She Has Always Been There

She Has Always Been There

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

She Has Always Been There

And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.
And he arose, and followed her.

2 Kgs. 4:30

Shortly after graduating with my MBA from Brigham Young University, I read Dr. Raymond Moody’s amazing book, Life After Life. The book is about Dr. Moody’s research involving people of all ages, nationalities and religions who had survived near-death experiences (NDEs). Their stories shared many similar elements—these people had passed through a tunnel at death, had been greeted by a being of light and had experienced an instantaneous life review during which their life flashed before their eyes. Without exception, when they returned from the brink of death, their lives were forever altered—often dramatically.

The stories fascinated me. I bought and devoured every book I could find on NDEs. I shared the stories I had read with my Sunday school classes and even in my professional seminars. I couldn’t figure out why I was so fascinated by the subject—and it would be almost thirty years before I found out. But I’m getting ahead of myself. . . .

I’ll never forget the day someone shared her personal NDE with me. In the late 1980s, I briefly mentioned my fascination with NDEs at a real-estate seminar in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Following my presentation, a young woman in the audience approached me. She explained that she had been pronounced clinically dead after suffering a serious illness. The medical staff had actually zipped her up in a body bag to transport her body to the morgue. Then something shocking happened—the body bag began to move, and the “dead” person began pounding the inside of the bag. When they unzipped it, they realized the young woman was most definitely alive.

After her recovery, she didn’t tell anyone what had happened during the few minutes while she had been “gone.” She was afraid people wouldn’t believe her—that they would think her crazy. Several years later, she finally told her mother what had happened.

Upon “dying,” she told her mother, she saw her body lying “down there” as the medical staff was zipping up the body bag. She remembered being greeted “on the other side” by a beautiful woman who exuded so much love. This “angel lady” told the young woman that her “time” was not yet up, and that she needed to return to life. That’s when she awoke to find herself zipped inside the body bag.

Her mother began to ask details about the “angel lady” who greeted her daughter. As the details came, the mother sensed that her daughter was describing a deceased relative. They rushed to the attic and began leafing through a pile of dusty old family albums. Suddenly, the young woman saw a photo that shocked her.

“That’s her!” she exclaimed with excitement. “That’s the angel lady!” Both mother and daughter stared at the photo in silence. Finally her mother spoke.

“I’ve never shown you these photos, because they are too painful for me to look at,” she said softly. “The woman in the photo is my mother—your grandmother. She died when I was pregnant with you.”

As the young woman shared her story, I felt warm goose bumps sweep over me. Perhaps her story touched me so deeply because, just as this grandmother had not lived to see the birth of her granddaughter, my own mother had not lived to see me.

Amy Judd Allen died in childbirth on May 20, 1948—the day I was born. Because of several disappointing miscarriages, she had laid in bed for months, determined that this pregnancy would be successful. I can only imagine how much she wanted to hold me in her arms after having carried me for nine long and painful months. And then, on that most joyous day, she didn’t make it through the valley of death. As I came into the world, she passed out of it.

My forty-five-year-old father, sixteen-year-old sister, and ten-year-old brother did a wonderful job raising me, but I missed the warm, tender nurturing that most other babies enjoy. I still do. Mother’s Day is always such a strange day for me. Fathers, sons and daughters stand up in church and praise their wives and mothers—then honor them with flowers and gifts. As I watch these ceremonies, I think how fortunate those people are who have had mothers to watch over them, care for them, correct them, nurture them, instruct them and love them. For most of my life, I’ve felt that I missed something very special.

And then, I had my own NDE.

It was March 15, 2003. I was returning from giving a speech to a thousand people at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was about 9 P.M. on a dark, rainy night, and as I drove home, I listened to the news of dozens of accidents on the California freeways caused by the heavy rain. I don’t remember anything about “my” accident. A driver in the sole car behind me on that dark night witnessed my car veer off the road at full speed and smash into a large tree in the heavy brush just a few feet off the freeway. This “Good Samaritan” stopped, immediately called 911 from his cell phone and waited until the ambulance arrived. My car was so demolished that they had to cut me out with the Jaws of Life. If it hadn’t been for this single witness, I most certainly would have bled to death in the darkness. I remember none of it.

I was rushed to the hospital with massive injuries. I was put on life support in a medically induced coma as they assessed the damage. I don’t remember a thing. When I came to my senses a few days later, with my wife and two of my children at my bedside, I was shocked to learn how close I had come to dying.

I experienced only a few of the elements of a “classic” NDE. I don’t remember seeing my body through spirit eyes. I don’t remember a tunnel or a being of light or a life review. But, without doubt, my life has been forever altered. And the strangest thing happened as I came “back to life.” I knew that my “angel mother” had been there that night— that she had been watching, letting me know that it wasn’t my time. In ways that are hard to explain, I now realize that she has always been there—watching over me, caring for me, correcting me, nurturing me, instructing me and loving me, even though I couldn’t see her.

It’s been two years since my NDE, and I still feel her presence. I often find myself driving down the freeway, whispering under my breath, “Thanks, Mom—for the life you gave me and the life you gave for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you . . .”

Robert Allen

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