[Note: retreat in Roslyn, tomorrow]
A couple of weeks back we met a woman from Syosset, New York, who had a near-death experience. We try to be cautious with all such reports. We’re well aware that there can be deception in any realm, and also that near-death experiences, because they involve a reality far outside our own, can seem strange to some people.
But hers sounded legitimate — one of the most powerful we’ve heard — and the Church has been recording such experiences since the fourth century (when Pope Gregory the Great detailed them). Scientists recently issued a study saying that millions have had these experiences, and we believe this woman, who resides on Long Island, is one of them. We believe she has some lessons to teach us. As you’ll see in the coming several days, her experience was a complex one that shows us something about God’s judgment, the way we are to conduct our lives, and how the Lord watches over us. After her “death,” she claims to have had visits from the Virgin and the Lord. That aspect of her experience we submit for your discernment.
Her name is Barbara Marie (we’ll preserve aspects of her privacy). She is married, has two teenage children, and her “death” allegedly occurred in June of 1991 — when surgeons conducting exploratory laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis perforated the membrane to her small bowel at the outset of the procedure, causing what she and her husband describe as massive bleeding. Before she was brought back, doctors had to frantically take her intestines outside her body to search for the source of hemorrhage, which was finally found. “They tore it right as they were putting the instruments through,” says Barbara, whom we met at Our Lady of the Island Shrine in Eastport. “They had lost me twice. They told my husband they had lost me and didn’t know if they could get me back. The first thing that happened was that I realized I was in a void. It was a total black place in space, is the only way I could describe it. For a fraction of a second, I was very scared — but as quickly as that came, I was directed to the left side of me, and as soon as I turned, there appeared a Light in the distance to the left side which immediately comforted me.
“At that point I just started heading toward that Light with my being — I don’t know how — and I was surrounded by what I would describe as a tunnel. There were like rings of wind, like the funnel of a tornado, and it was moving forward. Besides the Light, which was very bright, there was a prism within it and music unlike any that there is on earth. I don’t know how to explain it. The music was so welcoming and it becomes a part of you. It was comforting, angelic. And I was moving up this tunnel and getting closer and closer to this Light.
“I know there was some kind of companion with me because every time that I had a thought, to ask a question, everything was answered immediately, as I ‘asked’ it. I remember stopping briefly because within the walls of this tunnel were beings.
“I never had a great religious upbringing and never thought of purgatory, but when I came back it seemed like part of that, probably the last level of purgatory. [The souls] were existing like on the outside of the tunnel and resting, as if they were sitting or standing or lying down. I had a surge of emotions. I felt sorrow for them and despair because they were stuck where they were but it was also made very clear to me that as much as there was despair, there was full knowledge and peace within [these souls] because they understood and accepted that they couldn’t yet move forward.”
It was a glimpse of purgatory. But the Light was still there and was still to Barbara’s left. “Brilliant, brilliant,” she says. “You can’t describe the brilliance. It was just filled with love and peace and the knowledge of God. As you move through that tunnel, you’re more and more consumed by it. And then at that point I was in the Presence of the Lord. I was prostrate. I was not able to withstand the awesomeness and the majesty of what was before me! I was nothingness compared to that. And then there was a period of being embraced by this love and peace and serenity and knowing I had reached my final destination, that this was truly a home.”
It gave new meaning to the word “home.” This, she realized, was where she actually belonged. This is where she wanted to permanently be. But first there was a “life review.” Call it her “judgment.” It was astonishing to see her life as God did. In many ways, things looked very differently, she told Spirit Daily. “I was not only shown the things I did good and bad, but like a three-way view,” she said. “I was seeing it first through my eyes and how offensive it was. Then I was seeing it through the eyes of the person I had offended. Then I saw through the eyes of Jesus. When you see it in the Presence of Jesus, there’s sorrow you can’t even imagine, because there’s true knowledge of the offense — recognition and accountability. There’s that inner cleansing and accountability. Then you take further accountability because you see it in how you affected somebody else. When you see it through somebody else’s eyes, you see how it intertwined with their lives. You see it from a whole different point of view and you see how it affected their journey. And then when you see it through the eyes of the Lord, you see it as a whole. It makes the whole thing complete. You see how in the course of all creation it made a difference and how it then affected the Creator — how it stops at the Creator when you offended one of His own.
It wasn’t all bad, says Barbara. There were also the victories. There were the “magnificent” accomplishments that caused joy to the Lord.
These events of her life amazed Barbara because they seemed so minor.
“The Lord showed me the things that really mattered, the ‘extraordinarily,’ ‘magnificent’ things that I had done,” said Barbara. “There were two profound examples. One was when my girlfriend lost her fiance and it was devastating; he had been decapitated in a car accident. The Lord showed me how I was on the phone with her one day for two or two-and-a-half hours and just sat there and listened to everything that she said. I remember saying to the Lord, ‘I don’t understand. I didn’t say anything. What great magnificent deed did I do?’ I could never comprehend how this was something extraordinary or magnificent. I did nothing. I just sat there. I didn’t say much more than five or six words. I couldn’t comprehend how that could be so pleasing to the Heart and Mind of Our Lord. Then I was shown another time that I had walked into church and this woman had lost her husband. I didn’t know this woman, but I was so moved that she had lost her spouse that sitting in the pew I felt I had to do or say something and so after Mass I had just gone up to the altar — she had been sitting in the front — and just put my hand on her shoulder. Again, I didn’t say anything to her. It wasn’t what I said. The Lord made it very clear that it was the gesture, the placing of my left hand on her shoulder.”
It was the personal touch. It was kindness. He was not great feats the Lord was looking for — not great feats as men describe great feats. It was how we made others feel — and how much we helped. “Nobody has the same journey,” continues Barbara. “My whole experience had so much to do with where I was in my personal life. It had a lot to do with my children and my husband. The way I was offending the Lord the most at this point in my life was my nearly verbal abuse. It was my attitude and the way I spoke to my husband and children. It was my tone and the things that I said that were very offending to another’s soul and heart. You can be firm with your kids, but the Lord doesn’t want you to use an insulting tone. We don’t see things the way the Lord does, and for me it was a tremendous eye-opener. I was shown my vocabulary and the tone with which I said things, because it was a condescending tone. Firmness is allowed — but with love.”
Barbara was also shown how particular events had a tremendous rippling effect — far more than she imagined. When she woke up grumpy and was negative to her husband and kids, the Lord showed her how this spread to them and from them to others through the day: at the workplace, at the deli, at stores, and then through the families of those who were touched by the negativity until many had been affected.
“There was a circle of light around the world, and as I awoke and did this, the circle of darkness went over this circle of light and erased it,” Barbara recounted. “Then I was shown the opposite, how when I got up in the morning and smiled and presented breakfast, hugging the children, how it went from my house and I was shown a drop of light that started in this one spot on the globe and went in this band of light around the globe. That was the way it was supposed to be.”
The goodness might spread to her husband who spread it people at work or to a guy at the deli who then spread it to others who took it home with them or spread it elsewhere in a chain reaction that didn’t seem to stop — that seemed, at least in the spirit, to have global effects. “I was shown this ocean, this sea, and a drop of light that falls into this ocean and has this rippling effect,” Barbara said. The trauma came when the Lord indicated to her that it was not her time, that she had more work to do, that she had to return to earth. She had great love for her husband and kids, but pleaded with the Lord to let her stay in His incredible Presence. She never wanted to leave Him. The thought of that overwhelmed her with “this despair so severe that I could never put into words.” She still weeps in talking about it. But return she did. The doctors brought her back. After more than a week in the hospital, she returned “home” — knowing this was not her real home, that her real home was elsewhere, that it was with Jesus.
[Note: retreat in Roslyn, tomorrow]