An estimated 9 million adults in this country may have had a near-death experience (NDE), yet little research has been focused on the early aftermath of this extraordinary phenomenon. The purpose of this interpretive study was to appropriate and make visible how patients who had an NDE during a cardiac or respiratory arrest understood and experienced this early period of survival. Gadamerian hermeneutics (1975/1990) informed and guided the study. This interpretation demonstrates that NDEs and their early aftermath can be the positive, life-enhancing experiences that the common lore and most research tend to depict, yet they can also be unpleasant and distressing experiences fraught with emotional pain and angst. ©1995 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.