“It is the thing we’re most afraid of,” says National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson in the video above. She’s talking about death.
That fear makes sense. We all face death, but while we’re alive we can only speculate about the experience: What does it feel like? Is there life beyond the grave? What will happen to “me” when I die?
To examine these questions for an assignment, Johnson did something many people avoid. She sought out death. In particular, she searched for people whose experience of death, with the help of modern medicine and technology, defied traditional understanding—a wife whose husband is cryogenically frozen, people who’ve come back to life after being technically dead for hours, a woman who suffered a fatal stroke but whose body was kept alive for months until she could deliver her baby.
Johnson’s quest brings forth people whose stories shake our assumptions about the finality of death, leaving us with more questions than answers and somehow infusing our very natural fears with a sense of reverence and wonder.
Want to ask Lynn Johnson a question? She and her picture editor for this story, Elizabeth Krist, will be taking your questions on Facebook on Friday, April 22nd at 12 pm ET.
For more stories about the passage from life to death, see the April 2016 National Geographic magazine feature story “Crossing Over: How Science Is Redefining Life and Death.“