I don’t tell people what to do or what to believe. I was raised the eldest child in a secular Jewish family.

As a kohen, my father has a prestigious Jewish pedigree, but he boasted of being a devout atheist. He often repeated a self-made creed: “There is no God; there is no heaven; there is no hell. Life on earth is an accident, and there is nothing after death.” From the age of three, I used to lie awake at night, terrified at the thought of the nothingness that lay in store for me when I died. But I enjoyed an ongoing childhood conversation with God. I felt as if he sat on the side of my bed and spoke with me. He was like a father to me, and we talked about the big questions, such as, “What is the point of life?”

I got an answer when I died at the age of sixteen. I really did die; I’m here now only because I didn’t die enough. I had just received my driver’s license earlier that month. I drove my sisters, ages fourteen and eleven, out to the ranch where we stabled my horse, Heather. While they waited, I rode off bareback into the hills. Heather and I were on a ridge on our way back to the barn when I heard hoofbeats approaching from behind. A barely trained Arabian with an inexperienced rider came flying around the corner. The rider had lost the reins and was holding on to the horse for dear life. They slammed into us. Heather reared up. I dropped the reins and wrapped my arms around her neck. She reared again, stepping back off the edge of the ridge trail and flipping over upside down. We fell backward onto the slope. She fell across my body, crushing my chest and pelvis and breaking my back.

I died the moment the horse fell across my chest. In every single cell of my body, I knew that I was dead. My soul evacuated completely, and I was immediately thirty feet up in the air, looking down on myself with perfect vision. That was surprising because I ordinarily had poor vision. I had worn thick glasses from the age of seven or eight. I was nearly legally blind. But suddenly, I could see perfectly with telescopic vision and no deficits at all.