Both of these experiences happened to our friend and fellow writer, Carol Gorman. We recently wrote about her husband, Ed, who is in hospice, and have been exchanging emails about Ed’s condition.
Here are two experiences that changed my life. The first one happened on Christmas Day, 1984. I had recently been diagnosed with MS; I had all the symptoms: spasticity in my legs, blindness in my right eye, the strength in my left arm disappeared after getting into a hot bath, something I can’t spell called “lair-MEETS sign” that sent electrical impulses up my back when I tipped my chin down to my chest. I thought my active life was over, and I was terribly depressed.
Then Ed found a book written by a woman who had MS and had taken a year to travel the world and talk with doctors and scientists who were using diet to treat MS. I starting following the diet designed by a physician in Portland, OR who was getting a 97% success rate with people who started it immediately after diagnosis. So, I now had hope!
I had prayed for a “miracle that I could believe in.” And I was sure this was my miracle. I was driving alone down to Iowa City to spend Christmas with my family. So I said a prayer to God, saying, “Thank you for the MS, because it brought me closer to you.” All at once, the car was filled with overwhelming love. I actually felt as if spirit was hugging me! It was so similar to the descriptions of people who’ve had NDEs; I felt totally enveloped in love. It was amazing and wonderful, and I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. It only lasted 5-10 seconds, but as I said, it changed my life.
The second one was a little more concrete. I wrote this online; I thought it was one of your blogs, so you might have read it. It happened a few years earlier in my life, about 1981. My son Ben was six. I had recently been divorced from Ben’s dad. My ex’s father had died, and it was the night after his funeral. Anyway, he and I had never had any closure because my ex and I had split up, and I’d never seen him again.
I used to lie down on the bed with Ben when he went to bed. We’d lie in the dark and talk about his day. So that night, I said, “Let’s say a prayer, and I think Grandpa will hear us and know that we miss him.” So I said the prayer, and immediately after the prayer was over, I saw sparkles of what looked like static electricity in the air. I even heard the pops and crackles. It only last a few seconds and stopped. I wondered if I had imagined it, and I said, “Ben, did you see the lights in here just now?” He said, “What lights?” So I assumed I’d imagined it. I’d never heard of this before.
Fast forward maybe ten years. David Morrell had a book out called FIREFLIES about the death of his 16-year-old son. The night after the funeral, he went into his son’s room and sank down on the bed. And suddenly the room was filled with fireflies, and he heard his son say, “Don’t be sad, Dad. I’m well now, and I can play!” This was so similar to what I experienced–but I hadn’t heard a voice–so I tucked it away in my mind, thinking maybe the static electricity was like David Morrell’s fireflies.
Maybe 6-8 years later, I was writing novels for young readers and was invited to a book signing in a small-town library with none other than David Morrell. Nobody came (!), so I had the pleasure of sitting with David for a couple of hours. I told him I’d read his book FIREFLIES and described my experience with the lights in the room after the prayer.
He nodded and said, “That’s exactly what I saw.” And he told me that everywhere he went to lecture after the publication of his book, someone in the room would raise a hand and say that something similar had happened to him/her. He said that Father Andrew Greeley had written him after reading FIREFLIES and told him that about 85% of the grieving people he counsels report contact with the person who had died.
Together, these two experiences introduced me to a new (to me) kind of spirituality, different from the Presbyterian religion that I’d grown up with. It was dramatically personal and so very loving. I wish Ed could’ve had an experience like this to help him in his preparation for his transition. I’ve talked about these things to him a lot over the years, and he’s just now beginning to open up to them. He never had criticized my beliefs and always said kindly, “I hope you’re right, honey.”
I hope he has a beautiful transition with all that love that I felt in the car that Christmas morning! I wish everyone could have these experiences, so they know that life goes on, and that they don’t have to be afraid of death.