On Tuesday, March 28,1989, I was driving a small Honda hatchback with our 3 children, aged 10 and 7 years and 9 months.
We were returning from Cleveland to Toledo, Ohio on the turnpike after visiting my girlfriend and her children during Spring Break. It was a very windy blustery cold spring day and my children, seat belted, all fell asleep after roller skating with their friends. At mile marker 85.1 at 5:30 PM, the car veered right onto the shoulder and struck a parked disabled semi- truck. One witness claimed that the severe wind made our small car drift and crash but it is very possible that I, the driver, fell asleep at the wheel. There were no air bags nor loud vibratory warning road edge strips yet, in that time period.
After impact, I lost consciousness, as my chest hit the steering wheel causing cardiac contusions and abnormal heart rhythms. To this day, I cannot remember the crash. My NDE was not the classic story with going through a tunnel toward bright light or meeting pre-deceased relatives or God. I recall pitch darkness and a sense of a warm comforting still presence surrounding me. I was immersed in peace and tranquility. I was given total and absolute knowledge about ALL things instantaneously! I marveled in ecstasy that I knew everything about everything there was to know in the universe right then and there. It was incredibly energizing to comprehend all that power from knowledge about physics, astronomy, psychology, medicine, agriculture, meteorology, chemistry etc. etc.-- EVERYTHING about how the physical and spiritual worlds operate. I felt electrifying elation being "on top of the world " and so joyful to possess ultimate Truth.
In Earth time, that experience likely lasted seconds to minutes but it was the most gratifying experience I have ever known. All of a sudden, I was being awakened by a kind passerby and my body felt numb and ice cold. Rescue personnel wanted me to exit the car but, stubbornly, I wanted to remain in that moment of absolute enlightenment. All the wisdom was rapidly fading almost as suddenly as it was imparted to me and I tried in vain to hang onto any and all fragments of insight. I felt quite annoyed and distressed that, while I was expected to communicate with the state police trooper, all my knowledge evaporated.
Soon enough, I realized that my children were in grave danger and I had to let go of losing that divine entitlement. Our 7-year-old daughter, Lauren, had a cardiac arrest on the scene and an open brain injury and was life-flighted to a Cleveland trauma hospital. I was a medical student at the time and knew cardiac arrests in children with healthy hearts usually meant death (unlike respiratory arrest with survival possible). I fell into profound prayer mode, almost catatonic in the ambulance except for my incessant questions about the children's status that everyone refused to answer. Our 10-year-old son, Ryan, my co-pilot, was whisked away in an ambulance, also with a severe brain injury and a respiratory arrest. Our baby, Amelia, in emotional shock, with only a cut on her chin but was almost left at the scene since that kind passerby took her into his car with his wife and sons. She too went in the helicopter with Lauren. I was taken to a different hospital in Toledo and Ryan was later airlifted there too.
The final aftermath was dreadful. My husband Greg drove to Cleveland the next morning and had to lovingly discontinue life support when Lauren was declared brain dead. Baby Amelia was brought back physically healthy, but emotionally scarred, though she quickly relearned to smile and delight her parents. Ryan also suffered brain death and we held him on our collective laps as they discontinued life support. We felt enveloped by a cloak of compassion and love when Ryan stopped breathing and died. Greg and I both felt an inexplicable calm, and his death was a beautiful experience as was Greg's solo experience with Lauren the day prior. The loving presence of a supreme spiritual being, with us, is the only way to explain the beauty and solace we felt on the absolute worse days of our lives.
Before my NDE, I was more religious than spiritual. But after this life altering event, that all changed. I saw a counselor, George Hover, also a bereaved parent, to help me with my guilt-ridden grief. I had suicidal thoughts and wanted to join my children. He introduced me to the "Life After Life" book by psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Moody about NDEs. Those concepts were my salvation because it gave me hope that my children were not extinct, but still existed in a spiritual realm. I came to believe that the unseen spiritual world existed adjacent to the physical world. We all search for an answer and ask " Why?" when an unnatural premature death of a loved one occurs. I came to realize that an answer is never found, but there were premonitions of this tragedy even a year before the event that I have listed below:
- Ryan and Lauren began to pester us to find a church to attend like their peers around April 1988. In the 11 months before their deaths, we sampled about 10 different congregations together. They ranged from the most conservative fundamental Christian church to the more liberal Unitarian Universalist.
- Ryan had two episodes of intense emotional distress after January 1989. One evening, he was crying and upset that he saw a "black figure with a pitch fork" outside his bedroom window and said he didn't want to die. Another night before bed, he cried and blurted out " Mom, I'm 10 years old, and what have I accomplished in my life?" His teacher called us around that time and said that she thought Ryan was depressed and distracted.
- Lauren found a best friend, Kristin, who would take her to her church on Wednesday evenings. She wrote this poem in February 1989 in her diary:
I love you Lord, and I'm glad you live inside me
Please come to me, or if you don't
I will track you down somehow
- I felt a vague, novel, unshakeable, disconcerting " sense of impending doom" that I could not understand, for about one month prior to the accident.
- Four days before the accident, Ryan and Lauren who actually NEVER fought, even with words, got into a brief angry physical tussle while playing at a park.
- Two days before the accident, Easter Sunday, we attended Grace United Methodist Church for the second time. Pastor Frank Ellis preached a sermon about NDEs to bolster our faith and Ryan listened intently to every word. As a family, we unanimously decided that day to join that church.
- One day before the accident, I was packing the car for our trip, and suddenly an atrocious thought crossed my mind that I was responsible for killing a child. I shuddered, but in my haste to leave, I quickly dismissed it. After I got the children settled in the car in the driveway, I quickly rushed back to the house to make a last-minute phone call. I called Grace Church and said we made a decision to join their church and then we headed to our visit to Cleveland.
- Hours before the accident, while my friend Sue and I watched Ryan, Lauren, Katie, and Nic roller skate, she told me this weird "joke": The French have a saying: "Children are like pancakes, and the first two usually don't turn out, so you throw them away."
I believe the events listed above (and there were more of lesser impact) are precognitions. I believe these precognitions are an attempt from the spiritual world to interact with, or perhaps in some way to influence the adjacent physical world. My NDE and subsequent grief work and career as a pediatrician have all greatly enhanced my spiritual life. Nearly every work day, I have the great fortune of gazing into the eyes of newborns and seeing God/Tao.
It has been nearly 30 years since my NDE. Recently, I was sweeping leaves off our porch and out of the blue, I recalled this NDE with a new insight. I think the darkness I had was my momentary death, and at the hour of my greatest need, it was God within me who allowed me to know everything that God knows. I was quite overwhelmed by the enormity of that belief.