Fascinated at the moment by the number of times I've come across two aspects of the near-death experience while researching my book Stop Worrying, There Probably Is An Afterlife: that the appearance of the deceased loved ones meeting the newly-dead is 'assumed' for the experiencer's benefit (a la Ellie Arroway/Jodie Foster's father in the movie Contact), and that communication with these individuals is nearly always explicitly noted as being via telepathy.
These elements are present in what I regard as one of the most 'archetypal' near-death accounts that I've ever come across (mentioned previously in my essay "Death Before Life After Life"), the story of Louis Tucker, a Catholic priest. What makes Tucker's NDE account doubly interesting is that it was described in his 1943 memoirs, Clerical Errors, published a number of decades before the near-death experience was common knowledge. The experience itself took place in 1909, when Tucker was suffering the life-threatening effects of a severe case of food poisoning. With the family physician in attendance, Tucker lost consciousness, and was shortly thereafter pronounced dead by the doctor:
The unconsciousness was short. The sensation was not quite like anything earthly; the nearest familiar thing to it is passing through a short tunnel on a train… I emerged into a place where people were being met by friends. It was quiet and full of light, and Father was waiting for me. He looked exactly as he had in the last few years of his life and wore the last suit of clothes he had owned…I knew that the clothes Father wore were assumed because they were familiar to me, so that I might feel no strangeness in seeing him, and that to some lesser extent, his appearance was assumed also; I knew all these things by contagion, because he did.
Soon I discovered that we were not talking, but thinking. I knew dozens of things that we did not mention because he knew them. He thought a question, I an answer, without speaking; the process was practically instantaneous… What he said was in ideas, no words: if I were to go back at all I must go at once…I did not want to go back; not in the least; the idea of self-preservation, the will to live was quite gone…I swung into the blackness again, as a man might swing on a train, thoroughly disgusted that I could not stay, and absolutely certain that it was right for me to go back. That certainty has never wavered.
There was a short interval of confused and hurrying blackness and I came to, to find myself lying on my bed with the doctor bending over telling me that I was safe now and would live… I told him I knew that some time ago, and went to sleep.
For more fascinating glimpses 'behind the veil' of death, make sure you pre-order a copy/package of Stop Worrying, There Probably Is An Afterlife from the IndieGoGo crowd-funding page - every order helps support the writing of the book, and is greatly appreciated.