I had only been married for a few years. We had one beautiful 16-month-old daughter and I was 32 weeks pregnant with our second daughter. It was already a rough marriage. Doing ministry kept us very busy and everyone had an opinion on how we ought to live. No one knew the unrest behind the scenes. 

It started with what felt like a bomb going off in my abdomen.

I fell and hit my head on the bathtub. Immediately I knew I was going to die and that it was my responsibility to stay alive until they could deliver my baby. I told my husband that I was going to die and he asked if he should call an ambulance. We lived in a rural community and our hospital did not have a NICU for our baby. They spent a few hours stabilizing me and finding a diagnosis (my appendix exploded). They transferred me to a university hospital when they saw that I was critical but stable for the time being. In the ambulance I kept going in and out of consciousness. It was strange. I could hear God calling to me; such a big but comforting voice. 

By the time we got to the second hospital I was completely septic. I was in the worst agony of my life but was also not afraid or alone. God kept speaking to me. I waited to die with stubborn and determined exertion. When they finally had me on the operating table it had been 11 hours since my appendix exploded. I clearly remember the operating staff yelling at me to stay with them and trying to intubate me. But I'd asked God what would happen to my family and God assured me that they would "be fine" (God's words). So I gladly let go. The pain had disappeared long before I died. 

I was immediately in the presence of someone so holy that the only color They could possibly be was the most natural, perfect, brilliant white. I was surprised that it didn't hurt my eyes. God gave me peace beyond my wildest dreams. We spoke for what seemed to be hours but was only a few minutes in earth time. They told me about Their love for me. They told me how glad They were to be with me. They told me that I'd end up living a long life on earth (I argued that I didn't want to go back) and that it would often be hard. My special purpose was to give love, peace, hope, and acceptance to everyone I encountered. We talked about Their acceptance of me as I was and not as I pretended to be. During this time I also saw my mom in the waiting room. She was crying and praying that I would be okay. They told her that I had died and they were able to bring me back. My husband was not there. He was getting a snack. I could see what they were wearing and hear what they were saying, even hear their thoughts. My mom's fear seemed foreign to me because I was in perfect peace. 

I was so angry when I woke up in the hospital. I had double pneumonia, was extremely allergic to my antibiotic, needed a couple of blood transfusions, and had to relearn basic skills like going to the bathroom. Surprisingly, I had perfect vision and hearing. For weeks I didn't need my glasses. Because of the extent of my poisoning, my surgical site was only closed with retention sutures and the bandage was laced up like a boot. They had to clean it often which hurt a lot. One day I met the surgeon who had saved my life. Instead of thanking him as my mother did, I told him how angry I was to be back. 

I was forever altered by being with God. Everything that I had believed was suddenly called into question and it took decades for me to sort it all out. 

It took me a while to feel love. I had been told by God that my life would be long and often hard so I was afraid of the heartache loving would bring. My second daughter ended up being diagnosed with holoprosencephaly. Her condition was "not compatible with life." Since I knew she would die I especially had a hard time loving her with my entire mother's heart. By the time she died I was completely in love with her. 

Her death was something we could prepare her for. I had many talks with her about how it would be to die. The night she died I reminded her that she would be with Daddy and me and God and then just with God; there would be no darkness in between. We had her nestled in our bed between us. The lights were turned low and we didn't speak. Suddenly she looked up to the corner of the room and beamed a brighter smile than I imagined a baby could beam. Then she was gone. Then she was healed in the other world. Then our grief began. 

Now I still carry that peace and acceptance. My views have changed from being very fundamentalist Christian to being spiritual. I've divorced my husband of 30 years. Most of my friends and our entire congregation sided with my ex-husband. But I have a new group of friends and they have become family to me. It's a hard life but it's a good life.