Through his apostle Paul in the Book of Romans, 8:28, God says, “All things work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” When I was in my eighties I had a heart attack in my doctor’s office. My doctor called for an ambulance and on the way to the hospital the Emergency Medical Technician, EMT, who had been monitoring my vital signs turned to me and said, “Your heart stopped, and you have already died twice on this trip to the hospital.” Oddly enough the first thing I thought was, “Will I actually die and cross over on the third time my heart stops, the forth, which time will it be the last?” Then right after that, I realized I was facing death possibly in the next few minutes, not at the end of my life when I got old and life slowly slipped away. The very minute the EMT told me I had already died twice, a peace came over me, a peace I really can’t explain or adequately describe except to say it was that “Peace that surpasses all human understanding!”
When I was told that I had died twice in the ambulance, I thought, “God must have some purpose” because of this string of events. Many in the medical field said they would never have told a patient about this heart stopping experience simply because they wouldn’t know how the person would react, and it could have caused another heart attack!
God did in fact have a divine purpose for me in this experience. Of course I couldn’t know it then. Just before this experience happened, however, a young couple moved into our gated subdivision. The husband had just been diagnosed with some advanced cancer, and he wanted to prepare his wife for his imminent death by having her safely installed in the new home, in a gated community, when he died.
Most people never get to understand just how much good can come out of something that seems like such a bad thing, even a heart attack. There is almost no experience in life that is gained and owned by a combination of education, training and experience where all three aspects are good and pleasant in and of themselves as they are acquired. Failure is one of the greatest instructors, and no one likes to fail. Most successful people will tell you they became successful from the lessons of their failures much more than the lessons of their successes. Yet all these lessons, the harsh and sweet, must be combined with training and more experience to produce the lasting good results we all seek in life. As in life, the ingredients of a great recipe are seldom good all by themselves.
So back to the new neighbor. One morning I was out, doing the recommended cardiac rehabilitation walking regimen, and our neighbor’s wife was also out walking her dogs. She told me that every time she tried to speak with her husband about his terminal condition he would tell her, “I would just rather not talk about it.” I could quickly understand why she was so troubled about this! They were right in the middle of what had to be the worst experience in their entire relationship, and he was trying to go through it all by himself. I already had a deep understanding of what he was going through and why he didn’t want to talk about it. Looking death right in the face can be so very sad. None of the trite, threadbare things you can say or think in this situation are any comfort when you are the one who has that upcoming, unavoidable appointment with the death angel.
I did my best to comfort her, told her I would do anything to help and knew that help would take the form of talking to her husband with her there, as painful and trying as that might be. When I later went to talk to them, I asked him about his cancer. Just as he always told everyone, he told me he “didn’t want to talk about it.” When he asked me how I was recuperating from my heart attack, I told him, “I could tell you all about it, but let me tell you what happened in the ambulance.” Then I explained in detail my entire near death experience. When I got to the part where I described for him and his wife the PEACE I felt during the experience and how hard it was to explain how peaceful the experience was, that very minute, he stopped me and said “I want your peace!” Then, for the very first time other than with his doctors and medical professionals, he opened up and talked to his wife and me. Immediately I began to explain to him how he could experience this peace. Afterwards as I began to leave, he got up and came to me and hugged me. Then he asked if I could come back and tell him more about having that peace in his life? Later his wife told me how that was so uncharacteristic of him, like he was a different person, because all his life he had always been so reserved.
Then, of all the times to have an awful accident, I fell off the ladder that goes into the attic in our garage and onto the hood of my car, smashing my pelvis bone. The doctor who took care of me and my injuries, Dr. George V. Russel, told me if I had fallen all the way to the concrete floor in our garage, I most likely would not have survived. Dr. Russel would certainly know, based on his reputation: he is one of the best, maybe the best, Orthopedic Trauma specialists in America with 20 years of experience and recognition that we don’t have time or room to cover here. At that time, I began to realize more strongly than ever how God can use even bad accidents (like falls that could kill you) to incorporate the experience for you to accomplish God’s good purpose. Again the passage from Romans 8:28, “All things for good.” My falling out of the attic enabled me to be the only person who could reach my dying neighbor, so that he could feel INNER PEACE!
There was only one doctor that could perform the surgery on me, so I was in the hospital when my newfound neighbor/friend finally died from his cancer. I could not even go to his funeral. Later I asked his wife, “Do you think your husband finally found that peace?” And she responded, “I believe he did!”