All through my younger life I was a very athletic girl, growing up a tom-boy who preferred to jump ramps on my bike over playing with dolls.
While in high school, I became the second girl to ever receive a varsity letter for athletics in the entire history of my hometown. I am not talking a small town, either. At that time, there were six high schools and three colleges and I received a total of six varsity letters for gymnastics, diving and track.
In fact, I was training for a diving competition in the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) District National Championship competition for the right to vie for a spot on the Olympic team.
It was a warm July day in 1981, and I hurried to my diving practice and coaching session and arrived just in time. Little did I know that I would die, go to heaven and come back to my life!
We had to work around the schedule of the high school, and although they were closed for the summer, a number of athletes would practice there in preparation for the competitive season.
Because of this, chaos was the standard routine in the pool room. I was practicing a rather difficult dive, especially since I was trying to pull it off on a one meter board which, by the way, is about three feet off the surface of the water.
The dive I was practicing was a front one-and-a-half somersault in a pike position with a full twist. I had thrown several successful but sloppy dives when a fellow team member showed up and began practicing, too.
We started cutting-up to break the monotony. I would do my dives, then wait at the bottom of the pool until I could hear the sound of the diving board as it bounced when my friend hit the board.
Choosing that moment, I would spring from the bottom of the pool and when I rushed out of the water in the middle of the pool, I would wave my arms and act silly. We were both doing it, so nothing was thought when during my next dive, I didn’t come back up from the bottom of the pool.
What my coach and the other divers didn’t know, is that I had dislocated my shoulder on my most recent dive because of a sloppy entry. I decided that since I was able to get it back into the socket, I would keep practicing. After all, I wouldn’t want to be accused of being a wimp.
The next dive I attempted was nothing short of tragic. I made my approach, vaulted off the board and executed the dive. However, I threw my body into the dive before I reached the full height of the vault that meant the dive would be too low. As a result, I hit the water while still rotating and spinning with my arms in a spread eagle position.
When I hit the water, my body was still spinning and rotating and created so much centrifugal force that it knocked me out when I hit the water. I sank like a stone.
It turned out to be the most profound experience of my life. I remember that I did not feel any pain whatsoever, and I began to feel like I was floating, much like the feeling I would experience on occasion when dreaming. I also recall that I didn’t even remember just getting hurt!
It never even occurred to me that I was dying. However, do I remember worrying about my loved ones and what they would do without me. Then, suddenly, I didn’t even think about my life on earth because I became so absorbed in the moment.
I began feeling ecstatic. I am not just talking about sort of happy. I am talking about a profound joy. I have to tell you that the joy I felt was absolutely beyond description because I doubt that there is such a word in any human language.
It was the kind of joy you would feel specifically if you had been hopelessly lost for decades and had given up on even scanning the horizon for anything familiar to you that would suggest that you were even close to home. You had even given up on the possibility of finding it and just wandered aimlessly waiting to die.
Then suddenly, at the top of the hill, your home comes into view and a tremendous rush of emotion slams into you and tingles down your spine before you can burst into a run.
That is how I felt, except multiply it by ten. Incredibly, the feeling didn’t go away. In fact, it just kept getting stronger. Still, I never made the association of Heaven and what I was experiencing.
Then, suddenly again, I began to be aware of a deep, commanding, loving and fatherly voice. This voice was inside my head and simply said “Be here now.” I was deeply comforted that voice, which made me feel as though I had just fallen into the arms of the heart’s home.
Then I felt as though a giant hand that was much bigger than my body was pushing me down a tube. I awoke while laying on the cement beside the pool to a face just inches from mine.
I still hadn’t consciously realized what had happened to me, and the words I said next just tumbled out of my mouth and it was as though I was hearing them for the first time myself.
“You interrupted me, I was talking to God!” I declared angrily. Upon hearing that, the person, who turned out to be a paramedic, turned pale. He responded by saying, “But you weren’t breathing!”
At that moment, the realization of what just happened to me hit me like a bolt of lightening. I will never really be sure that it was in fact God that spoke that day. I am more inclined to believe that I heard an Angel.
A few hours after it happened, as I lay in bed in an immobilizer for my broken shoulder and collarbone, I recalled that the words “Be Here Now” happened to be the title of a book written by Richard Alpert after he became Baba Ram Dass.
To this day, when I think of it, and even writing it now, I literally feel the emotion rise up into my throat and the sting of tears in the back of my eyes. Even now, the skin on my arms and the back of neck rise up and tingle at the thought of that day and especially what I experienced.
You would think that time would dim the memory and obscure the intensity of emotion, but after all this time, it is as though it happened yesterday.
The experience has turned out to be a double edged sword. By that I mean that on one hand, it is a true luxury that my spirituality doesn’t have to be a matter of faith, for I KNOW what happened and that Heaven is real. On the other hand, I felt for a long time that I had a carrot dangled in front of my face.
I struggled with that sword for quite some time before finally accepting the fact that I came back for a reason. I have told many people about my experience through the years.
I did this when I discovered they had suffered from or was about to suffer the loss of a loved one, and in one case a dying friend. I would tell them about it to assure them that Heaven was real and that we do indeed continue to live after leaving this world.
I believe that is why I had this after life experience. So I COULD tell people and maybe help them in their struggle with their faith and to rejoice in the absolute certainty of what awaits after I die again.
So let me assure you that Heaven most certainly does exist and that our time on Earth is but a temporary stop in our existence. I hope this article can help you if you are struggling with your faith, and if that is not your case, then I hope you enjoyed my story.
The big thing to remember in life is this. Don’t let life steal your joy and don’t let doubt steal your faith.
More articles by Bren Parks