Wednesday, 01 August 2012
My neighbors, Brandon and Viv, are two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. They have raised three wonderful children together and also are foster parents to at-risk children. Brandon is a dentist and has gone on mission trips to Mexico ten times to help people with their oral health. One time he gave me and my sister about two hundred dollars worth of teeth cleanings free of charge because our parents were out of work. He never asked to be paid back -- though my mother insisted on it once she got a job again. You can always be sure of seeing Brandon and Viv in church every Sunday. They are those sorts of people.
Last year Brandon was in a bad car accident. The other guy only got a broken wrist but Brandon suffered massive internal injuries. He didn't have a pulse when the EMTs arrived on the scene so they had to shock him back into sinus rhythm. They got Brandon's heart working again but he still didn't regain consciousness. Once Brandon arrived at the hospital he was hooked up to a respirator and monitored. He had minimal brain activity but his gag reflex and pain responsiveness were still present so the doctors said "We're going to wait and see."
Everybody at our church was praying hard for weeks. There was absolutely no response for the longest time, and then finally one day the doctors noticed a slight uptick in Brandon's brain activity. It stayed like that for a few more days and finally one day, while Viv was praying by his bedside, Brandon opened his eyes. It was amazing!
Unfortunately Brandon could only communicate with his eyes for several months. He blinked once for "yes" and twice for "no," but it was still clear that Brandon was Brandon. His mind was completely there. He was even able to crack jokes. A little while later, when Brandon could move his index finger a bit, Viv brought in an iPad to help him type. One time, when she asked him if he was in pain, Brandon typed "Y-E-S." When Viv asked if he needed a painkiller, Brandon typed "N-O, I N-E-E-D B-E-E-R." Viv laughed. She loves to tell that story.Brandon's had a lot of physical therapy. Slowly he started to move his arms and legs a bit though it was really tough going. Now Brandon can walk with support and a walker. He can sort of talk but only Viv understands him. When he talks to anyone else, he prefers to use his iPad.
Last week I went to visit Brandon. We talked a bit and he seemed like his usual cheerful self. I still had a few questions though.
"Do you remember what it was like when you had no heart rate? When you were in a coma with minimal brain activity? Did you see heaven?"
Brandon shrugged. "No, I have no memory of that at all."
"Really? Nothing? No floating up or anything?"
"No, it was like I was out of the picture. Finished. Done. That's all."
He must have seen my expression because he started typing on his iPad again. "Don't be sad. God gave me a great gift with my accident. He told me that life was a precious gift and I shouldn't take another moment for granted. I am so much happier now to be alive than I ever was before... and I was pretty happy before too! Now, every time I see Viv's face or the face of my children or the sunlight coming through the curtains in the morning, I thank God for giving me this second chance."
It was a sweet sentiment but it still made me feel very frightened and sad. No heaven? No eternal life? Was God a lier? John 3:16: For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
So that was a lie? There really was no heaven or afterlife?
"You really didn't see anything after your heart stopped?" I asked Brandon.
Brandon smiled. "No, nothing...."
I was pleasant for the rest of the visit but I still think Brandon sensed my unhappiness. "Trust in God," he typed on his iPad before I left. "God has a plan for us all. You have so much life ahead of you. Be joyful. It is what God wishes of you."
I guess I should be joyful, but I just feel upset and depressed and very, very frightened. Is there really nothing at the end? Brandon should know… he's been closer to death than anyone else really. My cousin died of breast cancer last year. Is she not in heaven now? Is she just "finished?" What about my friend's baby who died of bacterial meningitis? Is her little boy now just "finished" too? Not in heaven, just rotting in the ground?
I'm so unhappy and upset. I haven't eaten much or talked to anybody since I saw Brandon. I don't even want to go to church anymore. Does anybody here have any advice?
How do you respond to this story? Do you believe in an afterlife?