I wish I had thought to write a book. The new movie, “Heaven is for Real,” is based on the true story of four-year-old Colton Burpo, who made it through an emergency appendectomy and apparently had a near-death experience and went to heaven for a bit.
Crazy? Not so much. Funny thing is the same kind of thing happened to my nephew, who is now in his 30s, when he was 4 years old as well. It was summer, and my brother and his two sons went fishing right down the road at the bridge. My brother asked his younger son to hand him something. It never occurred to him that his son would step down onto the road to do so. But he did, and as any skillful Hollywood writer would write the scene, a car came just at that moment and hit my nephew.
My brother ran to him and screamed for help. Luckily, a neighbor who had been a medic in Vietnam ran to help. My nephew’s heart stopped and the former medic got it going again. It stopped two more times in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. My nephew was in a coma for 11 days. His third nerve was damaged, which doctors said does not repair itself; his arm and jaw were broken. We were continually warned about everything that could go wrong: he could die, be a vegetable, might be unable to walk or talk, might have to relearn everything, etc.
Every family member and friend and family and friends’ churches were asked to pray for my nephew. Between the prayers and the medical care, he woke up on Day 11 and left the hospital on Day 16–his facilities all intact.
To make a long story short, one day about five months after the accident, my nephew came running up to us out of the blue looked at his mom and said, “Mom, remember that day I died?” My sister-in-law and I passed a look and she replied, “Do you mean the accident? You didn’t die, you got hurt.” “Oh, no momma, I died,” he told us. He had never spoken about the accident or any memories he had until then and he never did afterwards. In fact, today, he doesn’t remember this conversation either.
“No,” she insisted. “You didn’t die.” “Oh, yes I did,” he said. “I saw Jesus. I held his hand and we walked across this really green grass. It was beautiful.”
“You did?” I prompted him.
“Yes, and it was wonderful. We walked until we saw God and I wanted to stay there. But God said I couldn’t.”
By this time, we are trying desperately not to cry in front of him. He looked at his mom and said, “He said I couldn’t stay there because my momma needed me. So I came hack to be with you.” My sister-in-law, whose eyes were full of tears, managed to smile and say to him, “He was right, honey. Momma definitely needs you.”
My nephew smiled and ran off to play as if it were no big deal. We fell apart, and thanked God for his grace and his wisdom in sending my nephew back to us.
Heaven is for real.