Sunday, May 22, 2011

Near Death Experience Led to Writing/Publishing Career...and More!

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...                                                             Image via Wikipedia

Had The Choice 
Been Mine
Permission granted to republish by author

A true story by
Bettie Corbin Tucker

I was twelve years old, and near death, when I looked into the face of Christ.

No one, other than our Lord, who "chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong,” would have chosen someone like Bettie Corbin from Morgantown, West Virginia for such an incredible experience.

Here was no Elijah or Saul—just a skinny blond kid whose teeth seemed a bit too big for her mouth and whose stockings insisted on creeping down inside her shoes. Dad, a coke-oven mechanic, and Mom, a former schoolteacher, both called me "mischievous" but Jane, my older sister thought "public nuisance" was more accurate. I made average grades; hated school, sports, sweet potatoes, and neatness. I was a normal child, spoiled and demanding; careless of anything but my needs, my desires. 

If I ever thought of God, it was when I wanted something. He was rather like my Dad, but less accessible, or as easily manipulated.

I was in the seventh grade at Sabraton Junior High School when illness came into my life. At first the intruder appeared to be quite innocent—just a simple cold, but then this exploded into a vicious raging infection. I battled this enemy many years ago, but the memories are easily recalled . . .

Exhausted after vigorous basketball playing, our gym class of girls headed for the showers. My girlfriend Carolyn walked along beside me. "You OK?" she asked. "You look kinda funny."

"Just tired out," I replied. "I had that dumb cold and sore throat for so long that it took away all my zip."

Satisfied with my answer, Carolyn went on to something else, but later as I combed my hair in front of the locker-room mirror, I remembered her comments. There was something in my reflection that disturbed me. My eyes kept returning to the left side of my neck. Was it my imagination or was there a swollen place under my ear? I pressed my hand against the flesh and, sure enough, felt the outline of a lump. Probably nothing, I thought. Maybe just a swollen gland.

When Mom and Dad checked my neck that evening, they seemed to agree with my diagnosis.

"Does it hurt?" Mom asked.

"No," I answered. "If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't even know it's there."

Mom looked toward Dad; then spoke matter-of-factly. "Just to be on the safe side, I'll call Dr. Strawn tomorrow and set up an appointment."

"Good idea," agreed Dad. "No use in taking any chances." With a wry smile he added, "I know how much you'll hate missing school, Betz."

My own wide grin was the only response he needed.

Much to our surprise, Dr. Strawn put me in the hospital so that a biopsy of the lump could be done. The suspect, cancer, was found "not guilty" and the problem was diagnosed as an infection of the lymph nodes. Everyone seemed relieved and happy when I went home with an antibiotic and my doctor's assurance that within a few days I'd be feeling like my old self.

He was wrong! In a few days I was sicker than ever. The infection continued to spread until my neck and face became so swollen that I couldn't lift my head from the pillow. I was weak, nauseous, and in pain. 

It was back to the hospital where a drainage tube was inserted below my ear and more tests were conducted. Specialists hovered over me, and I was forever getting pills and shots but, still, I grew worse. Soon my confidence and spunky attitude gave way to confusion and fear. What was wrong with me? Kids didn't stay sick this long!

During the next five months, I underwent surgery two additional times. Just when I seemed to be improving, the infection would strike again, becoming more invasive, involving more lymph nodes. How could I feel any worse? I wondered. The pain and high fever made me listless, unable to eat or get out of bed. Feeling betrayed by my own body and emotions, I leaned heavily on the strength and faith of my parents.

I remember one evening in particular when I was feeling very discouraged. I'd just come home from the hospital with a newer and larger drainage tube in my neck. Bandages covered the ugly incision, but nothing could cover up my pain and depression. Dad sensed my mood the moment he entered my room.

"Hi, Betz, How's my girl?" he asked.

"OK," I answered, managing a weak smile.

"OK," he echoed. "I hardly think so"

He sat down on my bed and covered my young smooth hand with his rough callused one."You have a right to be scared, Betz," he said. "You even have the right to cry." 

I swallowed hard. "I don't want to cry, but I'm just so tired of being sick."

Dad's voice was full of sympathy. "I know you are, Honey."

I looked straight ahead. "Am I going to die, Daddy?"

"Not for a long time," he replied. "God is our Healer, Betz, and He knows how much we want to keep you."

My response was a plea. "And I want to stay here with you. I don't want to die. Old people are supposed to die, not someone my age." I began to sob aloud. The release was good.

My next trip to the hospital was not planned. It was an emergency situation. The evening before, I had been home, feeling grateful that my previous operation had brought my infection under control. A whole month had gone by with no flare-up, so I was feeling hopeful, getting a little stronger. Maybe this was the turning point.

During the night I awakened to the sickening realization that my enemy had returned with unrestrained fury. Automatically, I lifted my hand and touched my neck. The rigid swollen tissue was sore, and the radiating pain made me feel nauseous. I knew that I was worse—much worse than I'd ever been. The room appeared to be spinning around me, but somehow I got out of bed and stumbled into the hallway. I believe I called out to my parents before collapsing to the floor.

I was rushed to the hospital and prepared for immediate surgery. Dr. Strawn was not optimistic. The massive glandular infection was out of control.

I remember being vaguely aware of the anesthesiologist placing the mask over my face. Then a journey began which at first was not a pleasant one. A sensation of helplessness engulfed me as a powerful force spun my body horizontally through a long dark tunnel. A roaring buzzing sound was emitted by the propelling pressure of this force. I had no control over my body and it frightened me. I began to scream and saw my screams bounce off the darkness as jagged flashes of green lightning. I began struggling for my breath. The screaming had to stop; it was a waste of precious air. I tried to close my mouth, but the shrieking sounds continued.

My body spun faster, my screams grew louder, and the lightning flashed brighter. The pressure was unbearable, and I thought my insides would burst from the strain. There wasn't another breath left within me when I called out to God. "Help me, please, help me."

Suddenly everything stopped. My body hung motionless; the darkness was stripped of all sound. I seemed suspended in "nothingness."

Then something stirred within me. My "body" responded to this awakening with a surge of strength that enabled me to pull myself upright.

I stood in a void, turning around several times before I noticed a faint ray of light interrupting the darkness from a distance. As I took a few steps forward, the light grew brighter and brighter; it became a magnet pulling me toward its source. I did not resist because the light was beautiful and somehow (I don't know how) radiated feelings of trust, warmth and love.

I was drawn outside the darkness into the center of this dazzling energy where I basked in what I can only describe as a stream of glory. How wonderful I felt! My body was actually absorbing the brilliance of this holy light, which seemed to be alive and filling me with love and peace. At the same time, a Presence was stripping me of all pretenses; I stood "naked" in the Light of Truth.

Realizing the source of this radiance came from above, I wanted to look upward, but a feeling of unworthiness and a tinge of fear stopped me. What or Whom would I see? Someone was looking down on me, perhaps judging me, even now. What choice do I hav , I thought. I can't stand here forever. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and raised my head. Very slowly I opened my eyes, trying to prepare myself for whatever I might see.

At first my vision was blurred, but gradually, as it cleared, I was looking into the most compelling eyes I'd
ever seen. Shining forth from those eyes was an all-consuming love. Then I saw the face. Immediately, by some spiritual process, I recognized it as the face of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

This vision occurred many years ago, but my heart still races with excitement as I recall that supernatural moment. The face of Jesus reflected everything that is eternal and good. Strength, knowledge, wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, and love poured from that face, saturating me with a peace and joy beyond all comprehension.

And because I was exposed to His perfection, my own understanding became Christ-like. I seemed to know the answer to every question that I had asked or would ask. I finally understood my existence—why I had been born and why I had to die. God had created me in His own image, but I hadn't been "finished "until now. Christ was my completion. The King of Kings had shed His blood for me, a silly kid from West Virginia. My heart was overflowing with love and gratitude.

Jesus’ eyes were all-knowing magnetic pools of Power and Truth, reflecting all colors. Love, however, was His most distinguishing feature. It could be seen, felt and absorbed. Jesus was and is love.

Inwardly I applauded Him, and I could hear myself singing in a voice that was mine, yet very different. Gone was all pain, fear, stress and worry! No longer did I have to seek the acceptance of others. No longer did I need the reassurance that I was loved! My every child-like need had been met by Jesus!

I was so happy. Though I believed myself to be physically dead, my spirit was bubbling over with life. Death was my beginning; not my ending! I loved my family, but I loved Jesus more. My family loved me, but their love could not compare with His love. I knew everyone would miss me, but someday they would understand this wonderful completion that I was experiencing.

Lifting my hands, I reached toward Jesus, eager to be received by Him. Yes, Had The Choice Been Mine, I would be with the King right now. I expected the Light to draw me closer and closer until there was nothing separating us. However, my choice was not Jesus' choice. Our Savior looked at me intently, His eyes searching, probing. He finally spoke, and although His expression was tender, His voice was commanding, "You must go back, Bettie! It isn't time."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing—Jesus was sending me back. "No," I cried out. "Oh, please no; I want to stay with you!"

There was no response and so, helplessly, I stood there watching Christ disappear into eternity. The light, too, began to lose its brilliance. Reluctantly, I returned to the tunnel and began my journey back into life...

Postscript from the Author

The doctors were so convinced that I would not be able to survive a similar outbreak that they referred me to a surgeon for additional and extensive surgery. Inwardly, I knew that whatever had been wrong with me could not have survived the radiance of that Light. I told my parents, "The Light burned it out of me." They took me to several specialists, and all agreed that I had to have an additional operation. But I knew they were wrong—that I hadn't been sent back to be sick. Anyway, the bottom line is that while my parents and doctors were deciding what to do in regard to surgery, the inflection left without a trace. No one could explain why. But I knew!

The Children's Rhyming Bible

The Stepping Stone Book: Bible Stories in RhymeNote: Bettie E. Tucker is presently working on the third edition of her Bible which will revert to the original title, The Children's Rhyming Bible scheduled to be out next year.
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