Heaven: A Firsthand Account

Peter Panagore was a college student, ice-climbing in Canada on his spring break, when a near-death experience transformed him—and his faith—forever. 

Marvel at true stories that answer our deepest questions about the hereafter. Get Peter’s book as part of our 3-book set, To Heaven and Back.


[MUSIC PLAYING] A month after my 21st birthday, I traveled from Montana up to Alberta, Canada, to ice climb on a world-famous ice pitch. By 8 o’clock that night, the temperature dropped drastically. Since we had no equipment to keep ourselves warm, our best bet for survival was to try to get off the mountain. 

It was 150 feet down. We’d rappelled in the air on this overhang to a large area. We were stuck. And I was cold, though, and I’d never been that cold. And I had frostbite on my fingertips and my nose and my toes and my cheeks and my chin. And I had hypothermia. 

And then I fell asleep. And only this time, I didn’t lose consciousness but I knew that I had fallen asleep. And I felt myself being sucked out of my core like a vacuum, and I resisted with all the strength that I had, that I had built up through the survival journey that I was on. And I tried to stay in my body, and I couldn’t. It irresistibly pulled me out, and I died. 

And I found myself in a great dark void, infinite, without a body but with full consciousness, like a sphere of consciousness. And in front of me– if I had a front– was this gigantic door. And the door was 30 yards wide and 70 yards tall, and it was– the proverbial tunnel that people talk about was through this gateway. 

And I said, am I dead? And the voice of God with no voice and no language said to me, yes, you’re dead. And I said, but I haven’t gone through the door yet. And the voice of God said, no, you haven’t. I said well, do I have to go through the door? I have this sister, you see, that left our family and broke my mother’s heart. And I didn’t want to break my mom’s heart again and die and leave them. 

And God said and showed me, showed me. He said, the love with which I love you now I have always loved you. And that same love that I love you with now, I love your family. And I love each person on earth with this fullness of love and forgiveness and knowing and mercy that you feel right now and beauty. And all will be well, and your family will be OK. 

And the next thing I knew, I was being screwed back into my body like an ice screw that you use to put into the ice to hang on. And it was painful, and it hurt. And I got driven into my body from my stomach, and I came to. And my partner, Tim, had me by the shoulder, and he was screaming at me. Don’t die. Don’t leave me here. 

And I kept my mouth shut about what had happened for close to 20 years. And now I’m telling this story because what it’s left me with is that I know that I’m known, and I know that I’m beloved. And I know that you are too and everybody is. 

And I know that this is not the end of life, that this is just the passage through to real life. And it’s this long, and that’s how much time we have until we get to go home. And I’m waiting to go home. I pray for it every day. I can’t wait. That’s my story.

Share this story

Community Newsletter

Get More Inspiration Delivered to Your Inbox

Check out our collection of Guideposts videos and find exclusive celebrity interviews, inspirational stories of hope, and practical life advice.

Randall Liberty, who experienced PTSD following his military service in Iraq, offers tips for recognizing the disorder in friends and loved ones and advice on how to help them find healing.

Donate to change a life together
Scroll to Top