Some of the most incredible miracles we hear of involve the accounts of people who claim to have seen heaven or met God, and have had the incredible ability to come back and tell us about them. Called near-death experiences, or NDEs, these stories are highly contested and fraught with disagreement. But, it is impossible to deny that the stories of those who seem to know the unknowable — a firsthand account of God and heaven — are comforting. As Advent is a season of calm, comforting, and reflective faith experiences, it seems like a perfect time to learn about these fascinating stories.
The bestselling book and movie of the same name, “Heaven Is For Real,” tells the story of Colton Burpo and his NDE after he underwent an emergency appendectomy at the age of four. His doctors didn’t think he’d survive. But he did, against all odds. His parents were thrilled and buoyed by the strength of their prayers. God had heard their pleas.
In the weeks and months following his surgery, Colton’s parents began noticing odd things about their son. He told them that he’d “been to heaven,” “seen Jesus,” and “in heaven, you live forever with God!” Colton told his parents about his sister, miscarried by his mother a few years prior and about his great-grandfather, “Pop,” who’d died thirty years before Colton was born. There’s no way he could know about either person, yet he did. He also said that during his surgery, he saw his father “yelling at God as [he] prayed” and his mother “crying in a different room.” He could even share details of the surgery itself.
Blues singer-songwriter Pam Reynolds also recounted an NDE, a fascinating scenario because of the medical monitoring of her condition at the time of her experience. She was having an extremely risky surgery to remove a brain aneurysm; the location of the aneurysm meant that in order to remove it, doctors had to cool her body to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and drain all the blood from her head. Special monitoring ensured that she had zero brain activity during the operation, which was successful.
When she woke up, however, she recounted an impossible story of heaven. She described the brightest, warmest, most welcoming light one could experience — a meeting with God, she said. She met family members who’d passed away, communicating especially with her uncle. The more time she spent there, the less she wanted to leave. But her uncle pushed her back, and she came back to her body. She described details of her surgery, and could even recall what her surgeons discussed during the operation and music they listened to.
Death is one of the scariest things for us to wrap our heads around as humans, mostly because nobody can tell us about it. Our faith tells us that God and heaven will be waiting for us, but it’s certainly reassuring to have someone experience it, and come back to tell us about it. Certainly seems miraculous . . . .
—Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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