An Oklahoma school teacher says she’s seen heaven’s pearly gates and has lived to tell the tale.
Crystal McVea’s near-death experience brought her face-to-face with a God that she spent a lifetime doubting. And the Altus, Okla. woman says the only reason she’s alive is so that she can tell others what she believes is waiting for them on the other side.
As many as 10 to 20 percent of people who go through cardiac arrest or clinical death have lucid memories of their brush with death, according to the Human Consciousness Project. Scientists have pinned these near-death experiences to high carbon dioxide levels, oxygen deprivation, or surges of steroids, epinephrine or adrenaline. Survivors’ stories about these out-of-body experiences are curiously similar — there are bright lights, tunnels and nebulous beings.
But what matters to McVea is how her glimpse of death has changed the way she’s living.
McVea was being treated for pancreatitis in 2009 when an unexpected reaction to pain medication caused her to stop breathing. She hasn’t been able to figure out exactly what happened to her body, but she knows that her heart stopped. Her mother screamed for help and medical staff rushed to her side, shouting, “Code Blue.” Nurses pumped oxygen into her body and performed CPR to try to revive her.
During the nine minutes that she spent unconscious, McVea says she was far away from the panic that descended on her hospital room.
When she closed her eyes on earth, she says she opened her eyes in heaven.
All of the usual details were there — lights, a tunnel, pearly white gates and angels. But what really stuck out was her experience of God — she said she could see, smell, taste, touch and hear him with more than the five senses she had on earth. She could speak to him without words.
“I didn’t see the human form of God, I didn’t see hands and feet and a face, I just saw the most beautiful light,” she told the New York Daily News. “What I know now is that I experienced his presence.”
McVea said she used to think of God as a cruel and authoritative father figure. But she said that during her religious experience, she was able to understand truths about Christianity that she had always questioned. She was able to love herself.
“I just remember I felt free from all the lies I had lived and the untruth that God didn’t love me,” she said.
It’s not an uncommon feeling. Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who taught at Harvard, also spoke about a heightened experience of love during his near-death experience. In a Newsweek article, Alexander writes about the sense of relief that he, like McVea, felt after slipping into a coma. - Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
“It was like being handed the rules to a game I’d been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it,” he writes.
He said that he felt loved, fearless and at peace with himself. Although many of his colleagues at Harvard weren’t convinced, Alexander stuck with his story.
McVea had a similar life-after-death experience. When doctors managed to revive her, McVea said she was reluctant to come back into an earthly consciousness. But she couldn’t forget God’s last words to her — “Tell them what you can remember.”
She spent years trying to grapple with this request. McVea wasn’t much of a public speaker. She was certain that some people would think she was crazy. And she struggled to come to terms with her past — the abuse she suffered as a child and the abortion she chose to have as a teenager. No one in her family knew about the secrets she had kept for years.
Still, she decided to pen a memoir, Waking Up in Heaven: A True Story of Brokenness, Heaven, and Life Again describing her experiences. Sure enough, she faced strong backlash.
“I got bashed for being Christian, I got bashed for not being Christian enough,” she said.
But the criticism hasn’t held her back. While she can’t offer 100 percent proof that her experience was real, she knows this for sure — she is no longer afraid of what lies beyond the grave.
“I grew up all my life terrified of dying, afraid of the pain and afraid of the unknown,” she said. “But peace and love surrounded every moment of my death and now I know death is nothing to be afraid of.” - NY Daily News