Do you remember a while ago when I said books find me?
Actually, what I said was when I walk into a bookstore and begin to look at book covers/titles, I search until I come upon the one that speaks to me. I rely on my intuition to tell me what is meant for me to read at that particular time. I know it sounds weird, but I get a feeling from looking at a book. I can also feel colors, but that's another topic altogether.
Last week I was in Super Target (yes, AGAIN) to look for a chapter book for my daughter. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a title I had been searching for the past few months on and off. The title, "To Heaven and Back" by Dr. Mary C. Neal became of interest to me after seeing her interview on the TODAY show. (Which is where I have heard about many great books I have subsequently purchased and read).
In the book "To Heaven and Back," Mary (after reading her very personal story I cannot bring myself to call her Dr. Neal), was in a kayak accident wherein she drown, but was then returned to life here on earth. This is actually the fourth such book I have read. My fascination with personal accounts of an afterlife was born from reading the popular fictional book, published in 2008, entitled "The Shack" by William P. Young.
Anyways, Mary is not some crazy lady who just dreamed up this after-life experience, she is a well-respected orthopaedic surgeon, she is married and the mother of several children (therefore incredibly credible). On top of that, she was a super experienced kayak-er when this incident happened to her. And as with all of the rest of the books I have read by people who have experienced an afterlife and [tried to] describe it, Mary finds it challenging to articulate her experience because it is so far beyond what we [regular people who haven't had this experience ourselves] can possibly wrap our heads around. I find this fascinating, which is why I purchased and quickly read her autobiography.
Mary's book is a bit different than what I've previously read though, as she experienced God's presence and Jesus's love while in the midst of drowning, but even after "the incident" she had a number of "conversations" in the days following the accident with angels as she began her long recovery from the very challenging physical injuries she endured while drowning.
It was what she learned during that time and relayed in her book that kept my attention.
One of the things that Mary's book talks about is how God's messengers are everywhere and come to us in the forms that we can and will accept. For some people that may mean an animal, others some form of music or nature experience, and still to others it may come in the form of another human being.
Have you ever experienced someone or something that gave you a great sense of peace and/or comfort when you were in the midst of a real challenge?
When I read this part of the book I immediately thought of when I was in the middle of an extended hospital stay due to complications during my pregnancy with my son Brigham.
It was a Catholic hospital and because I am Catholic I was put "on the rounds" to receive Holy Communion each Sunday by volunteers who came to the hospital to minister the sacrament. Because I was in the hospital for a total of six weeks I had experienced this 'communion visit' a couple of times before, one Sunday, (shortly after my doctor told me I would not be allowed to go home for Christmas with my family, which caused me to feel totally distraught), there was a quiet knock at the door. When the woman called through the door and asked if I would like to receive, I said yes, and she entered my room. I looked up to see a small, elderly lady who [I swear to God] looked just like my deceased grandmother! I was in such a state of shock I didn't respond to her right away. When I was finally able to pull myself together, I apologized, stood up and held my hands out all the while looking into her eyes. The resemblance was so unbelievable to me that she had to help coach me through my end of the deal which was to say "Lord I am not worthy to receive You but only say the word and I shall be healed." I received the host and said Amen. She put her hand on my shoulder for a moment before leaving the room.
Those eyes...they spoke to me in a way I don't think I can adequately describe, but it was in that moment I reconciled the fact that my job was to stay in the hospital, not to worry about Christmas or my two other children at home, and to concentrate on bringing a healthy baby into the world. I understood completely that everything else would be okay.
I believe the events in our lives take place for a reason and we should pay attention to what they are trying to tell us.
I believe people come into our lives by design (not coincidence), and I believe God allows some people, such as Dr. Mary C. Neal, to experience the afterlife briefly in order to return and share the experience with others.
Those of us who choose to listen and to believe, then receive a renewed sense of faith, reassurance anda joy in the knowledge that our end here on earth is really only the beginning of the best that is yet for us experience. And while I am not in a rush to personally see what it will be like, I take comfort in knowing that when my time comes I will be wrapped in God's love.