Does Heaven really exist? I’m sure that everyone reading this has asked themselves that question at least once before in their lifetime and I’m sure that everyone’s answers are different depending on their personal beliefs. Of course, I’d like to think that most people sincerely want to believe in the existence of a beautiful, peaceful, place like Heaven where love, tranquility, friends and loved ones are waiting to reunite with you when you leave your earthly body.
However, I must admit, there were, well still are, times when I think that there is nothing waiting for us after we die and-that’s it . . . nothing. I also remember thinking about it so deeply that I freaked myself out contemplating the idea that this (our time on Earth) was it . . . and everything we did good or bad didn’t matter in the least. I really didn’t like the thought of there being “nothing” to look forward to after we’re dead, but there was “no physical proof” that Heaven either did or didn’t exist. It was all a matter of “faith.”
Of course there’s also the other issue too. You know the one. The one where Heaven is real, but I would never be allowed in because my beliefs and values are not the same as the thousands of other religious organizations around the world. It’s not that my beliefs etc. are bad or harmful, not at all, they’re just different. You see, I am not a very religious person and I don’t believe in organized religion. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised Catholic and forced by my parents to make all the sacraments right up through confirmation. Or should I say “conformation?”
To me, religions are modalities of brainwashing, prejudices and judgment. Please don’t get me wrong, I know that some religions are very service oriented when it comes to community and outreach programs and that for the most part, their members are sincere and good people, but I believe that the God I worship understands and loves me and knows where I’m coming from and wouldn’t hold a grudge against me. And even though I’ve never actually seen Heaven, I did have an experience that would make me question everything I did and didn’t believe in when it comes to the “Afterlife and Heaven.”
I’ve never shared this story with anyone but my immediate family because I still question if what I experienced was real or just my imagination brought on by the stress of the incident. All I know is that it was so real, so vivid and so deliberate that it couldn’t have been just coincidental or random. I sincerely believe that I either had a “near death experience” or an actual visit by an angel.
In the summer of 2004, I had a heart attack. For most of the day, I had been having strange and squeezing, tight, pains in my back that would crescendo and then subside. They were very uncomfortable and I shrugged them off as really, really, bad gas pains. Early in the evening my wife and I drove my daughter to her friend’s house and as we were driving, the pain became worse and my jaw and ears began to hurt. I finally told my wife what was going on and she became extremely concerned.
By the time we got home, I was starting to sweat almost uncontrollably and the intensity of the pain got even worse. I assured my wife that I wasn’t having a heart attack because; heart attacks didn’t run in my family, I didn’t smoke, I wasn’t overweight and I was in peak physical condition. I chalked it up to a “panic attack!” Then I did something unbelievably stupid . . . I decided to take a shower to see if that would calm me down from my “panic attack.” When I got out of the shower, I stood in my kitchen with just a towel wrapped around me and I was sweating so badly that it was dripping on the floor. The color in my face had changed to a greenish, ashen, gray and I thought I was going to vomit all over the place.
I decided that I probably should go to the hospital to find out what was going on. I was still in denial that I was having a heart attack so I got dressed and headed off to the hospital with my wife. I walked into the emergency room of the hospital and the nurse at the desk took one look at me and ran around the desk yelling to another nurse to get a wheelchair ASAP! The pain at that point was unbearable and before I knew it, I was being hoisted onto a bed and they were ripping my shirt off as they rushed me into a room.
I remember arguing with the nurse telling her that I wasn’t having a heart attack until she finally snapped at me and said; “You’re having a heart attack and we need you to be very quiet and cooperate with us.” One of the nurses told me to open my mouth and lift my tongue so I did. She dropped a couple of tablets under my tongue and . . . then there was darkness. I was either unconscious . . . or dead!
Here’s where it gets freaky! The next thing I knew, I was standing in front of the Walgreens Pharmacy in the center of my city. Why Walgreens, I’ll never know? The glass sliding doors opened up, I stepped inside and was met with the brightest “white light” I have ever seen. It didn’t hurt to look at and was actually comforting and soothing. I walked forward a little bit more and the inside of the store came into focus.
I had made it as far as the end of the metal turnstile and was determined to proceed into the store, but had absolutely no idea what I was going in there to buy. I just knew I had to go in there. Just as I was about to take my first step, I heard someone call out my name and felt someone take my arm. I turned, looked and was very confused when I saw it was my aunt who called out my name and now held my arm. You see, not only had my aunt passed away a couple of years ago, but she was also my sponsor when I made my confirmation at church.
I wasn’t scared or panicked, but gave her a hug and asked her what she was doing here? She looked me straight in the eyes and said; “I’m afraid I can’t let you come into the store right now, it’s not your time to be here.” Surprised by what she said, I asked her what she meant by that and not to be silly, of course I could go into Walgreens, I just have to get a few things. “I’m sorry, but you can’t come in here today.” she said to me again as she led me around the turnstile to the sliding doors marked exit. Now even more confused, all I could do was obey her. My Aunt gave me a kiss on the cheek as she hugged me and said; “everything’s going to be fine.”
The sliding doors opened and as I stepped out I turned for one last look and everything had mysteriously faded into nothingness. There was another brilliant flash of light and I opened my eyes. I was staring at a very unfamiliar ceiling and was lying in a bed that I knew instantly wasn’t mine. Confused and groggy, I looked down towards my feet and saw a man in a white coat sitting on the end of the bed looking at a clipboard with papers on it.
In a scratchy voice I managed to say; “What’s going on, where am I?” The man in the white coat turned and said; “Good morning Jim, I’m doctor Bob (not his real name of course), we’re getting ready to transfer you to our main hospital. You’ve had a mild heart attack, but we’re going to have to go in and clear out an artery and then put in a stent. Your wife and family are going to meet you there. No sooner had he finished his sentence, when two EMT’s were standing next to me readying me for the half hour drive to the main hospital.
After the blockage was removed and the stent put in, I was moved to a private room where I was told I needed to get a lot of rest to heal. It would be a few days before I was allowed to go home and I really was incredibly tired . . . thankful, but unbelievably tired. My family, especially my wife, looked drained and exhausted. My daughters cried when they came in the room which of course got my wife crying and pretty soon everyone, including me, was crying. I sent them home and promised them that I was going to be fine, but I could tell my words weren’t much comfort. I understood their fear and anxiety as I felt the same way too.
My Cardiologist, Dr. Bob, came in to check on me before he left for the night and to tell me I was doing great and what a lucky man I was. He told me it was a juvenile blockage that caused my heart attack and no one ever picked up on it because I was in such good shape. It finally got to the point where it couldn’t take the stress anymore and well, shut down. If I hadn’t been in such good shape, the end result could have been way different . . . and I didn’t want to think about those ramifications at that moment.
I did however, work up the courage to ask him if I had . . . died. He told me it was touch and go for a few, but then out of the blue my body just began responding to the treatment they were giving me and all my vital signs started to stabilize. My thoughts immediately went back to my Aunt not letting me into Walgreens and telling me that it wasn’t my time to come in and that I had to leave. Was my experience real, did I actually see my aunt who had passed away, did God send her to give me a message and save my life and why on Earth was I at, of all places . . . a Walgreens Pharmacy? That didn’t make any sense! I couldn’t stop thinking about it and replayed the scene over and over again until it got the best of me and the tears started pouring down my cheeks.
My nurse came in to check my vital signs and to see if I wanted anything to drink or something light to eat and she noticed my tears that I was so desperately trying to hide. I couldn’t let her see me cry, men are supposed to be stronger than that . . . men don’t cry! Without saying a word, she grabbed a chair, moved it to the side of my bed and took my hand. In a very comforting voice, she said; “Its O K you know, to cry, actually, it’s a pretty normal reaction to what you just went through so don’t feel you have to be all big and tough because you’re a guy.” All I could do was shake my head yes because the flood gates had opened and I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried.
She stayed with me until I had control of myself again and gave me my evening medicine which she said was; “going to knock me on my ass and make me sleep.” We both chuckled at her comment and it felt great to laugh. The medicine didn’t take long to start working and just before my nurse left the room, I worked up enough nerve to ask her in a whisper; “do you believe in near death experiences, are they real?” She stared at me for a second and said; “why, did you have one?” I didn’t know how or if I should answer truthfully so all I said was; “possibly.”
In a very calm and straight forward voice she said; “I’ve been a nurse for fifteen years and in that time I have seen things that go beyond explanation and have heard stories that defy logic and reality. But the one thing I am totally sure of is they have all been sincere and real to the people who had them. So if you believe you had some sort of unexplainable experience, my guess is . . . it was real!” She left the room and as I thought about what she said to me, I fell into a deep, healing, sleep.
The next morning when I was alone with my wife, I told her about my experience involving my aunt and Walgreens and she was lost for words. “Walgreens, seriously?” She chuckled back at me. She was as confused as I was, but in the end, we both held on tight to the belief that I had some sort of near death, paranormal or out of body experience and that I was blessed to still be on Earth and expected to make a full recovery. I also decided that I wasn’t going to tell anyone else except my daughters about my weird experience and up until now, have kept that promise.
I’m at that point in my life where I really couldn’t give a fu . . . er . . . damn about what other people think and it sincerely feels good to get it out in the open. I know there are many other people out there who have had similar (O K, so maybe not Walgreens) experiences and it has changed their lives forever. I’m not so sure it changed my life, but hey, I believe in the paranormal, UFO’s and Bigfoot so from my point of view, it was as real as the sun that shines in the sky. It also makes me feel special to know that someone was watching over me when I truly needed some pretty serious help.
So, “does Heaven exist?” Well, I think that everyone’s interpretation of Heaven is a personal choice and I believe that our soul continues on to somewhere when it leaves earth. You can call it Heaven, Nirvana or even Walgreens, but I do believe in a place where everyone is welcome where we are forced to look at our transgressions and then learn from them so we don’t make the same mistakes on our next journey back to earth. Eventually we’ll get it right and in doing so become Ascended Masters under God or the “I Am” presence and assist in the enlightenment of others.
Are near death experiences real? Simply stated . . . “I’d bet my life on it!”