You know in the beginning of It’s A Wonderful Life when the voices from heaven are talking? Well, that is what I felt like happened to me. In the movie you hear from heaven “George Bailey, yes, tonight’s his crucial night, we’ll have to send someone down immediately.” On October 4, 2014, it was my crucial day. Even though my heart had the defect my entire life, it was this day when I felt like my 30 years of life were being lived for this moment.
So, for 30 years nothing happened. That is a very long time for something so devastating to not rear its ugly head. So, as I guess you can imagine since I am sure you would do the same, I have spent a lot of time wondering why. Why me? Why there? Why that? Why not then? Why now? Well, I now know these answers, and it all has to do with impact.
When I was a toddler, I knew my family. When I was 7, I knew my family, school friends, and my basketball team. When I was 21, I knew my family, people I grew up with in school, those I played softball and basketball with, people I met in college, and my future husband’s family. At the age of 30, I can add to my list hundreds of people from churches my husband and I have attended. Due to factors unknown to us, we moved a lot. We did not mind change, in fact, it was always exciting to see where we were going next. The only time I was stressed about one of our moves was when we literally moved to tiny Wilmore, KY for Seminary with no money and no house. There are only like 4 houses in all of Wilmore. (Sort of exaggerating, but not by that much lol). Everyone in Seminary needed a house, and being as there was a much higher demand than supply, I was freaked out. However, Hubby secured us a place, 3 weeks before moving 🙂 So, other than that time, moving was fun. Now I see the purpose… it was to reach as many people as possible. It was to grow my “I know her” foundation, my circle of influence. After being the youth pastor’s wife at 5 different churches in my 20’s, I know thousands of people, literally. Even though I may not know of everyone by name, I know they know of me, can picture me, or remember me as Brian’s wife. My story has a way of reaching them, and hopefully, strengthening their already existing faith, or acting as a catalyst for discovery.
My sudden cardiac death has left me in awe. Why? Coincidences. A plan. A purpose. Reasons to unanswered prayers, times of struggle, moments of joy. My life. I have researched and spoke with others about near death experiences. Everyone I hear from has been super concerned with telling others about what they saw when they were dead. That has not been my conviction. I am to tell of my story. My life before. But don’t worry, you will see what I saw. I know some of you were thinking crap, how lame 😉
So 30 years with a life threatening defect. Check out all of the times I should have died, but did not, because it was not my crucial day yet. Check out my life being protected for 30 years. It will blow your mind. For real.
1. I was born in 1984. Technology in the medical field was not where it is today. Open heart surgery on an infant was risky. Even though pulse ox, echos, and EKG’s were not routine, and even though my condition was not discovered right away, God gave me a grandma with super powers. Okay, well not real super powers, but she was a NICU nurse. I saw her weekly, at least. If I presented with having life threatening conditions, she would have been able to pick up on it. Thanks God 🙂
2. I broke my arm when I was 5, had severe constipation when I was 7, busted my forehead, got my fingers smashed in a metal sewer lid, had a red dot electrocuted off of my nose, and had my wisdom teeth pulled. Plenty of times when I was younger to be in a hospital. My vitals were checked every few years because of these incidences. If my heart was failing then, it would have been caught. Thanks God 🙂
3. Now when your baby is born with a heart defect, doctor’s try to wait as long as possible to preform surgery, in attempts for the baby to grow and have more weight. Young hearts are weaker. Well, thanks to Miamisburg, I could not start basketball until I was 7. I wish I could have played at a younger age, and I was upset, but playing ball could have killed me by making my young heart work hard. Thanks God 🙂
4. From age 7 until 21 I played basketball. Daily, while in school. Were our practices easy? Umm, heck no. We ran, and ran and ran. Then we ran some more. My heart never failed me. Thanks God 🙂
5. I have always been a slow runner. I would get yelled at during basketball and softball for running so slow. I appeared lazy since my legs were so long and for some reason I could never learn to stretch them out. When I finally ran fast and stretched my legs at the age of 30, I had a cardiac arrest. Thanks God 🙂
6. I was asked numerous times by the track coaches to run track in high school. I always said no because I did not like running. Now I know why. Thanks God 🙂
7. At different times in my life I have been asked by three different people if I ever would live in Africa. My answer came out as a straight no the first two times. I had no reason why I did not want to. I could not even explain to them why I did not want to. No was my immediate reaction. When Brian asked me, the third time I was asked, I said no. Then I started to think, that is a lot of people to ask me, all within a matter of a few years, to live in Africa. Maybe God wants me in Africa. So I told Brian I would be a missionary with him, but only for a few years. We went through the whole process. Raised money. Had jobs in Ethiopia. Then I was pregnant. No problem to us though, we figured out how to raise a child in Africa. Where we were going was more civilized and spoke English. We met families who had done the same. We decided we could do it. Then, suddenly, we found out the organization would not let me go because it was my first child and there could be complications. We were unable to go to Africa. I got so close to living in Africa, because I thought that was God’s plan for my life. It was not. I was trying to force it. If we went to Africa, I would still be there. I would have had my cardiac arrest there. Even when I tried to change God’s plan, He corrected it. Saying no to Africa twice, and being prepared to go and then turned down, was tough to go through for myself and others. Now I know why. Thanks God 🙂
8. My first pregnancy did have complications, but not until delivery. During my pregnancy I read tons of books, and each one would have a section on c-section deliveries. Every time I read that part, I somehow knew I was going to have one, but not by choice. So I made sure to research it more. While in labor with Chelsea, at the 24 hour mark they gave me oxygen and said it was nothing to be alarmed about. At the 36 hour mark the doctor came flying into my room and said “You and the baby are not doing well. There is a problem with both of your heart rates. You are going to have a c-section. Are you okay with that?” I said “Do I have a choice?”. She responded with no and said it was happening right away. Chelsea and I survived her birth, even though it was not as I had planned. Thanks God 🙂
9. When I was pregnant with Lydia we found out she had a rare syndrome, Heterotaxy. Before birth we knew her stomach was on the wrong side, there was nothing where the stomach should be, she had 2 holes in her heart plus an obstruction at the top of her heart, and she had no splenic function. It was made clear to me I should have an abortion. The hospital where I went for her care before birth was not the best, but it was my only option since we still lived in Wilmore. No one there had seen heterotaxy before. We knew there was a super high possibility Lydia would need at least one surgery right after birth, and then maybe some a few years later. This would be costly. We would not be able to afford her care living on student loans and part time pay from working at a church. Also, due to her lack of spleen, Lydia was not going to be able to attend daycare, therefore, I could not go back to work. So, Brian needed a full time position. He had several interviews, and we found our fit best at First United Methodist Mount Dora. It was in Florida, Brian’s school had a campus in Orlando so he could keep going to school there or finish online. Also in Florida was a top children’s hospital who understood Lydia’s condition, and one who had a level 3 NICU. A year after her birth a report came out about the Kentucky hospital where Lydia would have been born. It discussed them having a high percentage of deaths after heart surgery in infants, and that they were performing surgeries when they were not absolutely necessary. You can read about it here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/03/health/kentucky-hearts-hospital/index.html. Lydia did not need to have surgery when she was born, but if we were in Kentucky still there was a good chance they could have given her one, based on what I read from this report. I felt so blessed that God moved us to the Orlando area so Lydia could have the best care. I felt God opened this door for Lydia. Little did I know it was all a part of His plan for me as well. Orlando was where my cardiac arrest needed to happen. Thanks God 🙂
10. I fell at the end of the race, where all of the medical tents are located. I fell on grass. The ambulance was already there. Thanks God 🙂
11. I wanted to do the race by myself. Sometimes it is hard when your spouse works in a church. At this particular time I was always either Brian’s wife or Chelsea and Lydia’s mom, and all of my conversations with people were always centered around my family. I really wanted to do this race by myself. For me. Just me. However, Brian said he wanted to do it as well. I signed him up and told him it was $55 so he cannot back out. Originally I wanted him and the girls to be at the finish line. I was even mad that he insisted on racing with me. For like 6 months I was frustrated because it seemed I could never do something just for me, and… he was not even training for it. However, because he was racing, that meant my girls were at home with their Great Aunt. They would have seen my arrest happen. They did not. Thanks God 🙂
12. Back in the 80’s and 90’s if my heart defect would have been discovered, it would have required surgery. My open heart surgery was incredibly expensive. My parents would have had to pay for it, and back in those days it would have meant drastically altering lifestyles, careers, and possibly the address of our home. Thanks God 🙂
13. My arrest happened right next to a top cardiac hospital. My randomly assigned surgeon was the head of the department. Thanks God 🙂
14. My mom purchased a plane ticket online right away after Brian told her the doctors were saying it was life or death and most likely death. She was flying out of Atlanta.. and got a TSA Pre Check approved stamp on her ticket. She went through a shorter security line and did not have to remove clothing, etc. You only get this if you apply for it (which she did not ) or if you are a part of some border protection thing. You can read about it here : https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck/what-tsa-precheckR. No one in my family has ever received this and there is no reason she should have, and it made her able to catch her flight. Thanks God 🙂
15. Seven years ago I had a conversation with Brian’s step mom about how much vacation/sick time she has available. She could take off an entire year if need be. She said “You never know what can happen. What if one of you get sick, then I can be there to help out.” Flash-forward, I have a surgery which inhibits me from driving, lifting, and moving for weeks. Mary Ann was not only willing, but had to ability to take off work to come live with us. Thanks God 🙂
16. During my recovery, Brian’s mom, step mom, my sister, my aunt and my parents were all able to come help. Penny already even had a plane ticket and time off work because she was already going to visiting us before this happened. They all survived living in my house together. Everyone’s workplace was very supportive. Our church brought food. My friend took Chelsea on a field trip with a school my daughter did not even go to. One of my favorite babysitters who my daughters know really well and love came to watch them so Brian could go to work wanting nothing in return. My daughters were well taken care of while my husband and I were in a hospital for 12 days and during my 8 week recovery. Thanks God 🙂
I could go on and on about how events in my life have all led me to where I needed to be, at the time I needed to be there. The ones I listed are just what sticks out to me and that deal directly with my heart, but with the perspective I have now, I now know that coincidences are hardly ever just that. My friend in high school lost her mother, and one thing she said to me was that she got so mad at people when they said that everything happens for a reason. While I whole-heartedly believe that is not something you should tell a person who is grieving, I do see how even the most mundane normal events can be a driving factor in what you are supposed to accomplish in your life. Is your life planned out from the beginning… I do not think so. Maybe I guess, but I would not think it. There were times when I moved, thinking that was what I was supposed to do, and God said “Nope, try again” as He put me right back to where I started from. I tried going to Africa after I thought it being brought up a ton was what I was supposed to do. God said “No, you were wrong. Here, have a baby.” Did you know Brian was placed in my life when I was 5. Did I know him then? I do not think so, but I very easily could have spoken to him. His dad volunteered in my Kindergarten class. His sisters went to my school. I sat right next to one of his sisters in third grade. My mom was friends with the same people Brian’s stepmom hung out with. Brian’s dad has a video of a Halloween party they held at their house the year after I moved to Georgia, and all of my friends from school were in it. We grew up playing ball at the same ball field. I met Brian at the age of 21, after living in Georgia for 11 years, because he was friends with my old neighbor when I was ten, I just happened to ride up with my parents as they attended a wedding. Random coincidence?
I know what you are thinking, some things are just coincidences. I totally agree. You go into Publix to get a bottle of Coke, and there is a coupon hanging on it. I think that is a coincidence. I even think it would be hard for someone to pick out what events happened in their life for a purpose, unless you go through something devastating. Something devastating happened to me, and now I see my life in an entirely different way. My hope is not that something devastating happens to everyone, but that people will start to live their only life here on Earth with intention. To know that when something happens that may be heart breaking, a struggle, or not at all what you had planned, it is a part of something bigger and disappointment and sorrow are only temporary.
Now comes the hard part for me to write. I have looked people straight in the eye and lied to them about this, which in most cases was because their were people in the room that I did not want to upset. I cannot vocalize it, when I do, I start shaking. It took me 3 months to tell my husband. It took 2 months for me to believe it. What I know is wonderful, and heart breaking, which is why I sometimes try to talk myself out of it. However, I have been asked numerous times, and I know that for some it can help provide clarity and hope.
So, did I see God? When I was clinically dead for 2-6 minutes, did I see Him? My simple answer is, no. I did not. I can see how He has crazily worked in my life up to this point, but I did not meet Him, see Him, or hear Him. But, I can tell you with 100% certainty that our soul is not our body. When I had my arrest, I did not tell my body to do it. It was the first time I felt like I did not have control of my body. I didn’t even feel anything- no pain. I was completely unaware of what my body was doing. Plus, if my entire life I have had something wrong with my body, how did I not know? My soul, my thinking, it is not my body. I am not my body.
So, what happened when I died. My body stayed here, but my soul did not. Do I remember all of my trip? Maybe. I am not really sure what all I encountered. Just this last week I remembered something that was said to me in the ambulance, so maybe with more time I will remember more things. It is so hard to describe what it is like to remember something you know but don’t know. It is like if you were sitting at your house, right after you parked your car in the garage. Then, without you knowing, your sister comes over and takes your car and leaves it at the store. Thirty minutes later you are just sitting on your couch and you think, ‘oh, yeah my car is at the store.’ You did not know it even moved, but you now know where it is all of the sudden. It is a weird concept, but when I do remember something my eyes shoot open really fast. So, I will tell you what I remember.
Maybe I went through the tunnel everyone talks about. I would not really say it was a tunnel though. It was more of me just moving at super fast speed, while at the same time, I was hearing a humming/buzzing noise. I would say I was moving really fast for about 5 seconds. Once I stopped moving, I was somewhere else. The area I was in was not what I would have pictured Heaven to be like. No streets of gold, no rolling hills with flowers, nothing like what movies portray it as. People were not figures. I did not see bodies. I saw lights. Spirits were orbs of incredibly bright lights. SO STINKIN’ BRIGHT. Like yellow on the outer rim and then went all the way in to a crazy bright white light that almost made an outer tracing of a face, like an upside down U. Nothing here on Earth is anything like that light. I cannot compare it to anything. I even had a brain scan done on me after the coma where they literally put 20 electric nodes on my head and flashed lights directly into my brain and this was brighter than that. So, in front of me was a person/orb. I know who she is. She spoke to me telepathically. I heard her voice. Behind her in the distance were grayish ovals inside of a bright yellow light, but not as bright as the light in front of me. Then I felt the presence of someone else I knew coming towards me from the right, another very bright yellow but never got close enough to me to see the white. No one said who it was, I just knew. Then, as that person was coming up to me, my eyes shoot open and I am back here. I was there for a very short time. Nothing happened during my time in the coma, this happened right after I collapsed on the field. The AED brought me back very abruptly, I almost felt as if those in heaven were shocked at my departure since it was in the middle of someone else coming to see me. I also feel like my trip prepared me for when I awoke from my coma. I did not freak out in the hospital, I did not ask why I was there or what happened. I already knew. When I saw my mom walk in the hospital room, without anyone telling me that she was coming or why she was coming, I already knew.
My hesitance for sharing this with people is due to the fact I know that not everyone I know is a Christian. I do not want people to get upset with who it was I saw and who it was I did not see there. I do not want people to get upset that they might not make it to the place I went to. It is also unfortunate timing in being that I have an incredible story to share with others about the power of God, and just a few months ago the boy who claimed he went to heaven says he was lying. Whether or not you believe what I saw, no one can deny the ‘coincidences’ that have made up my life. Moreover, my journey to heaven, if you choose to not believe me, should not diminish the miracles God works in our lives every day. I want people to take away a few things:
1. God works in your life all of the time and it will make sense to you when you die.
2. Time is relative to where you are and it boggles my mind. I feel that in the grand scheme of things, our time on Earth is crazy short in the life of your soul.
3. Our bodies are just things to house our soul.
4. I am not afraid to die.
5. Being kind and showing love are super important.
6. Go see the world. Travel. Have experiences. Be outside.
7. Things do not matter, money does not matter. Nothing goes with you when you die.
8. When you are baptized, how you are baptized, sinners/debtors/trespassers, communion style, traditional, contemporary, counting and not counting salvation numbers, etc… it does not matter.
9. Go to church. Be involved in church. BE THE CHURCH.