My first near-death experience occurred when I was thirteen years old, in September of 1972. It happened during open-heart surgery that I was undergoing to correct a heart condition I’d had almost from the time of my birth. I was two weeks old when the condition was discovered. For twelve years I couldn’t run and play like other kids. Occasionally, I would turn blue. Then I got real sick.
The two weeks before surgery I was so scared. I would have my large, black Great Dane, Harvey, climb into bed with me. I would hold him tight and cry into his coat because I didn’t want to die.
The last thing I remember in surgery was a male voice saying in a very matter-of-fact way, “Uh-oh, we have a problem here.” The next thing I knew I was floating up around the ceiling looking down on my body. My chest was open wide and I could see my internal organs. . . . I also noticed that there was an African-American doctor and an Oriental one on the operating team. The reason this stuck in my mind is that I was brought up in a very white middle-class neighborhood, and I had seen African-American schoolteachers, but never an African-American doctor. I had met the operating team the day before, but they were all white.
Suddenly, I had to move on, so I floated into the waiting room where my parents were. My father had his head buried in my mother’s lap. He was kneeling at her feet, his arms wrapped around her waist, and he was sobbing. My mother was stroking his head, whispering to him. This scene shocked me, as my father was not prone to showing emotions. Once I realized they would be fine, I felt myself pulled into a horizontal tunnel.
The ride through the tunnel was like nothing else. I remember thinking, “So this is death.” The tunnel was dark, and every once in a while something that looked like lightning would flash across my path. These flashes were brilliant in color and didn’t scare me. At the end of the tunnel was a bright light.
From the light came two dogs of mine that had died. One was a Collie named Mimi who had died three years previously from an infection, and the other was a Boxer named Sam who had died two years before after being hit by a car. The dogs came running and jumped on me and kissed my face with their tongues. Their tongues weren’t wet, and I felt no weight when they jumped on me. The dogs seemed to glow from a light that was inside them. I recall saying to myself, “Thank you, God, for letting my dogs be alive.” I hugged my dogs as tight as I could.
I then called my dogs and together we started walking towards the light. All colors were in the light and it was warm, a living thing, and there were people as far as the eye could see, and they were glowing with an inner light—just like my dogs. In the distance I could see fields, hills, and a sky. The light spoke, and it said, “Lynn, it is not time for you yet. Go back, child.”
I put my hand up to touch the top of the light. I knew then that I had touched the face of God. I told God that I loved Him, and I wanted to stay with Him. Again the light said, “Lynn go back. It is not time for you. You have work to do for me. Go back.”
I know this sounds silly, but I asked the light, “If I go, can I come back, and will my dogs still be here waiting for me?” The light said yes, and then told me there were people who wanted to see me before I left. From out of the light came my maternal grandparents. I ran to them and embraced them. They were going to walk me part of the way back. Just as I was turning to leave, a man stepped from the light. He wore a full dress uniform—U.S. Navy. He was very tall and very blond with blue eyes. I had never seen the man before, yet he knew me and smiled.
“I am your Uncle Franklin. Tell Dorothy that I’m okay and that the baby is with me. Tell her I never stopped loving her and that I am glad she got on with her life. Tell her that when her time comes, I will come for her. Remember to tell her I love her.” As I turned, the man shouted, “Tell Dorothy, tell her you met Franklin, and I’m okay and so is the baby.”
My grandparents told me if I stayed any longer I might not make it back. But I wanted to talk with Jesus. I had a very important question to ask him. A beam of light, different from, yet similar to the first one, covered me. I knew this light was Christ.
I leaned against it for one moment and then I asked my question: “Dear Jesus, is it true that you gave me this heart condition so that I would have a cross to carry like you did?” (Sister Agnes, my sixth-grade teacher, had told me that my heart condition was my cross to bear for Jesus.) I heard the voice of Christ vibrate through me as he said, “No, this heart condition of yours is not a cross from me for you to bear. This heart condition is a challenge to help you grow and stay compassionate. Now go back.”
As I walked back, my grandmother told me my father was going to leave my mother and that I would be my mother’s strength….
Lynn detailed what it felt like to be resuscitated and awaken hours later hooked up to a myriad of tubes. Her doctor released her after a month. Her early release pleased her father, but he acted as if it gave him an excuse to be cold and unemotional again. Lynn continues:
The day I left [the hospital], in front of my parents, I asked Dr. Davidson, my cardiologist, who the black doctor was in the operating room. Dr. Davidson said that the black doctor had been called in because one of the members of the team had become ill at the last moment and so he covered for him. Dr. Davidson wanted to know if this doctor had been by to say “Hi,” but I said, “No, I saw him during the surgery.” Dr. Davidson stopped smiling and told me to go home and forget everything….
[As I’d been forewarned] my father left us. In front of the whole family, he told me he thought I was crazy and belonged in a mental hospital [because I believed in my NDE]. It was Thanksgiving Day, one year after my surgery. I told my father I could prove I wasn’t crazy. I turned to Aunt Dorothy and said, “Who is Franklin?” There was silence. Every eye at the table was on me; mouths were wide open. My Uncle George, who was married to my Aunt Dorothy, looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Lynn, if you wanted to hurt me, you’ve done a good job.”
Everyone went home early and my father left us. A few weeks later my aunt wanted to know how I knew about Franklin. I told her exactly what had happened during surgery. Then my aunt led me up to her attic and unlocked a large trunk (I had never been in her attic before, nor had I seen the trunk). She pulled out pictures of the man I had seen in the light.
My aunt told me that she had married Franklin during World War II, after a brief 24-hour courtship. She had been engaged to Uncle George at the time, but left him for Franklin. My aunt started to cry as she told me that she and Franklin were very happy together for two months, and then he was shipped out. After he left, she discovered she was pregnant. When she was seven months along, my aunt received word that my uncle had been killed in the invasion of Italy. He was on the lead ship dropping off troops. The news caused her to miscarry. She hemorrhaged so badly that a complete hysterectomy had to be performed to save her. The next year Uncle George married her and destroyed all pictures of Franklin, requesting that everyone in the family never speak Franklin’s name again. The only pictures to survive were those Aunt Dorothy hid in the trunk.
This extraordinary story not only reveals stunning secrets Lynn could not have known, it also teaches that life in a heavenly realm continues for the adult killed in battle, the miscarried child, and even for beloved pets that have died. All things are known in heaven, and no one is lost to us forever. The truth may be that simple…there are no secrets.