Alisa L's Experience
IT'S TRUE, THE POWER OF PRAYER
My spiritual experience which, while not a NDE, has been quite profound for me and I hope will be of help to anyone here seeking comfort or faith. I have just completed chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer and some people may say that my experience occurred because I had to contemplate death. But as you will read, it started way before I was diagnosed and I believe God used cancer as a vehicle to help me (sounds crazy doesn't it)
Let me begin by saying I'm a typical 40 something woman; mother of 2 young children; 5th grade teacher for 14 years; circle of friends; a church go-er; a very logical thinker; never stepping out of the boundaries of safety and comfort, in so far as the foundations I was given as a child (guilt-ridden-God-of-wrath Catholic, conservative upbringing). All my life I have been searching and struggling to find answers for the questions that most people probably have: Is there really a God? Does he even care about me? Is there an afterlife? What's the point of all this if when we die, we just cease to exist? Having these questions all my life being at the forefront of the basis for who I am had turned me into a cynical, negative, judgmental person who went about the process of living feeling quite empty, without purpose, and always on edge (I suffered from frequent and very painful nervous abdominal cramps). It doesn't help either being the world's biggest skeptic, (and there has to be some really compelling evidence for me to believe something) so the beginning of my epiphany was really quite a surprise to me........
March of last year (2007) when my son was 7 months old, I was holding him to my chest with his face draped over my shoulder. (My son I should add is a very sensitive loving boy; I knew that very early on.) I just wanted him to go to sleep so I could "get on with what I needed to do". But then my karate instructor's words came to mind: "Where ever you are, be there." So I thought to myself "Stop and be right here and love this child and let him feel that love".
So I let myself relax, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and just "became the moment for him. Wow! Did I get the surprise and gift of my life! Despite having my eyes closed, I could "see" the outline of his image colored yellowish-green. And it wasn't my mind's eye that created the image. (How can I explain this) As he moved in my arms the image moved in the same way also. And it was an alive image that moved as you would expect a baby to be moving. But the most amazing part of the experience was the feeling: I felt him inside me. I felt his warmth, happiness, love, purity, and an "unencumbered by human-ness" feeling from him. Oh, me, the doubting Thomas of skeptics knew without a doubt I was experiencing my son's soul! The whole experience lasted about 30 seconds or so and I was so full of wonder and amazement and joy the whole time I couldn't have been imagining it; the image OR the feelings/sensations. I think this experience was the first ray of hope I had that perhaps there really WAS something other than just this life.
Two months later in June when my son was in the hospital to have his kidney removed I had the opportunity to truly look at myself and SO, so did not like what I saw. My son shared a room with a newborn Russian boy who had severe spinal bifida and hydrocephalus. Now what is truly amazing about this is my husband speaks many languages (Russian included) and we are Orthodox Christians. How strange is it that the mother of the baby who shared our room was Russian Orthodox and didn't understand a lick of English???!!! (Coincidence or divine intervention? I believe the latter.) My husband was able to help her communicate with hospital staff and offered to do a prayer service for her son in our hospital room the following day. I of course in my cynical, judgmental habit simply saw her economic and single mother status and questioned the value of her son's life (I would never ever feel this way now). As I went home that night alone (my husband stayed the night with our son) I hated myself for my very un-Christian thoughts about this family. The more I thought about it the more sad I became and I realized how tired and mentally exhausted I was from feeling so negatively about life in general for my whole existence. I so longed for peace and love in my heart. And this is, I feel, when my change truly began: weeping uncontrollably I prayed in a way I never have before. With all that I was (body, mind, soul, and spirit) I told God I so much did not want to be this way any more. PLEASE please help me to change into a more loving, non-judgmental person. And for the first time in my life I did not add my usual disclaimer of please don't hurt me mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally in the process. Even though I wasn't sure a "God" was listening, it was a prayer a million times more sincere than I had ever said before.
The next day in my son's hospital room we began our Orthodox prayer service with the baby's mother and grandmother. As we were praying I looked over at the mother and watched tears come down her cheeks as she heard the familiar prayers. At that moment language barriers had no meaning. I saw a mother terrified and so sad for her son, and I felt an over-whelming compassion for her that I had not allowed myself to feel for suffering people before (it would have hurt too much). Amidst my husband's strong tenor melodies I reached out my hand and grasped hers and felt such a powerful connection with someone I couldn't even communicate with verbally. Instantly the verse: When 2 or more are gathered in my name, I am there Popped into my mind. Oh I felt it. Wow! It was another defining moment in my life as it dawned on me during the prayer service that perhaps God was already working a change in me.
Throughout the summer I found myself soften up, making a real effort to see people in a different light. Then sometime in August or September I stumbled upon this NDE website. I was hooked. Here was real evidence to help me with the doubt of my life. I eagerly read for hours about all the fascinating experiences that people just like me had had. The pieces of the puzzle started to come together for me. For the first time in my life I began to truly believe God did exist; how can all these NDEs be occurring with many similarities and there NOT be a Creator behind it. While reading all the accounts, a plausible order of how things might be, started to come together for me. I now saw heaven not as the place I was taught as a child (which never made sense to me anyway) but instead as an infinitely fluid state of being which a God of infinite wisdom and love, can easily tailor to each and every soul for their specific situation. The logical doubting part of me found the evidence I needed to believe. In reading these stories I realized, I guess on a spiritual level, the truth in these encounters and something inside me changed forever. My heart became even softer and more compassionate towards others. Someone in their NDE said he came to realize we are not bodies with souls. We are souls with bodies I started saying this to myself when I would find myself beginning to judge someone and it helped a great deal.
Another defining moment occurred for me during this time period. I was reading a NDE and this person explained how she was taken to something like a throne room where God was and there were angels with many wings and many eyes. THAT was a clincher for me, for in the Orthodox Liturgy, angels with many wings and many eyes are mentioned frequently. As I read what she had written I got Goosebumps and tears flowed down my cheeks as I again spoke to God with all my heart (who I now KNEW was listening) and told Him that that's where I want to be when I go; please, I want that.
3 weeks later I was diagnosed with breast cancer
I was scared; I alternated between petrified, and acceptance and trust for God's hand in what was going on. I knew my newly found faith was being tested. I tried to think of the verse something to the effect of: don't worry for if I watch after the birds and take care of them how much more will I watch out for you my child (very paraphrased). And I found out that God DOES take care of his children in some very amazing ways as I was going to see.
3 weeks after my diagnosis, 3 surgeries later, and after 1 Celexa pill (the scariest side effects I ever had in my life) I started the day in panic mode; the worst I had felt thus far. (Much of it was due to my poor choice of trying my doctor's suggestion of Celexa.) It was a Friday morning and I could barely function such was my fear. I was in the bathroom looking in the mirror and I said out loud to myself: "I just have to know if I'm going to live or die." At that moment a baby toy started to play its music in the other room. I didn't think too much of it because my mom and daughter were somewhere outside the bathroom. The music had completed its song when I walked out of the bathroom 20 seconds later. I went into the room where the toy was and the ball hanging from a rope which starts the music when you swing it, was swinging back and forth. I called to my mom and asked if she and my daughter had been in here only to find out that they had been in a room far away the whole time. My next thought was the cat (who is very timid and just doesn't jump at or on things) was the culprit. But as I started upstairs to find her, she came running downstairs. Of course my skeptical mind insisted that perhaps she had set off the toy and run upstairs while I was in the bathroom and couldn't see her. That was my conclusion of the incident that day. Little did I know future events would make me re-evaluate my assumption and come to a very different conclusion about the toy that started up the moment I asked my most serious question.
Life went on amid many important and life changing decisions, chemotherapy, radiation, hair-loss. It was an emotional time and had this occurred the year before, I would not have been able to take it with the stride and acceptance I had at this time in my life. Even in the midst of my serious condition I realized something fundamental had changed within me; I felt calm and very loved.
One evening mid November right after the kids had gone to bed, my husband suggested we pray (mind you we are no more religious than any other normal Christian family, but do evening prayers together every so often as a couple). So we went to our prayer shelf on the wall (we are Orthodox Christians and have a shelf displaying some icons in our room), my husband lit the candle and we proceeded to pray. After a few moments it dawned on us that in the room next to ours, the baby's crib music box had started playing through its cycle of songs. Thinking this to be strange we went in the room and though our older child was still awake, she said she hadn't got up to do it (she's only 3) but could we please leave it on because she was enjoying it. So we did and went and completed out prayer and thought nothing more of it. I did change the batteries though, thinking maybe they were running low, but I couldn't recall the crib toy ever starting on its own, even with low batteries.
A few more weeks went by and again my husband suggested we pray one evening. Neither of us was even thinking about the crib toy incident as my husband lit the candle so it surprised us both when the moment the candle was lit, the crib toy music started up!!!! This time a sense of thrill and incredible joy sprung up in my heart. A little too much of a coincidence but ever the skeptic we checked and both kids were fast asleep. We prayed and the music stopped the moment our prayers ended. The next morning I examined the toy very carefully only to discover that the ONLY way to start up the music was to flip the switch on top of the toy, a skill our 16 month baby could not possibly do (our 3 year old couldn't reach the toy even if she tried).
A few more weeks went by and again, after a not so great day (I was pretty grumpy with the kids) we decided to pray again. This time we both were alert with the tension of wondering what would happen. My thoughts were filled with how God gives us just enough signs to get the ball rolling and it's up to us to have faith enough to accept it. I truly did not expect the music to start, especially after the grumpy attitude I had had all day. I cannot describe how I felt when, the moment the candle was lit, on came the music! We didn't know what to think or why we had been chosen to receive some very definite evidence of God's presence; we certainly were no more deserving than anyone else. The only thing I could come up with was the intensity with which I had wholeheartedly asked God for his help to change and believe, and the spiritual growth that had taken place within me since.
That night I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. Three times was no coincidence. But what was even more mind-boggling to me was that I had had a day where I had not acted like a nice person yet God chose to give me a gentle reminder of His love, presence, and re-assurance with all the cancer related procedures I was dealing with. I just sat up in the darkness thinking it all through and it was then that I had the most incredible defining moment thus far. I UNDERSTOOD that night what unconditional love meant and was indescribably overcome with emotion as I FELT for the 1st time the very "realness" and wonder of God presence right there with me at that moment and his amazing love for ALL people as individuals. The God of wrath disappeared forever and was replaced with a God of constant love and gentleness. I realized ALL people had value, even (and especially) that little boy who shared my son's hospital room. It was absolutely the most life-changing realization I have ever had. My personal relationship with God started that night as I sat there with tears streaming down my face. I was no longer afraid of death in any way. I knew it would be more wonderful than anything I could imagine. Life finally had a purpose for me: to reach out and share my personal knowledge of God with others. Prior to this experience the thought of visiting terminally ill or elderly people in convalescent hospitals was so scary for me, as seeing someone so close to death would make me think of my own uncertainties about it. Now I feel like that's almost my charitable calling; to be able to help someone so close to death and perhaps very scared of it; to be able to share with them the joy of our afterlife and the joy of God's incredible love for us all and perhaps bring them to a place of peace about death would be just about the most fulfilling thing I could imagine. (Boy! It sure sounds like I became a Bible-thumping Christian, but really I'm not, nor have I ever been; that is the amazing part of it: God's love just became so real to me; just like a natural fact of life.)
I also realized that night, that the toy music that had started when I asked my question about living or dying in the bathroom was no coincidence either. It was a very positive answer to me that I shouldn't be worrying about it (death). So guess what......I don't :)
The music box started even a 4th time when our prayer candle was lit a few weeks later at the end of January; it was a week when I wasn't sure if I would last through chemotherapy. I fully believe God was trying to give me strength to keep going; a reminder to me that He's right there with me through it all. The poem of "Footprints" comes to mind. He truly carries us if we ask with all that we are for his help.
Since then I have completed all my cancer treatments and have continued to grow spiritually. It seems like I pray constantly because it feels so wonderful to be talking to someone who really cares and has let me know that. My life has been far from perfect this year but you know what, it just doesn't matter. In fact, I no longer get those nervous abdominal cramps; they stopped sometime in January. Faith is a wonderful thing.
About 3 months ago (end of May) something very sad had occurred in my life and I simply prayed to God asking him to touch me. A few days later, I think God sent his answer. My husband and our 2 kids drove up to Grandma's for the weekend. As usual, I packed my son's crib toy because he listens to it as he falls asleep. I put it in a bag behind the passenger seat and didn't give it a second thought. We were on the road with my husband driving and decided to stop for lunch. I got out of the car to go in and get a sandwich and of course as usual when I leave, my son starts crying. (This has always upset me very much). 5 minutes later when I came back and got in the car I realized the crib toy (same one as in the above paragraphs) was playing its music!!!! I looked at my husband in astonishment and he told me the moment I left the car the music had started. I was speechless and bewildered with a kind of Wow feeling. We continued on our journey and stopped again. I opened the passenger door to get out and my son started crying and guess what. The toy started its music!!! What a joyful sign I thought! Now it was my turn to drive. When we stopped the car next, the music did not turn on despite my son's crying. My husband again started driving on our last stretch to Grandma's. When we arrived there and I opened the passenger door (baby started crying) and on goes the music!!
On our way home from Grandma's the toy would start up when I opened the door and the baby started crying, but ONLY when I was the passenger. And it did start up one other time, when my husband had to stop the car fast and jerked me awake from a nap; I was terrified that we were crashing (again I was a passenger).
I took it as a comforting message in which I feel God is telling me that on this journey of life in which I have no control (symbolically the passenger seat) He's reminding me that He is there with me, always in the driver's seat, when I'm afraid or sad.
The other day a woman at my church who I am just getting to know, shared a story with me about something that had happened in December. She said their family was in the car and out of the blue their 3 year old daughter said Mommy, Alisa wears angel's clothes Mom asked what she meant and the girl said You know mom, angel's clothes. I didn't even really know their family much less the little girl. I wonder what she saw. I do know that at that time (December), while medically my life was turned upside-down, I felt a peace and calm within me and really wasn't worried anymore about the outcome.
I feel blessed, loved , and watched over. In fact I believe we all have these things; we only need to take that leap of faith and give ourselves/lives up totally to God. Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. I have learned how very true this verse is. but I have also found it is only true if you do these things completely and totally, giving up yourself completely in your prayer, seeking, and knocking.
I hope my story is
helpful, perhaps a testimony of faith and our loving God who will help us if we
simply ask. If anyone would like to discuss my story with me further, please
feel free to e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Any associated medications or substances with the potential to affect the experience? No
Was the kind of experience difficult to express in words? No
At the time of this experience, was there an associated life threatening event? Uncertain I was scared to death that I was going to die of cancer.
What was your level of consciousness and alertness during the experience? Always very alert and completely conscious.
Was the experience dream like in any way? Not at all dreamlike. All the experiences I had were very real.
Did you experience a separation of your consciousness from your body? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? During all of the baby toy miracles (no other possible explanation for these events) I felt so happy and joyful to know that God really exists. I was also in complete awe that I was special to Him, or that out of all the billions of people who have lived or are living, that He could care about little insignificant me enough to be concerned that I might be scared or sad. Wow! The love of God still amazes me. I honestly didn't think I was that important to God or anyone for that matter. Isn't it incredible that God loves each and everyone of us and none of us goes un-noticed?
Did you hear any unusual sounds or noises? Nothing unusual; just baby toy music playing even though no human being could have started the toys.
LOCATION DESCRIPTION: Did you recognize any familiar locations or any locations from familiar religious teachings or encounter any locations inhabited by incredible or amazing creatures? No
Did you see a light? No
Did you meet or see any other beings? No
Did you experiment while out of the body or in another, altered state? No
Did you observe or hear anything regarding people or events during your experience that could be verified later? No
Did you notice how your 5 senses were working, and if so, how were they different? No No difference than usual.
Did you have any sense of altered space or time? No
Did you have a sense of knowing, special knowledge, universal order and/or purpose? Yes I understood how precious each person is to God. I understand now that God's love for each individual He has created in so, SO unconditional and infinite that in our human life we will never be able to comprehend it. I also learned that if you call on God very sincerely, He will be there to help; you just have to let go and trust Him.
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? No
Did you become aware of future events? No
Were you involved in or aware of a decision regarding your return to the body? No Did you have any psychic, paranormal or other special gifts following the experience that you did not have prior to the experience? No
Did you have any changes of attitudes or beliefs following the experience? Yes Absolutely! My spiritual experience has changed fundamentally who I am and what I believe in. Where I was cynical and unbelieving about God and the afterlife, I am now peaceful and happy and no longer afraid of death. I FEEL the presence of God with me now and that makes all the difference in the world. What's even more wonderful, I find that my faith (Orthodox Christianity) reinforces or "fits" with what I've experienced and continue learn.
How has the experience affected your relationships? Daily life? Religious practices? Career choices? I talk to God constantly; He's a friend who's always with me. Before this happened to me, when my daughter would ask me religious or spiritual questions I would rattle off an answer I wasn't even sure I believed myself. Now I include talk about God and Jesus in our everyday life as part of our reality. And as a result, my children are becoming more spiritual and the love of God shows in how they are with other people.