God, please help me! I flailed my arms as I was sucked down deep into a gray-green abyss, wedged between rocks in the frigid river.
I’d joined the U.S. Navy after graduating in 1985. After boot camp, my first duty station was Naval Facility Coos Head, Oregon. I’d struggled during boot camp with activities that required swimming. Yet here I was, with my shipmates, ready to stake my life on a lifejacket and small inflatable kayak on the Rogue River.
As I listened to the guides’ instructions, the menacing premonition nagged me. All of the Rogue River rapids except two fell into Class I, II, and III difficulties. The more challenging Class IV sections were Rainey Falls and Blossom Bar. As soon as I started paddling toward Blossom Bar, I knew my apprehension wasn’t misplaced.
I believed in God but didn’t feel He was particularly concerned with me. Now, desperately trying to find the water’s surface, I pleaded with Him.
The darkness around me gave way to dazzling light. The cold and pain ceased. As I zoomed, horizontally, through a narrow tunnel, unconditional love enveloped me. I exited the tunnel into a room formed from pure white clouds. Before me hovered three beings, each a shimmering, translucent crystal, six to seven feet tall.
As if sensing my distress, the beings transformed into familiar biblical angels. Light and love radiated from their iridescent eyes. For the first time in my life, I felt I belonged.
“You have arrived too soon,” they told me. “You must go back and finish your work. But since you are here, we will show you some things.”
The angels produced a book, from which snapshots of my life flashed rapidly by. Then I saw my future: a man whose face I could not see and two children.
The angel on the left spoke. “I am Yasha’el. I have been with you since the beginning, and I will be with you for eternity. You must go back—you have to be there for them.” But I didn’t want to!
He took my hand and the two of us floated upward horizontally. Above, a huge ball of warm light shone on everything, making me feel loved and known by God. I yearned to be close to Him. Yasha’el led me to a huge waterfall, where I sensed the presence of loved ones who had passed on. I saw an enormous tree whose leaves morphed into vibrant, iridescent birds. I saw a lake so transparent that I could see people I loved on Earth. I was amazed that I could see them, but I sensed the lake was a boundary between the heavenly and earthly realms.
“You cannot cross the barrier,” Yasha’el said.
“Please,” I begged. “Let me stay.”
“When it is time, I will come for you,” he said.
He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me backward. I fell at the speed of light, and my spirit wrestled back into my body. His push freed me from the rocky crevice that held me, to the surface, where I was pulled from the water. The memory of what had just happened to me vanished.
A few days after the accident, I developed bronchitis, and the doctor put me on bed rest. That night, the dreams began. A tunnel. Three triangular prisms that became angels. An angel who whispered, “I’ve been with you since the beginning . . .” Over time, more images appeared. A book flashing images from my life. A faceless picture of the man I would marry. Two children. An angel saying, “You have to go back for them.”
After two years at Coos Head, I transferred to a U.S. Naval Facility in Wales, where I met a man named Phil. One evening, he asked me, “What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you?” And I told him—about the kayaking incident, about the dreams.
Though I couldn’t see the face of the man in the book in my dreams, I felt he was there with me. Phil and I married in October 1988.
Nine years after my rafting mishap, I was surfing the Web and typed in near drowning visions. The results described what happened to me and gave it a name: near-death experience. I’d died that day. I had an NDE to prove it. Everything I saw in my dream was real! Dear God, You did this for me? I began to seek God, longing to experience again the closeness to Him that enveloped me in my NDE.
Thirty-six years have passed. Phil and I have two children, just as the angels showed me. I no longer fear death. I have worked for many years in hospice care. Because of my NDE, I knew I could reassure my patients that something beautiful waits for them on the other side.