To Renee -
A great lady who understands the nature of eternal family ties. Thank you for sharing your inspirational experience. It will help many.
Why is Renee's story in the book?
When I came out of the hospital I had a lot of questions regarding what had happened to me. My life had been changed forever. It took several months after my experience to even tell others what had happened. I walked around the house and kept saying over and over to myself: "I almost died, I almost died." I was trying to make sense of what I had been through.
When I finally came to terms with the fact I almost died, and yes I did have a near-death experience, I had to seek other experiencers for help. It was so hard living in this world and knowing, with no doubt, that there was a life after this. I felt an overwhelming desire to record my story. My own attempts where unable to reach the depth I desired.
I went to the book stores to find books on near death experiences. I had a very hard time reading anything. I did notice one book that told the stories the right way, it was "Glimpses of Eternity" by Arvin S. Gibson. I thought someday I'll contact him.
I had a free trial subscription to a Salt Lake paper, it was a small paper, I don't recall it's name. When the subscription was finally up I then decided I better look at the paper. There in the classified's I found someone looking to interview people that had had a near-death experience. I had my sister-in-law Tami call for me and then give my number to the person if they seemed interested.
Soon I was speaking with Arvin Gibson on the phone. We arranged a time for me to come to his home and be interviewed by his wife Carol and himself. It was an experience I was so grateful for. It had been an answer to my prayers. Mr. Gibson tape recorded my story and asked me questions to help pull out all my memories. Before he published the book I was able to review the story for accuracy. There was only one correction that I can recall.
The biggest thing that Arvin Gibson and his wife Carol did for me was help me deal with what I went through. They informed me about IANDS - International Association of Near Death Studies. I was able to meet with other people that shared a near death experience. Through my fellow experiencers I was able to understand that there is a process people go through that have experienced near death. I found out I was ok.
Since the story came out I have no desire to tell others my experience. In fact, it is a very painful thing to relive. If people want the whole story they need to read the book. When I was going through my genealogy to make this website I found my attempt of writing my experience - it's under the section "My Family Picnic". I added it to this website because it tells part of the story that Arvin Gibson didn't include in the book.
I am recording my story used in Arvin Gibson book on this website. I did gain his permission to record it here. The only thing I am not including here is Mr. Gibson's interpretation of my near-death experience. I feel that is his material. I agree with everything he had interpreted from my experience. I would encourage you to read his book "Echoes from Eternity".
My testimony: I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and he is indeed the son of our Heavenly Father. I believe I lived in Heaven before I came to earth to obtain a physical body. Through gaining my physical body I would be tested and tried in life. It is my Heavenly Father's desire for me to return to him, some day, in his own time. I know that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God in these the Latter-Days. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints contains the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. My near death experience followed the 138 Section of the Doctrine and Covenants. A book of revelations of the prophet Joseph Smith and prophets that followed after his death. I understand that there are many degrees of Heaven and every religion has a place where we fit. You do not have to be a member of my church to go to Heaven. We just might not be in the same one - but we can visit! We will be where we are happy, or else we are not in Heaven. People in Heaven still learn and grow according to their faith. There are people that share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others in Heaven - you can change your faith. When you go there you will be visited by them - make sure you listen!
"Echoes from Eternity" by Arvin Gibson
Chapter 17 - A Genealogy Experience (page 207-209)
She visited our home in the spring of 1993. Renee seemed especially anxious to talk to us about her experience; she appeared to have a number of questions concerning what had happened to her. Carol and I promised to answer questions, to the best of our ability, after we completed the interview.
Her birthplace was Glens Falls, New York, in 1961, and she had three brothers and one sister. When Renee was four years old, her parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; later her father served as Branch President, then Bishop, of the local church unit.
Being raised in New York, Renee attended schools in that state, and she met her husband in a young-adult camp-out for members of her church. They were married in the Washington, D.C. Temple in 1982, and at the time of our interview they had two boys and a girl. Living in Massachusetts, where his work was, they had problems during the recession, so they moved to Utah in 1989,
A Precursor Experience
Renee started to tell her story: "When we moved to Utah, my husband was having trouble finding work, and he was depressed. The landlord, where we were living, kept some money from us that he was supposed to return, but didn't. The combination of no work and no money was more than I could handle.
"Lying on my bed one afternoon, crying, I remember thinking: Life is too difficult - I can't handle it anymore. How could I kill myself without causing pain to others or without hurting myself? Obviously, it was impossible to do what I asked myself, but the point is that I was seriously thinking of suicide.
"My grandmother, who had died some months earlier, suddenly was present in my room; I could feel her. She spoke to me, saying" It's only money!" As soon as I heard those words, I thought: Of course. It's not worth it. After that my suicidal feelings left me"
An Improperly Diagnosed Illness
"In 1991, here in Utah, my husband was working two jobs trying to make ends meet, and I was home with the children. Because of our lack of resources we did not have medical insurance.
"For some reason I got a really bad headache that wouldn't go away. Thinking it was just the onset of the flu, I had people give me blessings, and I tried to cope with how badly I felt. Finally, when I didn't get better, I went to see the doctor; the practitioner nurse who was there told me they would have to do tests.
"Without medical insurance we couldn't afford the tests, so the nurse gave me some antibiotics to take in the event it was some type of bacterial infection. The antibiotics seemed to affect me adversely, with an extensive rash, and I got worse.
"My illness progressively got worse, with high fevers, rashes, headaches, and exhaustion, so the doctor began to perform tests. After about two weeks they put me in the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo. A specialist was called in, and his initial diagnosis was viral-encephalitis.
"Things didn't get any better, and when my temperature rose to 106 degrees they packed me in ice. Due to the headache I had, and the way light hurt my eyes, they kept a cold, damp cloth over my eyes.
"Testing of my various functions continued; they performed an MRI, a CAT scan, a spinal, and many other tests. My headache continued to get worse, and I felt a growing numbness throughout my body. It seemed an effort just to remember to breathe.
"After two days of this in the hospital, they hooked a strong antibiotic to my I.V. apparatus; it caused another reaction in my body. My illness got worse, with vomiting and diarrhea. They kept me on the antibiotic treatment for three more days, until I got so bad that they stopped using it. During this period I had my experience."
"While I was feeling so bad, the nurses had to keep taking blood samples. It disturbed me, and I didn't like it, but I kept the cloth over my eyes because of how the light hurt them. Strangely, after a time, I was able to see the nurses coming and going, even though the cloth was still over my eyes. Wondering about it, I decided it must be the illness that was affecting me.
"Feeling so bad, I asked that no visitors be allowed - I just wanted to be left alone. My mind pondered the thought: Am I so sick that I am going to die? What about my children? I decided that if I were going to die my grandmother would come for me.
"While struggling to survive, and pondering these questions, something really peculiar happened. Passing through the door, and into my room, was a family. Their clothing was in the style of the late 1800s or early 1900s (I later looked it up). Walking past the foot of my bed, they stopped near my side. For some reason I understood the relationship that each person had to the other.
"As I watched, amazed, the father and one of his sons began playing checkers. The whole scene irritated me terribly. My thoughts were: Here I am, so sick that I've asked for no visitors, and these rude people come into my room and play checkers. What made matters worse was that they were talking to each other and ignoring me.
"Because I was so disturbed by the people, I decided that I would pay no attention to them. They must be figments of my imagination. I thought. Despite my trying to ignore them, they continued to stay in the room and annoy me - until the nurse came in. Whenever the nurse would enter, they would disappear.
"Unfortunately, when the nurse would depart, they would reappear. Another strange phenomenon occurred. I became aware that I knew the names of all of the individuals that were there, and I understood their specific relationships to each other. They seemed completely oblivious to my presence, continuing with their family small talk, and continuing to ignore me. It was interesting that they chattered away happily, but they did not move their mouths when they talked. Their laughs and their smiles - the expressions on their faces - denoted their states of mind, as well as their conversations.
"About the second or third time I saw them, other family members joined them. Again, I understood the relationships, and this time it was the father's father, his spouse, and other relatives. The age appearances of the family members were as if they were all in their early 20s. The father might be a few years older than a child, and his father might appear a few years older than him, but they all looked to be young adults. Yet I knew instantly who was related to whom. Other knowledge about them came to me. One person, for example, had died as a child, and I knew it.
"This knowledge came to me despite my annoyance with the whole scene. My head continued to hurt desperately throughout the experience, and I wanted the people to leave. They were not dressed in white, and this bothered me. I was not interested in learning more about them.
"This process repeated itself for perhaps twenty times over the next two or three days. Gradually, the original family was joined by so many people, always their relatives through birth or marriage, that no more people could fit in the room. When this occurred, I watched, astonished, as the wall to the room vanished - except for the main beams in the walls."
Trip to an Unusual Place
"As the wall disappeared the people in the room walked through it. They didn't even see the wall; they just walked off in the distance. I didn't want to go with them, but I had no choice. It seemed that I just floated off my bed, still in the horizontal position, and traveled with the people.
"Floating through the wall, I entered another of the hospital rooms. Looking down into this room as I floated through, I saw a frail old man in his bed. There was an oxygen tube in his nose, and his eyes were alternately open and closed.
"The people continued their journey through the hospital walls with me alongside them. When we reached the boundary of the hospital we sailed through, and suddenly it was as though we had gone to a park. I remember wondering: What happened to the city of Provo? As the thought entered my mind, I seemed to understand that the park was somehow overlaid upon the city, but slightly above it.
"It was a pretty park, with green grassy areas, and trees. My head kept aching, though, and I continued to resent having to go with the people. None of them recognized that I even existed - not that I wanted to be recognized by them. If I had been recognized, my fear was that I would have had to admit that I was dead. Moreover, I still had not seen my grandmother, the only one I would have been glad to see.
"When we traveled into the park area, I noticed people in the distance playing croquet. My thought was: Why are people playing croquet? It didn't make sense. None of it met my expectations of what I thought might happen on the other side. People were dressed in period clothes, not in white, and my grandmother was not among them. Even more peculiarly, they were engaged in activities, checkers and croquet, which to me seemed to be trivial.
"New groupings of people came to my attention; I instantly knew their relationships to the others. Looking at one young woman, I understood that she was the sister-in-law's child from another group. And I knew their names. The people I identified often had an obscure and remote relationship to someone else - not a direct relationship.
"Beyond the area where the people were playing croquet was a sloping hill and a large tree. Several people were gathered near the tree, and they were having a picnic. A strange thing happened as I got near the people having the picnic; my headache left me. Again, I understood everyone's relationship, except one man who stood directly under the tree. For some reason I was not given his relationship.
"The headache pain had been so terrible that when it stopped I became very conscious of its departure. The moment that my consciousness acknowledged the departure of my headache, I was instantly back into the hospital with a splitting headache.
"This particular experience was repeated about three times before it dawned on me that if I wanted relief from my headache, I would have to stop thinking about it. I didn't particularly want to repeat the voyage to the park area, but since it was the only relief I got from my headache, I figured, okay, that's where I'll go. It also became clear that, whether I wanted to or not, I would have to focus on the relationships of the people in the park - otherwise I would bounce back into the hospital and my head would ache again. In effect, the headache was forcing me to make trips to the park and to concentrate on the different relationships."
A Frightening Man
"During each of these trips to the park and to the picnic area near the tree, I was still exasperated by the fact that no one could see me. Finally, on one trip to that area, I looked at the man whose relationship I didn't know. He looked back at me - he could see me - and I felt an impact in my heart that was indescribable. It was as if some physical object violently hit me.
"Instantly, upon receiving this jolt, I wanted to remove myself from the proximity of the man who could see me. I wondered who he was, but I knew that I wanted to be as far away from him as possible. The thought came into my mind: He knows me. And I didn't want him to know me.
"Repelled by the man who knew me, I looked at the people around him. They seemed to be oblivious to what was going on. The unpleasant man was able to see me, and my side of existence, but the others could not. They could only see themselves and the park area.
"Leaving the picnic area to distance myself from the man who knew me, I went down a hill and saw a wooded area in the distance. People wandered from the wooded area in groups, enjoying each other, and I immediately knew their relationships and their names. Despite knowing all the relationships they had to each other, I never was told whether or not they were related to me.
"Below me, in a distant part of the field, there was a depressed area with a stream of running water. The sound from the water reached me, and it was magnificent. The noise from the water soothed and helped me. In a way I wanted to proceed further, toward the water, yet I hadn't seen my grandmother, so I wouldn't go beyond where I was.
"There were many trips that I made between my hospital room and the park area. Whenever a nurse came into my room, I came back. It occurred over a period of three days, yet a puzzling aspect of the experience was the fact that time didn't seem to pass as fast for the people in the park area as it did for me. My three days were like five minutes to them, and I wondered how that could be."
The End of Renee's Experience
"All of the men in my ward bishopric were aware that I wanted the group of them to come and give me a blessing. On one Sunday afternoon they came, and after their blessing, I never saw the people again.
"The day after the bishopric gave me a blessing, the doctors told me that I had Epstein-Barr virus, and I could go home. After my release, it took me more than a month before my strength began to come back. According to some information I received, later, antibiotics should not be taken with Epstein-Barr virus, and this may have explained my serious illness.
"While I was in the hospital, and for some time afterward, I never told anyone about my experience. I was afraid they would think I was crazy. There was another problem - it was the fact that I didn't see my grandmother, and none of the people I saw were dressed in white. There was no way I wanted to be with them, and I didn't want to talk about it."
Thoughts on the Experience by Renee
"For a long time I wondered about this experience, and why it happened to me. It seemed real, yet I couldn't explain it. During my release from the hospital, though, something happened to convince me that it was real.
"They put me in a wheelchair to take me to the hospital entrance. At one point, while they went to get something, they parked me in the wheelchair at the doorway next to my room. Knowing I was just outside the room where I saw the frail old man in bed with the oxygen tube in his nose, I leaned around the corner and looked in. It was the same man - I saw and recognized him. From where I was lying in my room it would have been impossible for me to have seen him.
"The man who I had seen under the tree, and who knew me, bothered me immensely. His image stayed with me, and I disliked the thought of it. For months afterwards, I wondered who he was and why I wanted to run away from him. Yet I was fascinated by the thought of him. He was a good-looking man.
"One of friends, Tami, was an artist, and I once explained my experience to her. We discussed the man who knew me, and I tried to describe him in sufficient detail that she could paint a picture of him. As our conversation evolved, she finally said: 'Renee, you don't want a picture of him. You know who he was, don't you?' At that moment, I did, and I said: 'Yes, It was Satan.'
"Not only did I know who the man was, but I understood that I should read the 138th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants in order to understand my experience. Also, I knew that I would find further answers by attending the temple.
"Many of the answers came in the temple, and some of them are too sacred to discuss here. It became clear to me, though, that the people I had seen were those who had passed on, but were confined to this earth, and who needed further work done for them in order to progress beyond where they were. I also understand why Satan was there, why he knew me, and how privileged I was to see what I did. Much of what I saw had symbolic meaning beyond the outward appearances of the events themselves.
"Since that experience, I have become a fanatic concerning genealogy and temple work. The patience of my husband is sometimes tried as I work on genealogy.
As a final thought, Renee said: "The genealogical and temple work that we do is enormously important. We should work diligently to find those people who are not necessarily on our direct genealogical line [cousins], and we should perform the work so that their temple ordinances can be done. Since my experience I have been driven to locate all the people I saw that needed their temple work done. Each person is important in the sight of the Lord."