A Glimpse of Heaven
By Bev Yellowley
The ambulance raced toward the Trauma Center, its' flashing lights alerting drivers of their dire circumstances. Despite the skilled efforts of the paramedics, if they didn't get to the hospital soon, they knew this man was going to die. Suddenly, he gasped for breath, and his heart beat one last time. While medics fervently tried to revive him, the man felt his soul leaving his body. He was shocked to see his lifeless form below him, as his spirit quickly ascended into the heavens. His body looked small as earth faded from view, and he broke through the clouds and knew he was home.
It is so peaceful and serene here, Luke thought, as he took in his new surroundings. He could not have imagined a place this perfect and wanted to live in Heaven forever. Luke sighed contentedly and realized all the pain, anxiety, and depression he'd been experiencing had just disappeared. An indescribable joy welled up inside him, and he knew it would never fade away. A brilliant light illuminated the Heavens, as the glory of God filled the celestial city. The grass was a lush, flawless carpet, like an emerald sea beneath a picturesque sky. Species of trees both familiar and new stood majestic and strong in the pristine air. Luke saw beautiful flowers in fields and displays, in more colors than he'd ever seen on the earth. He heard music so glorious that he longed to join in the chorus to worship and praise the great King of Kings.
Then, Jesus, the Son of God, appeared. His face was as radiant as the sun, and His clothes were gleaming white. He walked with such nobility and confidence that Luke knew he was in the presence of royalty. The Lord was so humble and kind though Luke felt drawn to Him and fell to his knees to worship his King. Jesus smiled at Luke, as He raised him to his feet, gently calling him by name. Luke was overwhelmed by the intensity of the love he felt coming from his Savior. It was pure, powerful and unconditional and he was sure he'd never experienced anything like this in his life. Jesus knew all the things he'd ever done, but had forgiven him and loved him in a far greater way than he could even fathom. He was trying to formulate the words to express his gratitude when he looked up and saw a tall angelic being walking towards him with a small girl at his side. As they drew closer, he was thrilled to see it was his four-year-old niece Lily who had died in a drunk driving accident two months earlier.
Lily's face lit up when she saw Jesus and her uncle up ahead, and she hurried over and gave them each a warm hug. Luke was overcome with joy and cried out, “Lily! It's so good to see you again!” She quickly responded, “It's good to see you too, Uncle Luke!” He looked around in awe and exclaimed, “Heaven's even more amazing than I thought it would be!” Lily nodded her head in agreement, and Luke realized there was no verbal response she could give that could accurately convey what she was thinking. She had so much to communicate to Luke, but it wasn't always with words. He was aware of everyone's thoughts and could read what was on Lily's mind. Luke knew Lily was full of joy living in Heaven with Jesus. She reveled in His love for her and was excited to spend eternity with Him. Lily's countenance was bright, as she gazed up at Jesus, and the look of pure love she saw on His face made her feel well-loved and secure in His care. Luke no longer questioned why God took Lily the day of the accident. He now understood God's decision was loving and wise, and He was working it all out for good.
Jesus invited Luke to go for a walk, and they talked about many things. Lily was skipping ahead of them, enjoying the colorful flowers along the path. Luke couldn't believe the Creator of the universe, his Savior, who had died to take the punishment for his sins, wanted to spend time with Him. Luke wasn't sure how long they were talking, but he did not want it to end. Then Jesus told Luke he had more work to do and asked if he would go back to complete it. He longed to stay with Jesus in Heaven but trusted He knew what was best.
When it was time for Luke to leave, Lily ran over to say goodbye. “Lily, I'll see you when I return,” Luke said tenderly. “I will be waiting,” Lily promised, and with her voice full of excitement said, “When you come back do you want me to show you some of the animals?” “I'd love that, Lily,” Luke said with a grin, “We're going to have a lot of fun together!” Then Jesus gave Luke a final embrace saying, “I want you to remember how much I love you, and I will always be with you!”
Luke's spirit returned to his body, and his monitors came alive. A paramedic shouted, “He's got a pulse! His heart rhythm's normal, and his vitals are good, but he is not responsive. We need to get him to the emergency room!” When the ambulance delivered Luke to the hospital, the Doctor determined he had a fractured right hip and shoulder. He had several lacerations and minor contusions, but the most significant crisis he was facing was a traumatic brain injury which had rendered him unconscious. Luke was transferred to the ICU, where they could carefully monitor his condition. His family kept constant vigil by his hospital bed, waiting and praying that he would recover.
One late afternoon, Luke opened his eyes and saw his wife, Ashley, holding his hand. She saw he was conscious and cried, “Luke, you're awake!” Then she fervently thanked God for sparing his life. His brother Matt was elated and rushed to his side, saying, “Hey, Luke. I'm so glad you're back! We didn't know if you were going to make it!” At that moment, Luke's physician entered the room and stared in disbelief at his patient who was alert and talking for the first time in three weeks. “We didn't hold out much hope for your recovery,” his Doctor stated, “Do you know what happened to you?” Luke frowned as the memories of that fateful day came flooding back to his mind.
They all looked at him with concern in their eyes as he recalled, “I was racing down the side of the highway with the other riders in our bike club, that morning. We had just completed our race, and I was crossing the street as I made my way home, when a car came barreling through a red light and sent me flying through the air to the hard pavement below. I was in excruciating pain and started to remove my helmet when someone told me to lie very still until the paramedics arrived. Then I must've blacked out because the next thing I remember was my spirit rising above my body through the roof of an ambulance, as I watched two EMTs giving me CPR on the way to the hospital.”
The room got deathly quiet as they all tried to process what he'd just said. They were astonished at what had transpired, and listened carefully as he continued, “I know this seems hard to believe, and I don't understand it myself, but I saw Jesus up in Heaven while the medics worked to revive me.” His family was eager to learn what had happened, so Luke closed his eyes and pictured himself back in paradise in the presence of his wonderful Savior. He tried to relay what he had experienced but knew he could never adequately express it. Then Luke smiled, as he shared the exciting news he saw Lily in Heaven too! They were ecstatic to know she was with Jesus, and Luke had been with her a short time ago. Her parents peppered Luke with questions about his encounter with her. As he began to describe the details of their time together, a light came to their eyes that had not been there since the day of the accident. They were amazed at how God had orchestrated these circumstances to give them hope in knowing they have a future with Lily. Then the room filled with celebration and praise to God for allowing them to see a glimpse of Heaven. They knew their child was alive and well and safe in the arms of Jesus. The Doctor was intrigued by what Luke had said, and as he left to see other patients, he mumbled as he exited the door, “I really need to get back to church!”
Matt was rejoicing over all God had done when his heart began to feel burdened. He knew the Holy Spirit was speaking to him, so he confided in his wife Christy, then approached his brother's bedside and said, “I'm so relieved you're okay, Luke. I didn't want to lose you too! Since you're feeling a little better, do you mind if I leave for a while? There's something I need to take care of at home.” “Sure, go ahead,” Luke said, “You've already spent way too much time here, I'm sure.”
Matt left the hospital feeling so overwhelmed by the events of the last few months that when he finally arrived home, he pushed open the door and collapsed in a chair. Tears flowed, as he released the pent-up emotions he'd been holding onto for far too long. The memory of his terrible accident played over and over in his mind relentlessly. He had been driving his daughter to her friend's house, when a speeding truck, disregarded a stop sign and crashed into the side of the car where Lily was seated. Matt survived with minor injuries, but his only child had died. Then his brother awoke from a coma to say he'd been to Heaven and saw Lily with Jesus. Matt was reeling from all that had happened and needed to talk to God, but resentment had been building inside him, and he didn't feel he could pray. God had taken Lily before she had a chance to grow up, and he didn't think that was fair!
In the midst of all his turmoil, he was trying to work through his grief, but rage was simmering in his heart against the man who had killed his child. Matt couldn't comprehend how this man could drive when he was intoxicated, knowing how dangerous it could be for himself and others. God didn't want Ben to drink and drive and harm his little girl, but in His infinite wisdom, He allowed it to occur. He realized if he ever doubted God's love for him when things didn't work out the way he thought they should, he needed to remember the brutal death Jesus suffered on the cross so He could pay for his sin. Matt loved Lily very much, and he would always miss her, but he knew his faithful God loved her more than he did. He may not understand why this happened until he went to Heaven, but he was going to trust his omniscient God, whose ways are always perfect.
Matt knelt to repent of the sinful attitude he'd had towards God since Lily died. While he was praying, God gently said, “You're asking me to forgive you, but have you done the same for Ben?” Matt was taken aback and wondered why he should be the one to forgive when this drunk driver had caused the death of his child. He knew he needed God's help to be free from the animosity he had against Ben. Matt recalled the Bible verse in Matthew 6:15 that says, if you refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive you. He wanted peace in his heart and release from the bitterness he had towards this man. God knew what it was like to lose a child, he thought. He willingly allowed his only Son to be crucified for our salvation.
Matt had taken Jesus as his Savior many years ago. His sins were forgiven and thought he'd surrendered his life fully to God, but now realized he needed to let God take control of the situation with Lily. “Dear Jesus,” he prayed, “thank you for loving me even though I don't deserve it. I am sorry for the anger and hatred I have towards Ben, and I choose to forgive him for causing Lily's death. Lord, I want to know your will for my life, and I ask for your direction. Please guide me in Your path for me, and I will follow where You lead. In Jesus name, Amen.” When he finished praying, Matt took a deep breath and slowly began to smile. Waves of peace washed over his soul, as his relationship with God had now been restored. He was still grieving the loss of his daughter but was confident one day he would see her in Heaven. Matt spent some time talking to God and listening to what He had to say. When the Lord spoke to him, he rose to his feet, grabbed his keys, and headed for the door. He contacted his wife to tell her where God was leading and drove to his destination in obedience to Him.
Matt could feel deep despair and misery as he entered the cold, bleak structure. He felt compassion when he saw the look of hopelessness in the eyes of many visitors and those who were there involuntarily. He was led into a stark room and sat down on a cold metal chair facing a glass window. An anxious-looking young man in an orange uniform was seated directly across from him. The two men simultaneously reached for the phones that were on the wall beside them and began an awkward conversation. Matt stared at the man whose face had been vividly etched into his memory several months ago when he'd seen him in the courtroom sitting beside his defense attorney. He pled guilty to the charge of vehicular manslaughter in the death of a four-year-old child named Lily.
"Hello,” Matt said soberly, initiating the conversation. "Mr. Shepherd,” replied Ben nervously," I never thought I'd see you here.” “It has been difficult since Lily was killed,” Matt acknowledged. Ben winced as he nodded and said, “I have a little girl myself, and I'd be devastated if anything happened to her.” “My family has been suffering since we lost our daughter, and I've been so angry at you for causing her death,” Matt admitted, “but I had a long talk with the Lord yesterday, confessed my sin and asked Him to make me into the man He wants me to be. God sent me here to give you a message, so I drove all night to deliver it to you.” Ben's eyes widened, as he slid forward in his chair, nervously waiting to hear what he would say next.
Matt paused for a moment, then humbly continued, “I came here today to say I forgive you for causing the accident that took Lily from me. I was struggling to come to this decision, but I realized if Jesus can ask His Father to forgive those who crucified Him, I can do the same for you.” Ben was shocked at what he'd heard. He'd been longing to hear those words, but never thought he would. Ben protested, “I am the one who needs to ask for your forgiveness. I am so sorry for what I have done. My family kept telling me I shouldn't drink and drive, but I wouldn't listen to them, and now they won't even speak to me. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself for causing the death of your daughter, Matt. I've made the biggest mistake of my life, and there's nothing I can do to change it.” Ben hung his head, saying, “I feel hopeless and all alone. I have so much guilt and regret for what I've done, and it just eats away at me.”
Matt asked the Lord for His compassion and wisdom to know what he should share with Ben. “Satan is the one who wants to steal your joy and keep you defeated,” Matt said, “He doesn't want you to forgive yourself, but with the power of God, you can win this battle and find a peace that defies human understanding. Even if you have wronged someone and they will not forgive you, God can give you perfect peace if you give your life to Him. Ben, there's nothing we can do God can't forgive because His grace will pardon and cleanse any sin. You can become a child of God if you confess your sins to Him and make Him Lord of your life. You will no longer be separated from God but will be purified from your sin and ready to meet the Lord in Heaven someday. He'll give you a purpose for living and power to overcome any temptation you may face. You can be an example of God's grace to your family and the people around you. He can give you all you need to fulfill His will for your life.”
Ben knew he'd made a mess of his life and couldn't live with the guilt and shame any longer, so without hesitation, he bowed his head, and Matt joined him in prayer. With a partition between them, the two men petitioned their Creator to hear Ben's cry, “Dear Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross and rose again. I'm sorry, Lord, for all my sin. I surrender myself to You, and I ask You to take control of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.” Ben was in a place with bars and chains, but he'd never felt so free in all his life.
Matt smiled, and with a faraway look in his eyes said, “We are going to see Lily again!” Ben looked confused until Matt told him about his brother's accident and miraculous journey to Heaven, where he saw his Savior and had a joyful reunion with his niece. “Then Jesus asked Luke if he would return,” Matt said, “so he could tell others how much God loved them.” Ben was stunned at first, trying to take it all in. He'd read about Heaven in the Bible and knew it was real. The thought that Lily was already with Jesus, enjoying eternity with Him, caused his heart to sing, and he praised the Lord for His loving kindness to them. He turned to Matt, and with tears in his eyes said, “I'm thrilled to know Luke saw Lily in Heaven. I can't imagine the joy you feel in knowing your child is with Jesus. I've caused you and your family so much pain, but I'm glad that you'll see Lily again. I will never be able to thank you for offering me forgiveness and hope at the darkest point of my life.” “I am extending the same grace to you the Lord has given to me,” Matt said sincerely.
Then, a guard came and told him visiting hours were over. Matt promised he would return and walked out of the prison with peace in his heart, knowing God was pleased he had forgiven Ben. Matt prayed for strength to persevere until God called him home, and knew He'd give him courage for the trials yet to come. Matt was excited when he thought of the joyous celebration they would have someday when his family would be reunited with Lily, and they'd be with Jesus in Heaven forever.