The Afterlife: Heaven is for Real: Proof of Heaven: a Semi-personal Story

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Heaven is for real proof of heavenA semi-personal story of a friend’s experience in a coma–And–reviews of the books: Heaven is for Real and Proof of Heaven.

What happens to us after we die?  The question has plagued many of the best, and worst, minds throughout history.  Some people believe that heaven is hanging out on white clouds, cherubs playing the harp, and friends and families surrounding them; others believe in being greeted by forty virgins; and others still, believe in nothing, that the end is the end.

Recently, I heard a story from a friend who, just this past summer, was in a month-long medically induced coma.  The story that he had to tell about his experiences, visions, hallucinations, what have you, while in the coma, fascinated me.  In fact, what he spoke about called to mind two memoirs that I had read recently: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, a memoir written by Todd Burpo about his son’s alleged experiences with the afterlife while in a coma after a ruptured appendix.  The other book is Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, a memoir written by Eben Alexander a neurosurgeon who claims that his coma, and the state his brain was in, and the fact that he had visions during his coma, prove that heaven is real!  (Now, I don’t want to make it seem as though I only read books about the afterlife, I tend to read several books a month, and these were just two that, through recommendations, made it into the fray.)

proof of the afterlife

                The previous mentioned books, Heaven is for Real, and Proof of Heaven, though well-written, and seemingly well-intentioned, I have a lot of problems with:


In Heaven is for Real, a child claims that while in a coma he hovered over his body, saw his family prayinproof that heaven is realg, and then went into heaven and met Jesus (the story is all narrated by his father).  They stories and claims are interesting and are what they are, but I had two main issues with the book: (1) At one point the child has done something wrong and is getting reprimanded by the father and the child says “Remember Jesus loves children,” and the father stops reprimanding him.  Although slight, that’s the first part of the book that kind of got my radar going (as if a child claiming to have met Jesus isn’t enough to get the radar going).  The child, who has met Jesus, is now using it as an excuse not to pick up his toys, etc.  (2) As I stated, the story is all narrated by the child’s father, but what’s also important to mention is that the child’s father is a pastor.  And coincidentally, when the child goes to heaven, what he sees, and experiences, lines up exactly, 100%, with what the father believes and teaches at his church.  To me, this seemed a little too obvious.  That out of all the thousands of religions in the world, one child claims to go to heaven, claims to meet Jesus, and his version of heaven, and Jesus, coincidentally matches up exactly with what his father teaches.  It just seems too…I don’t know, you get the idea.  It would have been fascinating if the child came back and had one thing, even one little thing, that rebutted something the father taught, but the child’s version of heaven matched what the father taught right down to the colors of the robes Jesus wore.


As fproof that heaven is realor Proof of Heaven: Although I enjoyed the book, and appreciate the fact that it was written by a man of science, after the book was released, a lot of claims were being made about the validity of the medical claims.  (The book’s main selling points are the medical claims—that the author, a respected doctor, actually has scientific proof that an afterlife exists).  So… both interesting reads, but, as always, I remain an interested skeptic (there were many good things about the books, too, but I’ll go further into those in a later post).

Now, onto the story of my friend:  Several months ago, a friend—we’ll call him Rich—was jumped by a couple of kids outside a club (Rich was drunk and the kids had been hitting on his girlfriend).  After talking trash back and forth the kids jumped Rich and knocked him out (the kids both had brass knuckles).  Rich fell to the ground and an ambulance was called.  The combination of brass knuckles and the fall to the ground led to Rich’s skull becoming fractured, and he had to be sent to the neurosurgery unit of a nearby hospital.  Following the incident Rich was put into a medical induced coma. His brain was swollen and the size of a basketball, and for weeks the swelling wouldn’t go down.  After a month, the doctor told his mother that he was “the worse patient in the hospital” and that she should prepare to say goodbye.  At that point, the mother, and a group of friend who were constantly in-and-out of Rich’s bedside, formed a prayer circle outside in the waiting room.  They all held hands and began to pray.  Within the hour Rich’s swelling finally began to go down—after it not moving at all for a month—and he was soon able to come out of the medically induced coma.

When Rich came out, not only was he all right, but he had such minimal brain damage that it fascinated the doctors (the only side effects are that he can no longer taste or smell; but the doctor’s say he might be able to get those back, and besides that there’s no significant brain damage, etc).  When Rich came out of his coma, though, he had quite the story to tell about what he experienced while in the coma.  (Before going on, I’d like to state that Rich is not trying to sell his story, he was not religious beforehand, in fact, he was pretty atheistic, and agnostic.)

what happens when we die?

                Rich’s claims:

(1)    Rich claims that he remembers hovering over his body and looking down at himself and all the people in the room praying for him.

(2)    While in a coma Rich claims that he saw his friend, Billy, who had died seven years earlier—Billy was also jumped by some kids and had died of almost the same EXACT injuries of Rich.

(3)    Rich claimed that Billy was with him the whole time and that they had several conversations.

  1. In their conversations they talked about: how Rich was the only one of Billy’s friends who still talked to his mom.  How Billy had been planning on having a kid with his girlfriend before he died, but how Rich had ending up having one with his girlfriend instead so after his passing.  Billy told Rich that he was going to be all right, that he was going to get out of the coma fine.  At one point, Billy even told Rich “They’re going to be doing some surgery on you now, but it’s all right, because it will help you to wake up when you do…”  At one point Billy even said to him (referencing the way Billy had died) “Did you learn nothing from me, man!?”  Billy also told Rich to tell his mother that he was, “doing all right.”

(4)    After Rich was out of the hospital he went to see Billy’s mother and before he could say anything she said, “You don’t have to say anything.  I know Billy was there with you.”

(5)    After I told him one of the stories I had read in the book Heaven is for Real, he said that his whole body started tingling.

Normally, I’m a hard-lined skeptic, and I still am, but it’s fascinating to hear a story directly from the horse’s mouth, from someone I know, someone who’s not trying to make a dime off his story and has no vested interest in sharing it.  I don’t know if his claims are real.  Nothing that he said was mind-shattering, he made no predictions for the future, he didn’t meet Jesus, he didn’t claim to have scientific proof that heaven exists, but it’s interesting, something I just thought I’d share.

Edit:  In a comment below I was informed that the story regarding the debunking of the memoir Proof of Heaven, has been debunked itself.  So, his account holds true–or, at least, it hasn’t been debunked as previously claimed.

Picture: Flickr/angelofsweetbitter2009By: angelofsweetbitter2009

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About The Author
Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony is a Massachusetts based writer and veteran of the U.S. Army. After his service in the Iraq War, he earned a BA in English Literature from Bridgewater State University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. He currently spends his free time with his wife and daughter, and volunteering for veteran charities.

Comments 9

  1. Megan Jenkins

    Hello Mike,

    I just finished reading “Heaven Is For Real,” so I feel comfortable commenting on your blog. I begin with saying that I would give this book, 2 out of five stars, because of the writer, not the message. I understand your feelings about the father narrating this book, only for different reasons. He is not a writer, he is a “preacher.” Todd sounded like he was desperately trying to convince himself or his readers that Colton’s experience was real. Immaterial incidences throughout the book, i.e., the story of Nadia, the tarantula, the traveling, the comparisons between Colton’s revelations and Bible passages, all covered up the key point of this book. Colton had a near death experience. Faith is believing when there is no proof. The out of body experience, I believe, because of my Christian faith.

    Lastly, on your comment, “Jesus match up exactly with what his father teaches.” I taught my children not to talk to strangers. Since God created Heaven and earth and everything on earth, can we give Jesus enough common sense not to meet Colton other than how his father, Todd, would describe him? Colton was 4 1/2 years old, he would have been afraid of Him otherwise.

    My next read is “Proof of Heaven.”

    1. Michael Anthony

      Megan,

      I think you’re right, the writer of the book is great (Lynn Vincent I think) it’s a really well written quick read.

      You’re got a good point about Todd being a preacher and not a writer and trying to convince himself that it was real rather. Also, about the father’s description of Jesus matching up exactly with what the boy saw (and the story about the painting at the end was a great story, too) but it all just seemed a little too convenient for me.

      If that’s the case, then heaven is whatever we believe it to be, correct? If we believe that Jesus is six foot five and wears purple robes then when we go to heaven Jesus greets us that way so we’re not scared? Is that what you’re saying? But what if I’m raise in a different type of religion and I believe that Jesus is five foot four, black, short hair, and wears a skirt, etc. What if one person believes that heaven is babies playing harps on clouds and another believes that heaven is being greeted by forty virgins.

      I wouldn’t think heaven, if it is real, would be so malleable, and if it is malleable to our own believes, then we can believe whatever we want and religion doesn’t matter.

      I don’t think a boy, no matter how young, would be scared by the real presence of Jesus, no matter the color of his robes. That’s why I thought it was so convenient. That the father’s description matched the boy’s 100%. If the boy saw or experienced one thing, even one little thing, that contrasted what his father had taught him, then I would be more fully convinced that it was a real story. I mean, imagine if this kid saw or experienced something that rocked his father’s beliefs to his core. Now that would’ve been a great story. But a story about a kid who goes to heaven and experiences exactly what his father told him that heaven is…well, that’s interested, but…

      1. Megan Jenkins

        Michael,

        Yes, I think every one has their own idea of what Heaven will be like. My idea of Heaven would probably not be your “cup of tea.” We all fantasize about things we wish we had or what we would like to do. The mind is an awesome creation! Without it, we would not have the Pyramids, or the Parthenon, or Picasso, or the telephone. We would still be living in caves. We are all unique, therefore we think, feel, look and act differently. There never was or ever will be another “you!” Just because someone has a perception of what Heaven will be like, it doesn’t mean it will be that way. That man that thinks he has 40 virgins waiting for him when he gets into Heaven, can believe what he wants. What do you think he will do when he goes to Heaven and finds not even 1 virgin waiting for him? Will he walk out of Heaven and ask to be taken down to hell?

        God asks only 2 things of us (1) Mark 12: 29 – 31 [Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
        (2) The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”]

        Love does not hurt, lie, cheat, steal, abuse, kill, doubt, love something or someone else more than the one you should. Love cherishes, adores, protects, nurtures, helps, and trusts.

        As for religions, why would anyone think they know the mind of our Heavenly Father? Religion is an “intimate” relationship between man and God. He, alone, knows what is in everyone’s hearts and minds. Your judgement day will belong to you alone. God alone knows how you lived your life and how you dealt with your life experiences. Even non-believers know the difference between right and wrong. He alone knows if you chose wrong over right and why you made those choices. All I can do with my life is to believe in the promise of Jesus Christ, blindly believe! I believe there is a Heaven and a hell. I believe that Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross as atonement for our sins. I believe that there is evil in this world and the sole purpose of this evil is to tempt me to do wrong. I believe that God loves me so much that when I realize that I have sinned, and ask for His forgiveness, He will gladly forgive me. You, as a father, would do no less for your child. Love of God brings “peace” into your life. I wish to dream of Heaven and dreams do come true, if you only have faith.

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  4. Fairlie

    I thought this might interest you. Radio National is the national radio station of Australia. The presenter is an intelligent man ( who can be a bit up himself at times) who is by nature sceptical. Just recently he interviewed a researcher on after life experiences. I heard it while driving in the car and thought it very interesting, having had my own specific experience two years ago, it is available as a free pod cast, the presenters name is Philip Adams and he interviewed Sam Parnia who has written the book The Lazarus Effect – The Science that is erasing the boundaries between life and death (in case the link doesnt work and you want to google the source). I came across your blog while doing research for a play I am writing on post deployment experiences and the broader community . I will be getting a copy of your book now that I am aware of it. All the best. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/life-after-death/5162136

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