So, today is the 7th anniversary of my aneurysm. Or, as I like to call it, my aneurversary. About three am on the 29th of December, 2009, I had a headache come on so suddenly I thought I had been hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat.
Then, the pain was so bad I couldn't think at all.
Most of the next three weeks are gone, forever. But I do remember one thing very clearly. I haven't spoken of it much here, and most people will think I'm crazy, but it's absolutely true.
I rmember going to Akron City Hospital, and being told that I had an intracranial bleed. I remember going under the railroad bridges on I-77 going into Cleveland.
The next thing I remember is being in a place of light and peace.
My dad was there, as was my Uncle Dick, which might not have been so unusual had they both not died over the previous 18 months.
It was very bright there, much white light, but also very green. The area I was in was like a park, except it felt vast, as though it went on for many, many miles. While my uncle sat silently smiling on a banch, my dad rode up on a bicycle.
I don't remember the exact words of the conversation, but I remember the important points that were made, and they stuck in my heart, to be remembered more fully at the appropriate times, when they have be most impact.
I knew then that there was an "afterlife." I knew that the human soul continues after the cessation of function of the physical body. I put afterlife in quotes, because I believe, now, that life never actually ends, merely this physical phase.
I knew that I would have to find a church to join, one that would understand what I had seen, what had been through, and not think I was completely nuts. And I knew I would reognize it when I found it.
The most important thing, the linchpin, of the experience was the knowledge that I had been to the other side. But I hadn't been to Heaven. Nor had I been to Hell. The Catholic concept of Purgatory didn't fit, nor did their Limbo.
I was at a loss.
Then, in 2013, I read these words:
11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.
12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
I remember where I was when I read those words, as though it were yesterday. I can picture it now, in my mind, as clearly as though I were still there. I felt as though I had been struck by a bolt of lightning, sitting there in the Library at Kent State, on a clear blue day.
And I knew that these words were true. Completely.
Ot was the first experience of my lifetime that I can recognize as fully and truly spiritual. In this world, anyway.
I also knew that I had found the Church I had been looking for. I had always thought that when I did, it would be either one of those teeny tiny little churches with maybe 12 people sitting around doing Bible study, or one of those huge churches that require nothing more of you than to show up on Sunday and mouth the right words, on cue.
Sometimes life throws you a curve.
Anyway, I found my Church, and I from the moment I walked through the door, I felt as if I was returning home after a long absence.
The physical me didn't want to join, but the spiritual me never wanted to leave.
It has not been without difficulty: The conversion created much friction in relationships in my personal life, and the damage has taken years to heal. I've experienced actual hatred over my beliefs. My personal behavior has changed significantly enough that my children have noticed, which new tricks were quite significant for this old dog.. I no longer curse like a sailor, though I do slip from time to time. I have found how healing it is to forgive those who have trespassed against me, even when it has not been sought, though I still seem to be unable to do it on request.
But, since my experience, I have found that I can look back over the course of my life and see where God has blessed me and helped me along, even when I was not a good person. I have seen miracles happen, prayers answered in realtime, and have the ability to understand what has occurred. I have learned, not to hear the voice of God, which we all hear, but to recognize Him when He speaks.
I've seen a bigger part of the picture, that the universe we can see, and sense with our physical senses is a very small, though important, part of the overall Plan that God has for us, and I have begun to understand more of my place in that Plan, however unworthy of that place I may feel. And part of my role is to tell people of what happened to me, however difficult it may be, or how crazy they may think I am.
But the most important thing I've learned is that God loves us and believes in us, even when we can't find our way to believe in Him.
Just because we don't believe in something doesn't mean it doesn't exist.