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Appointments with HEAVEN
The true story of a country doctor's healing encounters with the hereafter
By REGGIE ANDERSON, JENNIFER SCHUCHMANN
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Reggie Anderson
All rights reserved.
SEPTEMBER 2011 ASHLAND CITY HOSPITAL, ASHLAND CITY, TENNESSEE
He was an eighty-two-year-old, proud Alabama boy, lying in the intensive care unit, and while I didn't yet know his time of death, I already knew the cause.
For more than a year, he had been struggling with myelodysplastic syndrome—his bone marrow had stopped producing the blood cells needed to fight off infection. He was immunocompromised and had developed a severe staph infection that was almost impossible to treat. His body had become septic, and the inflammation was devastating his organs. I knew his days were numbered, but I couldn't stand the thought of his passing.
I had known him all my life. He was a teacher and a farmer—intelligent and determined, proud and stubborn. He was also a man of great faith. He didn't see any reason to prolong his life on earth past the purpose God had for him. Like many of my elderly patients, he believed that he had an appointment with heaven and that Jesus was waiting for him on the other side.
As a doctor, I've seen what happens to the patient whose loved ones hang on too long. They desperately cling to their family member, demanding that doctors use extraordinary means to keep that person here when, really, the dying believer just wants to slip gently to the other side. Sometimes doctors can postpone a patient's death for weeks or months, but it often involves drastic measures with the person being kept alive by machines and feeding tubes. The patient's quality of life isn't what relatives expect when they initially make the decision, and it's rarely what a patient desires.
Whenever God called him home, he was ready.
I didn't want this patient kept alive by machines, and he didn't want it either. But I had good reasons to lengthen his life. He had a close, extended family, some of whom lived out of town and wanted a chance to say goodbye. With intensive medical intervention, I could postpone his death long enough to allow them the opportunity to see him one last time. His family wasn't ready to let him go, and I understood that in the most intimate way possible. I wasn't ready for him to be gone either.
I thought of other deaths I had witnessed—including an unforgettable experience that happened while I was a medical resident.
* * *
Throughout medical school I had taken care of dying patients, but this was the first time that I, as the senior resident, would be the one in charge when a patient died. I didn't know what to expect.
"Dr. Anderson," the elderly woman began, her voice starting to fade. "Will you hold my hand? I'm going to see Jesus, and I need an escort."
That night, I experienced the veil parting—the veil that separates this life from the next. As I held the dying woman's hands, I felt the warmth of her soul pass by my cheek when it left her body, swept up by an inexplicably cool breeze in an otherwise stagnant room. I smelled the familiar fragrance of lilac and citrus, and I knew the veil was parting to allow her soul to pass through.
Since that first patient, I've walked with countless others to the doorstep of heaven and watched them enter paradise. On many occasions, as I held hands with the dying, God allowed me to peer into heaven's entryway where I watched each patient slip into the next world.
I've sensed Jesus on the other side, standing in heaven's foyer, welcoming the dead who are made whole again. I've glimpsed surreal colors and sights and heard sounds more intense than anything I've ever experienced in this ordinary world. I've inhaled the scents of lilac, citrus, freshly carved cedar, and baking bread—more fragrant than I ever thought possible.
Sometimes I've even witnessed patients leave this world and come back. As they've shared their stories with me, I've often remembered the time early in my life when God allowed me to step into heaven's foyer, even though I no longer believed he was real.
The one thing these experiences have in common is the intensity of the sights, sounds, fragrances, and feelings that I sensed. Heaven is more real than anything we experience here, and the sense of peace, joy, and overwhelming love is beyond description.
* * *
Memories of other dying patients, as well as my personal glimpses into heaven, drifted through my mind as I sat at my patient's bedside in the ICU that day. I had every confidence that what awaited him would be more joyous than anything he'd ever experienced. But, selfishly, I wasn't ready to see him disappear through the opening. As the attending physician, the family looked to me for guidance. I could recommend a blood transfusion that would prolong his life for a few more days; with several transfusions, maybe I could extend it a week or more.
Or I could let him go.
Either way, I knew that he and his family would listen to me and do what I suggested.
I had a difficult decision to make, and my medical decisions were complicated by what my patients and I had experienced on heaven's side of the veil. But my struggle was even greater because of who I was.
I wasn't just the patient's physician—I was also his son.
Excerpted from Appointments with HEAVEN by REGGIE ANDERSON, JENNIFER SCHUCHMANN. Copyright © 2013 Reggie Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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