By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Nobody packs a suitcase like you do. A weekend away? No problem. Cram everything you need in a tote and go. A two-week cruise? Again, no problem. You can roll, fold and stuff half-a-closet in a carry-on and still have room for a book.
It’s a gift. You’re like a squirrel when it comes to packing, but there’s one trip you’ll have to make someday, and you won’t have to pack a thing.
Yes, you’re going to die. But what happens and what awaits us on our final journey? In “Proof of Heaven” by Eben Alexander, M.D., you’ll read about one man’s week-long experience, and the inspiring souvenirs he brought back.
It all started with a middle-of-the-night backache.
Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander awoke from the pain and headed for a warm bath, thinking it might help. It didn’t, and neither did a backrub from his wife, Holley. The pain, in fact, intensified.
By mid-morning, Alexander was nearly unconscious.
Rushed to the hospital, he landed in the ICU, surrounded by baffled doctors who believed he’d somehow acquired spontaneous E. coli meningitis. His spinal fluid and the outer portion of his brain were filled with pus. There was no brain activity, and no precedent: The affliction was a 1-in-10-million rarity.
But something amazing was happening to Eben Alexander.
Alexander says his first notion was that he was surrounded by primordial jelly, aware but not aware, and he could hear sounds. Working his way upwards and toward “dazzling darkness,” he was greeted by a beautiful woman who took him on a breathtaking journey on a butterfly wing. She told him three things: he was loved, he was valued and there was nothing he could do wrong.
One week after Alexander’s coma began, doctors informed Holley he had virtually no chance of recovery yet, literally, as they were walking to his room to stop treatment, he opened his eyes. Within months, fully recuperated, he started to cautiously talk about his journey because what he saw, he says, opened his mind and his heart.
No doubt, “Proof of Heaven” is a thinking-person’s book.
Filled with serious science, medical information and awe-inspiring theology, Alexander gives his readers a lot to chew on. But this memoir isn’t just that: Alexander also gives us an abundance of absorbing back-story, so we know why his spiritual journey was mind-bogglingly significant and why he believes it unfolded as it did. What’s interesting is Alexander was a skeptic once, and now he struggles to convince the skeptics.
The only bumps in the road here are he wrestles with descriptions of his experience. He admits mere words don’t do his visions justice, but he tries anyhow – which is magnificent at first, then just repetitious.
Even so, most of this book will stick with you for a long time after you close its back cover, making you seriously contemplate what you’ve read. Whether you’re a believer or an undecided scoffer, in fact, I think “Proof of Heaven” will pack a wallop.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.