Sometimes an experience can be so intense and so profound that it changes your entire life. My life-changing experience happened when I was ten years old. My family of five lived in a tri-level home at the end of a court in suburbia. I was a very shy child who was deathly afraid of the dark. Every night when I went to bed, the nightlight had to be on before I even entered the room. My mother would attempt to shut the closet door somewhat, but I would repeatedly cry out, ‘A little bit more, mom, a little bit more.’ I had a very normal, average childhood. We went to church most Sundays. But really, all that I knew spiritually was that Jesus was born on Christmas (when I got all those presents) and he died on Easter. I also knew Noah had a boat with lots of animals and that Adam and Eve were two naked people who loved each other. But I didn’t really know much more than those facts and I wasn’t bright enough to have made up a story like the one that I am going to tell you. My childhood was delightful in many ways. There was a ton of children in my immediate neighborhood. We spent our years playing tag, building imaginary worlds in the sandbox and creating chalk highways where we could ride our bikes for hours.
For my tenth birthday in May, my mother threw a party with all the neighborhood children where we played games and enjoyed my mother’s chocolate cake. But by the end of the evening, something was very wrong with me. I began having trouble breathing and ran an extremely high fever. My mother bathed me down with sponge baths to try to reduce the fever. Her efforts were unsuccessful and I drifted in and out of consciousness. I was then admitted to the hospital. Days went by and the doctors could not find anything wrong with me. They did test after test but nothing determined the cause. In the meantime, I was unconscious a majority of the time. After a week passed, the hospital told my parents that I could die. My mother then informed the school of my illness. The students made homemade cards for me, and because religion was still allowed in the school in those days, my classmates were told to pray for me. During a lucid moment, I said a prayer to God. I told him, ‘I’m too sick. I’m ready to die now.’ I lost consciousness once again. Then, I had an extremely severe pain in my chest. If it had lasted longer, I would have screamed.
After just a second, it was gone and I felt wonderful. A golden light surrounded me and I realized how very easy it was to breathe. After basking in the glow, my room began to fade into view. I was still lying in my bed. But in the upper right corner of the ceiling, a bright light appeared. It was very small, but began to grow larger and larger. As the light got closer, I could see that it was a man walking towards me. Finally, after what seemed a long time, he arrived. He was wearing a brown robe and was floating in the air. He had brown hair, a beard and the most incredible eyes that I had ever seen. He smiled at me and I smiled back. Then he spoke to me, although we didn’t speak with our voices. We spoke with our minds and that seemed absolutely normal. The man said, ‘Are you ready to die?’ Immediately, I said, ‘No, I’m just a little girl. I haven’t lived yet.’ I then looked away for a minute and thought to myself, ‘That’s strange. You said that you were ready to die.’ I looked back at him and he smiled again as if to say that it was all right. He then said the most incredible thing and something that I would never forget. He said, ‘What have you done with your life?’ I can’t remember a part. I’ve thought a great deal about this. In my opinion, I think that man showed me some things that I could do for Him if I went back. Then, I think that I was given the choice of whether or not I wanted to go back.
I don’t think that these things happened to me because I was special. I think of it as being like a grand ceremony when the millionth person crosses the bridge. When this happens, there is a giant celebration with balloons and fireworks. The millionth person gets to meet the head honcho and then gets a prize of some sort. In my case, I was the millionth person over the bridge. Jesus was the celebrity and the prize was the choice of whether to live or die. The next thing that I knew, the man was halfway gone. I was watching as the light got smaller and smaller and I was out again.
Then, after being unconscious for an undetermined amount of time, I was very much awake. I was standing in the middle of my bed and the light in my bathroom seemed so very bright. I immediately reached over, picked up the phone and dialed my mother. She was shocked to hear my voice, ‘Beth, Beth, are you okay?’ I was very excited, ‘Mom, a man has been to see me and he asked me if I was ready to die.’ Of course, my mother panicked to hear about an intruder and called the hospital. Suddenly a flood of nurses rushed into the room, flipped on the lights and began looking around frantically. They wanted to know what this man looked like. I told them and their eyes got very large. Then, they wanted to know what he had said. I told them that he had asked if I was ready to die. I then told them his second question, ‘What have you done with your life?’ As a child, I didn’t understand what was happening, but all of the nurses immediately froze in their movements while their eyes began to dart back and forth at each other in a knowing way. The nurses then did additional blood work and took me for yet another X-ray.
The next morning, a new flood of people began to arrive. This time, a few priests, ministers and a pair of nuns came to talk to me. They were all armed with notepads and they wanted to hear about the man in the brown robe. After a few days, I was allowed to go home. The hospital had found that I had a severe case of pneumonia. After being invisible on any previous tests, the pneumonia was showing up on every test. It was extremely evident what was killing me. I was still an invalid and it took me three months to recover fully from my illness. It was summer and each day, my parents would place me in a hammock under a tree. I think that they thought the fresh air would do me some good. One interesting fact, before my life-after-death experience, I had been very afraid of the dark. As soon as I got home, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I would go upstairs in the darkness. I didn’t even need a nightlight. The intense fear had left me. I wasn’t afraid of insects, either, and would let them crawl on my hands. About six months later, I went to talk to my mother about my experience. ‘You know, mom, I think that I know who the man in the brown robe was,’ I said. ‘Who?’ My mom asked in surprise. ‘It was Jesus,’ I said. ‘I think so too,’ she replied.