On May 7, 1978 at about 10:20 p.m., I was involved in an accident which in the words of the EMTs and the police 'should have been fatal.' The 'should' was, of course, in terms of earthly logic. The experience I am going to describe occurred outside the box of earthly logic. The accident was preceded by three premonition events.
After I had stopped the car at a stop sign, I looked across the street, saw a parked ambulance and thought, 'Oh, good!' I retrieved my partial denture from the glove compartment and placed it in my mouth thinking 'You want to look your best.' This was odd, because I was only driving a short distance from home to my parents' home. I had already taken a shower and put on cologne, thinking 'you never know who you might meet.' I made a left turn at ten miles per hour. I did not see the car coming toward me at 70mph, which was being chased by the city police also at 70mph. The car swerved into its left lane and hit me head-on. My car was totaled. I was told later, that it had spun around at least 20 times, and upwards of 200 people from the neighborhood had gathered to watch. The car that hit me went on to hit a pole and the driver escaped from the car he had stolen.
From where I was, I heard the deafening crash and my own deafening screams below me, as (I later surmised) I had been spiritually catapulted right through my neck and into the embrace of Mary, the Mother of God [Mary is frequently referred to in religious literature as 'the neck of the Church'.] I had no sense of my body, including my neck, and I saw nothing at first, but I heard music which sounded like the most beautiful laughter of children or I thought, 'angels; the cherubim!' It was more beautiful than any music I had ever heard on earth and I felt that the angels laughed when good things happened on earth. I felt this was the music of the spheres. The angels (whom I never saw) were like petals of the Rose that enfolded me with love. I felt safe, free and certain that this was the gateway to Heaven. I cannot describe the utter joy and peace. All this while, I heard what was going on below and realized that, as long as earth remains, all there is always a fraction; that what seems to be 'accident' here is Reality there. As an Episcopalian, I perceived the fraction to be that of the Body of Christ.
Then I heard the words, 'merry/Mary' and 'whim' which said to me that Mary and her angels were Merriment, and that God's Will up there was His Whim. This delineating the fraction as Merry Whim/Dreary Will. The idea that God's Will was His Whim in Reality meant to me that the wind, which blows as it wills, was the resolution of the Fraction. In the words of a great song, 'The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.' The wind was the Holy Spirit.
Then I saw what I can only describe as souls with their heads covered as if they were monks and nuns moving back and forth across the division between 'life' and 'death'. I wondered whether I was looking at reincarnation, or not, and I realized in a very deep way that it was an unimportant question. Clearly our Mother/Father/God had the whole world in His/her Hands. I could feel the deepest compassion for those whose deaths seem to be pointless and those whose deaths seem to be a cruel joke, and for those whose grief for their loved ones is intolerable. Yet, as St. Julian of Norwich has said, 'All is well, and all that shall be shall be well.' I felt that I was given the answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people. The answer is Merry Whim, and we will understand in Heaven and not before.
The peace I felt along with this realization was complete, and I wanted to stay there forever. I wanted to meet my relatives and move right in. But that was not meant to be. Because 'Mary' was said to me again and this time I understood it to mean my little sister Mary Elizabeth, a Downs' Syndrome person who would need me at some point to be her legal guardian in case anything happened to our mother or father (which indeed proved to be the case). At once, my fervent desire to remain where I was for all of eternity was refocused; and, I was back in my car.
When I returned to my body in the car, I was laughing rather hysterically. My laughter seemed to be an extension of the angels' song and my own humbled amusement that my time had not yet come. Suddenly at the left car door appeared my 'earth-angel' (to quote another song). He looked the part, with a long ponytail and the kindest eyes and an authority that was somehow otherworldly. He motioned for me to roll down the window and told me to stop laughing immediately because the approaching EMTs might feel that I should be put in a psych ward. I said to him, but do you know what it was like? And how funny it is that I didn't graduate? He nodded in complete understanding and again gently commanded me to get hold of myself, which I did just as the EMTs and the police arrived. I believe it was a great miracle that I was able to stop laughing. I attribute it entirely to the help of my very special guide.
The EMTs and the police arrived at the same time, stating in unison that I was 'clearly innocent' which had not only the meaning that I was the victim of the accident but also two other meanings, which I will describe later. The EMTs told me to see if I could move my right hand and when I looked down I realized that I was covered with blood from my head down to my hands. When I found I was able to move my right hand they told me to turn off the engine right away.
(I also was delighted to find that I could move my left hand, because I am a pianist.) Later, I was told that turning off the engine was undoubtedly responsible for my having survived the crash. They put a fancy neck collar on me and slowly extracted me from the car, enjoining me not to move. I had stopped laughing but I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I had wanted to stay in Heaven, but God had work for me to do here, and the whole thing struck me as whimsical. Apparently, I glowed, because the EMTs said I did, and I thought, if you only knew where I've been!
I was filled with a compassion for and appreciation of all the people who ministered to me; that was something I had been given fresh from Heaven. This peace and trusting patience was of course medically a sign of shock; but spiritually they were a tremendous gift. At the emergency room, no more injury was found than a whiplash, although two bleeding arteries had to be tied off. They put a kerchief around my head. I was sent home and instructed not to wash my hair or in any way disturb my head for 5 days. They had not found evidence of a concussion and I was alert. They wanted to give me pain pills and Valium but I refused because I felt no pain.
The following day, my parents and Mary Elizabeth drove to Hartford to pick me up and take me home. On the way, we stopped at a health center where I just 'happened' to have an appointment with an orthopedist on that very day. The orthopedist was going to check on the arthritis in my neck, which had been bothering me for about a year. When he examined me on May 8, 1978, he found that I had no pain and he told me that I had had a divine orthopedic correction of 'loss of cervical lordosis', which had caused the arthritis pain, and I should just believe it. I felt no pain for a week but after that the pain of the whiplash asserted itself and I wore a neck collar for almost a year. Like Jacob who wrestled with an angel, I was left with a handicap that still bothers me and reminds me of my near-death experience.
Now for the explanation of the other meaning of 'clearly, she's innocent.' As a result of a conversion experience in my early 30s, I had been attending an Episcopal church regularly after years of avoiding it. I am a 'P.K.' (Preacher's Kid) who had not only the usual resentment of the goldfish-bowl-like atmosphere of her situation, but also that her father was the source of the original sexual abuse in her life, which was characteristically followed by many more instances. After my conversion, which came about when I told a priest about my father's abuse of me, I was radiant with joy and the priest's wife took this to be a portent that I had 'set my cap' for her husband. I am no saint, but this was not the case. I was far too vulnerable and grateful to feel God as a real presence in my life at that time to be interested in 'fooling around.' Just before the accident on May 7, I had finished a letter to the priest telling him that I would no longer be able to attend his church given the fact that his wife had stopped attending services because of me. I had the letter in the car during the accident and as soon as I turned off the engine, I was relieved to see that it was still there on the seat beside me. It was good to be back on earth and to hear 'clearly, she's innocent' because the thought that I was suspected of adultery had been terribly painful to me. It is also true that my mother held me responsible for my father's abuse, so there was a triple meaning to the phrase.
The week following my escape from death was filled with mystical signs and wonders. May 8 happens to be the feast day of the Episcopalian saint, Julian of Norwich. It 'happened' that when on May 8th I was meditating, thanking God for saving my life, I saw a vision of Jesus Christ with the crown of thorns on his head and blood running down on his face and shoulders. This vision is the first of a series of visions described by St. Julian in the book she wrote, Showings, in the 14th century. I had been advised by my new Christian friends that I should read St. Julian's work because they thought I would be simpatico with her; and I had begun the book but had only been able to read the description of the one vision when the accident occurred. During the 5 days I had been told to keep the kerchief on my hair, I saw many signs and wonders which I will not describe because of the length of all this. I will just say that I came to believe that the blood on my head was the blood of Christ rather than my own because I had not 'resisted to the point of shedding my own blood' (in Hebrews).
I was saved from death by God, who was not ready to take me to Himself for eternity. I took care of my little sister when my mother developed Parkinson's disease and my father congestive heart failure and neither was able to monitor Mary's diabetes and she was being rushed to the hospital with reactions to inadequate management that almost killed her. I called meetings of social workers, doctors, nurses and a prospective foster family for about a year, and finally the foster family agreed to take Mary to live with them and adopted her some time later. Mary lived ten wonderful years with her adoptive family until her death through a fall in the shower, which caused her to flat line. I was her legal guardian and took charge of pulling the plug because Mother was in Heaven and it was too much for Dad. So I have accomplished what I was sent back here to do, but that was a while ago and one thing I have learned is that I will be here until my work here is done, and then I will be able to go back to the glorious place of eternal peace I was able so briefly to visit.
This was the most important experience of my life. I am not likely now to be overwhelmed by horror at anything that happens here on earth, because I know for certain that there is a place for each of us beyond death where the peace and joy are complete.
Date NDE Occurred: 'May 7, 1978'
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Accident Whiplash Other Car accident which could have been fatal but was not.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Wonderful
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Yes
I lost awareness of my body
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? More consciousness and alertness than normal When I was out of my body and at the gateway to Heaven.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? When I was out of my body and at the gateway to Heaven.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Incredibly fast
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
Although I heard the accident beneath me and my screams, nevertheless where I was there was no time.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I heard angels singing and I heard things that were addressed to me by God; and I didn't hear anything else. There was a clarity in that this experience was all for me.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? Yes, and the facts have been checked out
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Uncertain It wasn't a tunnel, but afterwards I thought spiritually I had gone through my neck to be in the arms of Mary, who is sometimes called 'the neck of the Church.' I was in a gate to Heaven.
Did you see any beings in your experience? I actually saw them
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? Yes I was surrounded by angels singing whom I did not see. I did see the souls moving back and forth between life and death. I didn't know them and we didn't communicate.
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? A light clearly of mystical or other-worldly origin
Did you see an unearthly light? No
The experience included: A landscape or city
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Joy, peace, confidence, amazement, a deep sense of being loved.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? incredible joy
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
The experience included: Special Knowledge
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe
Did scenes from your past come back to you? My past flashed before me, out of my control
Did scenes from the future come to you? Scenes from the world's future I would have to become Mary's legal guardian. That turned out to be accurate and it was the reason I was 'sent' back to earth.
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a barrier that I was not permitted to cross; or was sent back against my will
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What was your religion prior to your experience? Liberal Episcopalian
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No
What is your religion now? Liberal Episcopalian
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? No
The experience included: Presence of unearthly beings
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I actually saw them
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes I knew that I had to go back to take care of my sister.
I also knew that God had complete charge and care concerning who lived and died. In a way, that made me feel complete trust in everything.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? No
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Uncertain I wrote it up several times over the years, and just felt that my words were inadequate to express the peace and joy I experienced. I still do.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes During the week following the experience, I found myself able to pray for the world without effort, to feel that I was praying the prayers God gave me to pray and to know that they were all answered. I saw many visions of Jesus and Mary His Mother, very intense and ecstatic.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? The fact that the angels' laughter was music (to me) and that I felt that I was truly hearing the music of the spheres meant a lot because I am a musician.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes About a year. I told a priest about it, angrily. I was so amazed that I could not describe the peace. I just felt, 'why me, why me?' The priest listened patiently and said, enjoy it now for me, I no longer have these experiences and visions.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes I knew about Kenneth Ring, but I didn't get in touch with him when I could have. It helped me to some extent not to be freaked out, but I did have the anger I described.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real I've never doubted it for a minute. It was just too real.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real It was definitely real and the most important experience of my life. I know Heaven is there for us. I was there.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? This is an excellent questionnaire.