( I kept telling you people, but you won't believe me.)
There are several interesting aspects to the near-death experience of a woman from Topeka, Kansas, named Gladys L. Hargis -- who has written a new, simple, and powerful little book called You Live Forever.
One is that Gladys' near-death experience lasted over the course not of mere seconds or minutes but days.
She brushed up against death for more than a week (while in a "coma").
Another is that although she is Baptist, she had a powerful experience with the Blessed Mother. She's the second Protestant who has written a recent near-death book who speaks of Mary. We'll talk about that. (The other was an evangelical boy named Colton Burpo, whose book was entitled Heaven is For Real).
Finally, there is the fact that Gladys -- now 80 -- gained direct observation of angels.
When we caught up with her the other day, she explained that a condition in her diaphragm caused her to "die" on August 5, 2006, and then go in and out of consciousness for eight days.
During that time, she enjoyed the constant accompaniment of an angel -- who, while doctors were frantically working on her -- and kept yelling, "we're losing her, we're losing her" -- calmly whispered to Gladys (who had left her body, and was observing from above), "You live forever. You live forever. You live forever." Three times. How often angels speak thrice!
Gladys told us that the angel had close-cropped real-blonde hair that reached to the shoulders and wore a light, airy gown and sash or shawl-like apparel that seemed shear, "smoky purplish" (or mauve), and like it was billowing in a breeze.
She doesn't have words to describe the face. But very -- infinitely -- pleasing.
That angel seemed feminine. There was also a second one that impressed her as more like a male and seemed at first to be carrying a shiny pole with the intravenous saline solution but on the "other side" seemed instead to be holding a staff.
At the onset of that trip to eternity, in the emergency room, claims the Kansan -- during her last five minutes or so of normal "life" -- there was absolutely no fear.
That was due to the presence of the angels, especially the first.
"I was happy to go with her," says Gladys. "You're floating the whole time. When I went to that side, it was like a threshold, like entering a hole or empty spot. At first, I saw a pit and it was below, the coloring of red. I didn't want any part of that! But I said I believed in Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the wall opened with a beautiful white light and it just sucked you in!
"It cleared everything -- all the chains, all the dirt of life -- away.
Gladys found herself wearing a gown that at first seemed off-white but was then bleached pure as she entered what she believes, without a doubt, was the beginning (if only the beginning) of paradise.
"I never felt so much love," she now says, wistfully.
"All the chains of the world were gone. All of my fat was gone. I was slim and young. I felt like a newborn but I was an adult. I can still feel the presence of the angel -- security, well-being.
"I was in a countryside. There was a city, a glistening city, in the distance. It was nestled in hills. I didn't want to leave. It just glistened. There was a veil and the angel beckoned me there. There was a building before that. I knew if I went through that building, I couldn't return. Off to the side, I could tell two or three other angels were discussing whether I should go back. I only wanted to go back [to earth] to bring my husband with me to see what I was seeing.
"My angel got to the garden.
Gladys can still feel but not see the angel. That feeling has left her with what she says is an overabundance of love. "I have to nearly sit on my hands," says the octogenarian. "I love everyone. I just want to hug everyone. I have so much love I can't control it. I learned that it's all about loving others. Call it unguarded love. No matter what, you just have to love others and let God take care of the rest."
She says she often goes to church (she's still Baptist) and wonders if those in the pews are loving as they should, or just going through the motions of religion.
It is a monumental -- and momentous -- question.
Virtually every person -- Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, agnostic, or even atheist -- who has had a near-death experience emphasizes the crucial importance, in "judgment," of love.
No, we shouldn't "enable" those who are doing wrong; often, we have to correct. But it must be done in the right spirit (or it hurts us -- sullies the robe in which we enter the hereafter).
"There was no 'time,' only distance," says Gladys. "No clocks. You don't bring money there. I learned that everything you possess -- have in your homes -- is worthless. You don't bring a thing. I also learned that we are enhanced or 'glorified' forever."
Astonishingly, the final experience Gladys had before returning for good (she had been going "in and out of the veil" in critical care) was an encounter with the Blessed Mother.
"The last thing before I came back was a visit with Mary the Mother of Jesus," says this lifelong Baptist.
"She was the only one surrounded by light.
"There was a light above her that was lit. I can't describe it. She just looked like she was in an honored position.
"She was sitting serenely and smiling." Gladys feels she was being prepared to meet Christ. "Her hair was coiled and hanging and she looked like she was thirty or so. She seemed a bit older than the angels. We just visited about some things and that was when she was interrupted and I came back. They were giving up on me and taking me to hospice."
Fear of death?
It's no longer in Gladys's vocabulary.
<tt></tt>"There are angels present long before your soul leaves your body," she states. "They appear immediately, and guide you. They let you know there is no fear around you. This book is clearly written to help ease the pain of separation of your family and friends that we all will have to endure someday. God and his angels promise you that you will live forever, and never die, and they will be with you always."
She looks forward, one day, to returning to that other side -- though only after she completes what God wants her to complete (she has had eighteen foster children).
When she does return, perhaps she will finally see what the city in the hills was all about.
Heaven is eternal and we have eternity to explore it.
"There you have vision," says Gladys, "that goes on forever."