Note: I was re-reading my recounting of the clinical death I suffered on Good Friday of 2011. This prompted me to want to again share the Testimony that I believe is in that strange though wonderful trip into that realm, which I believe with all that is within me was a Heavenly one.
The experience still affects my every waking moment. It continues to be as real to me as the moment my heart stopped on those 3 occasions.
Please bear with me in reading this week’s commentary. I don’t like to get “up close and personal,” as ABC sportscasters used to say in announcing an interview with one athlete or the other. It’s just not professional, in my view, for purposes of communicating in forums such as ours. But, personal I am going to get for this one. Hope you don’t mind.
Staying with the ABC sports analogy, I was doing my three- or four-times-per-week workout on Good Friday just past. I had done the warm-ups for the usual fifteen minutes or so, and the barbells (UGH!). Done were the push-ups–seventy of them, except very cheap ones (fooling myself, mostly, that I was doing them right). Then were accomplished the knee-lifts while lying on my back for five minutes. Doing the Body by Jake sit-up machine next had completed that part of the workout.
Then it was time for aerobics. I have this rowing machine with one hundred pounds on the back of it that is an excellent leg-press device, which is also used to do some upper-body stuff. I did all this in the usual fashion, the workout now flowing toward its one-hour and twenty-minute conclusion. I decided to skip the treadmill and go straight for the recumbent bike–to just sort of chill out, or cool off, or however one chooses to term one’s winding-down regimen.
A burning pressure began, then, just behind my sixty-eight-year old sternum. It was a pain I had felt slightly three days earlier while just sitting around working on something on the computer. At that time it had been mild, and I had thought of it as a case of a little more than usual heartburn–indigestion. I think I even popped a Tums or something.
This time, the pain worsened by the second, until it was a severe pressure gnawing at my chest, as if something wanted out of there.
I walked around, just knowing it would shortly ease. But it didn’t.
“Think you better call 911,” I said to my wife. She took one look at me, knowing that that was the very last thing I would ever do–want an ambulance. It almost was…
The medics arrived ten minutes later, I was told. I was conscious and answered their questions, even as in pain and as out of breath as I was. This, even though they tried feverishly to find a pulse.
“Can’t find one,” one of the guys said to the other, who joined him in frantically searching.
Meantime, I’m thinking, “No pulse…What does that mean? One is dead when there is no pulse…”.
They strapped yours truly to the gurney and we were off, the pain in my chest becoming excruciating. One of the rescuers put some nitroglycerin beneath my tongue, while saying to the dispatcher, “Think we have a coronary going…”.
The ride was rough. Ambulances of that sort aren’t built for the patient’s comfort; they just want to get you there. I felt every bump in the brief ride of ten minutes at most. I felt us stop, heard the door open, felt them jerking the gurney forward. I heard a high-pitched noise that sounded like a transition from one function to another within some sort of computerized system. Sort of like bprrrript.
I saw them, then. I was with them, and they were all beautiful young people in their twenties, it seems in retrospect. They were smiling brightly. Their faces glowed effulgently–not like something ghostly, but with the fresh glow of youth of those in perfect health. They beckoned me to join them.
I wanted to just be with them–to talk, and to enjoy that ambience, I remember. I had no thought of what had gone on before–the pain, the ride. This was real. It was real, and I loved it, and I could feel the love of these young people as we faced each other.
Then I remember thinking, “wait,” and there was something going on. I was in a nightmare. I was being transported with chest pains. I felt my bare chest with my fingertips, thinking, “Oh, no. I am on this gurney. I’m not in that beautiful–real place.” I was back in this nightmare–only this was reality.
People were working at high speed. They said I came back talking. I don’t remember what I said; neither did they.
One guy said, “We hit him with the paddles.” (Can’t remember if that’s what he called them.) I questioned that remark. “Paddles?” I asked.
“Yes your heart stopped,” he said.
The pressure again began building, agonizing–a fire thrusting to get out from behind the sternum.
Suddenly there was again the computer-like prompt. I was with the beautiful, young people, whose smiles were brighter than any ever displayed in toothpaste commercials.
Again there was regret, as I found myself on the table where they prepared the angiogram to find out the position of the blockage.
Then, I was with those youngsters again, only this time the memory becomes fuzzy, but I do know I was among them, talking with them in a serenely joyful place.
Back to the ER and the flurry to save my life. I had been hit with the defibrillator for the third time. My heart had completely stopped on three occasions, but now I sensed they had things under control.
A doctor, one of the most highly regarded interventionist cardiologists in the state, just happened to be down from the Arkansas Heart Hospital, which is twenty minutes away in Little Rock. He was only one room away, and was on my case and finished with the procedure within forty-five minutes.
I was told by this doctor that 50 percent of all who have the sort of heart attack I had die before getting to the emergency room. Most that do get to the hospital don’t make it. The attack was in an artery that is the most crucial. They call the blockage the “widow maker.”
Now, what do we make of this? What do we do with it?
Well, the Lord will bring you to Himself when He chooses is one lesson reconfirmed within my own faith. He wants something else to be done through me. Certainly, I believe writing this commentary is one of those things.
Was I in heaven? I don’t know. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, Paul the apostle tells us. I didn’t see Jesus, and He is my Lord.
But, we are all one in Christ, the Lord Himself tells us in John chapter 17. So, in one sense, I could have been with the Lord by being with those people who appeared to be in the full bloom of youth. And, I sensed the absolute peace and joy their demeanor–collectively—projected. Christ is within us and we are one.
But, there’s another side to this reality that seemed more real than the earthly nightmare to which I returned three times. The Lord didn’t show me that other side (the hellish side), but the thought pulses strongly within my spirit as I write this. Just as heaven is a place to be longed for with great anticipation, hell is just as real, and a place to be shunned at all cost. (Read Jesus’ own words on the subject in Mark 9:43-48.)
The choice of whether to accept Jesus Christ as Savior is your choice. The time of death is not yours to make. Even if by suicide, the death will not have taken God by surprise. Believe in Him today with every fiber of your being. Heaven is real. So is hell. Only accepting God’s love gift of His Son’s shed blood on Calvary can cleanse you or me from sin–the soul-destroying thing God cannot permit to come into His holy, majestic presence.
Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14: 6). You and I must come to Him to ever be a heavenly citizen. The alternative is the nightmare world about which Jesus forewarned.
Here’s the only formula for going to heaven when you die, or at the Rapture of the church:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9)