When I was 16, my father had a heart attack at the age of 59, right there in our kitchen. The paramedics lowered him down and tried to take control of the situation, but soon they reported, "We lost him. No vital signs. Pulseless. Apneic."
In that moment, I was ushered into the next room by family to hug and cry. But what happened 4 minutes later after they applied the paddles, stopped the tears. "We've got him. He's back!"
As they began to roll my father out to the ambulance, he reached out and took my hand. He had a smile on his face that look angelic, his eyes twinkled, and there wasn't a line on his face. He looked almost boyish.
He said, "I was at a fjord." (Father was from Norway as a child). "Everyone was there, Mother, Father, Tante Wahlborg...There were flowers that don't exist here and colors that don't exist here." He sighed, his hand dropped.
They began to roll him out again but he gestured. I leaned over to listen as he whispered to me, "That was the REAL world. This one is FAKE."
He was loaded into the ambulance minutes later and taken to the hospital where they tried some procedures but in the late 1970s there were not a lot of options in his condition but balloon angioplasty.
A few days went by in the hospital and his signs looked better. We went home to celebrate and I went to bed.
During the night, I awakened to feel someone tugging my big toe. I looked up to see my father's silhouette and I was thinking, "wow, they let him come home already!"
The phone rang and I reached over to get it, but someone else in the house had picked it up. I turned back and dad was gone.
My sister pounded on my bedroom door and yelled, "we need to go to the hospital now!"
Little did I know they had called to tell us that he had passed on.
When I stumbled into the corridor where he was in intensive care, I looked over to see my father in his bed, machines pushed aside, sheet neatly tucked under his arms, his face as smooth and serene as a sleeping child.
Did my father visit me? Yes, without a doubt. How do I know? Because when I was growing up my father traveled all the time for work. He was away more than home. I worried about him making it home as some flight he had been on met some difficulties. Mom didn't want him waking me up when he got in at all hours, so he would come in and tug on my big toe. That was his sign to me that he made it home.
And so it was that night in April of 1979. Message received and image of Heaven accepted.
Death, the passage like birth into a world you can't imagine. Like the baby in amniotic fluid who thinks the sac is the world, we think this globe is all there is. Then, we move down the canal and into a world that is so much bigger than that "womb" we once inhabited.