The Big Idea: Near-death experiences

A belief this life is just the beginning is at the core of our very being. Dr. Anthony Cicoria has experienced it. A lightning strike back in 1994 hit the building, exited through the phone, hit him in the face, and sent him flying backward. He was clinically dead.

Then something unexplainable happened. He says he was completely separated and was going someplace else. He says he was surrounded in a bluish-white light. He says that in that light was the most amazing feeling: absolute love and peace.

Cicoria, a practicing orthopedic surgeon, was revived. In the two decades since, he taught himself how to play classical piano. He says his compositions come from the other side.

Stony Brook University researcher Dr. Sam Parnia helped conduct the largest-ever study into near-death experiences. His study looked at 2,000 people worldwide who had suffered some kind of cardiac arrest. It found that more than 40 percent described some kind of awareness before their hearts restarted.

The church teaches us that death is the only way to cross over into the next life. So what happens when you come back from death? For many people -- even if they weren't religious before -- finding faith is a way to provide comfort and meaning, research shows. It changes your perspective, says Dr. Mary Beth Werdel, a Fordham religious education professor.

Father Jonathan Morris, a Fox News contributor, says that if nothing happens after we live 70, 80 years and then die, then this life is like "playing theater." He says life makes sense if eternity exists.

Cicoria says that it took him a long time to realize that he is never going to fully understand the mystery of what happened. He says he knows there will always be skeptics who think his story is too convenient and that he had a hallucination. But he says he knows he is blessed to have been given the opportunity to know something else exists.