about what happens next. I do now. I lost my son to suicide last May. I question the afterlife more than ever now. My fear has been now that it doesn’t really exist and my son is gone forever. I want so badly to believe. I think believing would help me through the pain I am in by providing me hope that he is either with me in someway, or that we will meet again. I feel so broken without him in my life. I know you mentioned that you did not want to come back. Did you still feel love for your family here while you were there? I don’t know if you will even see this message to you, but if you do I would so appreciate an honest response to that last question.

    Thank you for sharing your story…


    • Leslee March 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      Hi Dawn, Patrick is in the hospital now, so please don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear from him right away. I am quite sure he would reassure you that your son is not gone; he is someplace else and that you will meet him again. Your friend who had no recollection, simply had no recollection. You might feel greatly reassured by this article that appeared in a recent Newsweek: Proof of Heaven: A Doctor’s Experience of the Afterlife. There are also a number of reassuring books on the subject: Life After Life, The Eagle and the Rose, or A Matter of Life and Death, recounting past life experiences and communications with the deceased. Regarding your last question, what I took most from Patrick’s story is that love IS the thing that survives and connects us always, beyond space and time. God bless you and your beloved son. — Leslee

      • Dawn Thomas March 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

        Thank you Leslee. I appreciate your quick response, along with list of other articles, etc. I am sorry to hear that Patrick is in the hospital.



    • Chuck Swedrock November 11, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      Hi Dawn,
      Please contact me via the contact form on the IANDS website… go to the Groups link and send a reply via the contact form and we will be able to communicate directly via email.

      In general, in addition to my personal experience and that of my mother after the suicide by my youngest brother (which I will share privately via email), I believe there is much awareness and support for your question of an afterlife and the state of existence that your son is now in from the book “The Other Side of Suicide” by Karen Peebles.

      Another book which may be helpful from the experiences of a mother communicating through a medium with her son on the ‘other side’ after his suicide is the story by physician, Dr. Elisa Medhus, “My Son and The Afterlife”.

      All the best, +/Chuck Swedrock

  4. Gail Cox March 22, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Thank you Pat for sharing your experience. I will share this my friends and family. You are an inspiration.

  5. Josephine Smith November 20, 2014 at 3:55 am #

    If anyone should know a way to email Mr. Johnson I would appreciate it very much. My father was an FDNY firefighter and there is a legacy page that anyone who knew anyone can leave a message. Me. Johnson knew my father and wrote the most beautiful letter because they were friends and I want to thank him so much for the kind words. Again my email is iluvfrenchies1@aol.com
    Thank you,
    Josephine Smith

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