Shine on: The remarkable story of how I fell under a speeding train, journeyed to the afterlife, and the astonishing proof I brought back with me, by David Ditchfield and J. S. Jones
Reviewed by Ciaran Farrell
This book is highly recommended by some very big names in the world of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs), and there is a short and compelling foreword by Dr Raymond Moody who is one of these people. He is well-known for his classic bestselling book Life After Life.
The main author, David Ditchfield, is an interesting, observant, and complex character who was born in Blackpool. He left school with only one qualification due to his profound dyslexia and ended up taking a course in lettering as a graphic designer so that he could draw letters for advertising purposes which did not suit him due to his dyslexia.
His dream of moving to London and pursuing a career as a rock guitarist while starting his own business as a treehouse builder turned into an alcohol fuelled nightmare in which he drifted from one casual labouring job to another on building sites in order to try to pay the rent on his expensive flat in the prestigious and well to do Highgate suburb of North London. While he did so he also drifted from one girlfriend to another while learning painful lessons about life.
There is little information about David’s friend and co-author, Dr J. S. Jones beyond the fact that he is a published academic writer who received his doctorate at Sterling University and has completed a number of creative writing courses to help him in his work. His main role in the book is to help David to tell his story and so he acts as a silent partner and witness to the momentous events in David’s life that the book records, as well as assisting David with the practical aspects of writing a book.
Despite what may be implied by the book’s title and the plaudits it has gained for the coverage of David’s NDE, the book is not a scholarly work written from the perspective of a lay person who has actually experienced an NDE. It is instead an autobiographical account of a particularly difficult and interesting period in David’s life, and it is a life affirming triumph out of tragedy story.
The first main section of the book deals with David’s tragic descent into a chaotic way of life in which his debts spiralled up out of control and he lost his home. This was as the result of lack of demand for treehouses and his inability to obtain and hold down sufficient manual labouring jobs to pay his rent and support his alcohol fuelled lifestyle.
David encounters a couple on a train while he was travelling to St Ives to stay with his sister Janet and her husband Charlie. They gave him a leaflet about the medium who practised at the St Ives Spiritualist church as they were also travelling to St Ives to see the medium. Janet saw no harm in David going along to the meeting but sceptical Charlie thought it would be a waste of time.
David decided to go. He found that the medium had a message for him, from the other side, which was either a warning about a serious life changing event, or an invitation to ask for help from the spirits, as he would soon need it. At the time he did not understand the message and thought it related to one of his girlfriends.
Soon after this he was seeing off his girlfriend onto a train from the platform of Huntingdon station when his coat was caught in the train doors and he was dragged along the platform, and underneath the train. He was extremely lucky to have survived such a horrific accident, and even so he was left with life changing injuries.
While David’s severely injured body lay helplessly on the track underneath the train as it roared over him and while he was rescued by the emergency services and given two life-saving operations, David had his NDE. He experienced a swirling long dark tunnel, galaxies of light and colour as he lay on a glittering slab of stone covered by a shimmering cloth like a waterfall, then he met Beings of Light.
The NDE proved to be the decisive turning point in his life. When he recovered in hospital he discovered that he had a purpose and mission in life. He was now determined to communicate the beauty and the reality of what he had experienced to the world through paintings of what he had seen as well as music and the writing of this book.
It was however a long hard road back from barely existing in an almost lifeless body after a series of life-saving and critical operations in Addenbrooke’s hospital to a position where he could set out on his road to achieve his new life’s ambition.
Like all central characters in solid tales of heroism, David met some interesting people who helped him along the way, and without whom he could not possibly have been able to succeed.
There was Dr Fellows his consultant and the nurse who looked after him while his family and friends gathered around his bedside willing him back to life and hoping against hope he would recover sufficiently to be able to go back to live with Janet and Charlie.
Then there was Dr Irene Wallis, David’s clinical psychotherapist who helped him to recover psychologically from the trauma of nearly being killed by the train and also to come to terms with what remained life changing injuries. One of which was that he could no longer play the guitar. She was sceptical of his NDE but saw it and David’s mission as a road to recovery.
David had to undergo a very tough and difficult programme of rehabilitation before he was finally discharged from Addenbrooke’s back to live with Janet and Charlie which they had all worked so hard to achieve.
As soon as David could he returned to the Spiritual church to look for answers and met spiritual healer Joy, and had regular healing sessions with her. He was caught between the opposing world views given to him by Joy and Irene.
When David’s compensation money came through from the accident he very wisely used it to pay off his debts and to rent a new flat in order to start in earnest on his artistic mission of creating a series of paintings depicting his NDE and of composing a symphony to accompany them. Luck or perhaps fate was on his side when he bumped into Richard and Jane who ran a health Pilates and yoga studio as they were kind enough to give him the use of their studio attic to use as his very own artist’s studio.
David then had to set about climbing a further mountain in the form of composing a classical symphony when he could not read or write music and had no idea of how classical musical composition is carried out or played by an orchestra.
He was able to dig out an old electronic keyboard which he managed to get working so he could give some sort of expression to the music he could hear in his mind about his NDE. He was able to record this on Charlie’s digital voice recorder while playing one-handed. It was not much, but it was a start.
David’s brother, Ian, who was an engineer and classical musician, was able to help him through the loan of a suitable computer so he could plug his keyboard into the computer and use the special software on it which transcribed the notes played on the keyboard into musical notation.
David met herbal healer and classical musician Ariella, who like Ian was also a member of the St Ives Chamber Orchestra. They persuaded Chris, the orchestra’s conductor that David’s symphony should be publically performed by the orchestra, and it was.
All the way along his journey David had two faithful and loyal friends, Matt and Jimmy.
Shine On is an interesting, well observed, and slyly witty atmospheric novel with good descriptions of places and events written in an open easy to read style even though David’s story is not told entirely in chronological order. There is even a classic scene which features being woken up by an alarm clock. The main narrative of the book is accompanied by dialogue which is well-focussed and realistic and so provides a life-like interaction between David and the other characters involved. It is a good read and I would recommend it.