Despite our advancements in science and medicine, death remains one of human civilization's most glorious mysteries. A handful of doctors have written books on phenomena such as near-death experiences, but research and data is scarce on pre-death experiences. Because of this lack of information, Dr. John Lerma has devoted his career to compiling anecdotal and scientific research on pre-death hallucinations from the countless terminally-ill patients he lovingly cares for as a doctor and director at The Medical Center of Houston, Texas.
Now, in the groundbreaking book, Into The Light, Dr. Lerma shares his valuable research and guidance in 16 inspirational stories of children and adults confronting their deaths through the comforting visions of divine beings. By presenting these mysterious visions, synchronicities, and angelic conversations terminally ill patients encounter, Dr. Lerma shows how knowledge of death can ease the pain and fear as we prepare to enter into the light. In this book you will learn: --The exhilarating and calming elements of pre-death experiences. --Healing during the dying process. --The difference between hallucinations and visions. --Self-forgiveness and self-love as the key to a joyous life and a peaceful transition. The mystical experiences described here delve into: the creation of the universe, past and future extinctions, dark angels and white angels, selfless suffering and its effect on humanity, free will as the vital ingredient to create on earth and in heaven, and many more incredible revelations. The poignant stories in Into the Light will leave you feeling uplifted in faith, hope, and love.
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Negotiating With Angels
It was one of those blindingly hot July days, dripping with humidity, when I pulled into Houston Hospice in my usual hurry. As I walked towards the hospice house, I took a moment to appreciate the serene gardens and breathe in the verdant beauty, as it seemingly emanated a sense of peace and love that was almost palpable. My pace suddenly slowed as I was now surrounded by gentleness, kindness, and perfect love. I had always sensed this love and peace radiate from the hospice facility, but never to this degree. I was about to meet wisdom and knowledge in the form of a blind 9-year-old boy with terminal cancer.
Matthew was not assigned to me. His usual doctor was unavailable to attend to him, so she asked if I could handle his admission to the inpatient care facility, the last stop for most terminally ill patients. I was happy to do it. I had heard that this was a very special 9-year-old boy, who had requested a transfer from home hospice to the inpatient unit so as not to cause further hardship on his family. I was curious to see what kind of child would do that. Walking toward his room, I skimmed through the hundreds of medical and surgical reports as well as the invasive and aggressive treatments Matthew had received over the last two years. I was in awe of how anyone, let alone this young, vibrant boy, could still be alive.
I took a deep breath as I entered his room and immediately felt a wave of compassion as I took stock of the ravages of his illness. Immediately I sensed there was something else present that drew my attention more strongly, something not visible, but palpable. A feeling? Energy? Wisdom? Courage? It was something familiar, but I didn't quite recognize it. I stopped for a moment, trying to identify the feeling, but Matthew heard or felt me enter the room, so I shook it off and introduced myself to put the family at ease. "I am Dr. Lerma. Welcome. You must be Matthew," I said, intentionally directing my salutation to Matthew's sister, who was sitting directly opposite from Matthew.
When she started to laugh, Matthew protested loudly, "No, silly, I'm Matthew." Amazingly, he knew I had addressed her instead of him, considering he had been blind for more than a year. He smiled a magical crooked smile and began an animated attempt to make me laugh. "Dr. Lerma, I want to introduce you to Regina, my tumor. The doctors call her retinoblastoma and tell me she is a bad tumor, but I consider her my friend. You see, Dr. Lerma, Regina is going to help my family and other children who are sick."
"How is that possible?" I asked.
"Well, God's the only One that knows that, but all I have to do is accept her."
I told Matthew that I was so proud of him for wanting to help his family as well as so many people. I felt this was a coping mechanism, albeit one I had never experienced from a 9-year-old boy with an incurable and aggressive cancer to both his eyes. How could this fragile young boy, who was diagnosed only three years earlier, followed by the surgical removal of his eyes, with concomitant multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, be so selfless and still without apparent worry? Was his spirituality the reason for his miraculous survival? "Soooo," Matthew said, sounding reminiscent of Dr. Freud, "you're not one of those seeerious doctors, are you?" I assured him that I was not, and the child blurted out excitedly, "I knew it. You're the one I've been waiting for. The one they told me about!" At that moment, I caught a movement in my peripheral vision and whirled around, thinking someone had entered the room, but oddly, no one was there. So I shook it off and asked Matthew what he meant by his last statement. He said a little cryptically and more quietly, "I'll tell you later. It's not time yet. It's a secret."
A tremendous amount of energy and joy radiated from this charismatic boy, and, as a doctor, I questioned whether he qualified for inpatient hospice care. It was apparent that Matthew was not as close to death as most patients who arrived at the inpatient facility, so I asked his mother why she felt he needed aggressive symptom management. With tears in her eyes and a shaky voice, she said, "He asked to be brought here because he didn't want to die at home. Dr. Lerma, I told him that God was going to heal him and was not ready for him, but no amount of persuading could change his mind. Matthew said his time was really close and that he did not want to burden his sisters and me with the difficult job of caring for him as he died. He is such a wonderful boy, always thinking of us, and watching out for us. Matthew said he would be the kind of man that would always protect us. I don't know how he does it. I wouldn't have the strength to stay alive like he does. Dr. Lerma, you know I don't really believe in God, but I am starting to think that he was sent to my daughters and me from something greater than us all. Possibly God? Will you pray with me, Dr. Lerma?"
She was now crying inconsolably. Brushing a tear from my own eye, I put my arm around her and, softly but with fervor, prayed the only prayer I knew: the Lord's Prayer. In a piecemeal fashion, she recited the prayer along with me, and at its end, she looked at me square in the eyes and said, "Don't you feel it, Dr. Lerma? You know a presence of something wonderful and loving?"
"Without a doubt," I replied. "Without a doubt." I was truly inspired by what Matthew's mother had sensed.
Matthew's courage and strength, and ability to find joy during adversity, were astounding. I remember the physicians and nurses at the cancer hospital talking about how he radiated love and joy. They said that, despite his painful therapies, his constant smile, his beautiful, wise words, and his spontaneous heartfelt hugs always managed to make everyone feel loved. Medically, this fragile child, with a softball-sized tumor protruding from his right scalp, should have died months ago, slipped into unconsciousness, or have been in the throes of excruciating pain. Yet, he defied all the odds. Instead of an intolerant, resentful child, here was a joyful 9-year-old boy who had no problem holding clear conversation and an uncanny knack of making people feel happy. After a few visits, I noticed that I was not the only one captivated by Matthew's pure joy and infectious laugh. Everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him called him mature, delightfully funny, loving, compassionate, and wise beyond his years. Word of his alluring and charming personality drew families from surrounding rooms, often leaving them feeling profoundly moved. Incredibly, this sanguine, youthful spirit willfully accepted the life God had given him. As Matthew put it so eloquently, "My illness will bring my mom to Jesus Christ, and that is worth it!"
After Matthew's regular doctor returned, I felt the need to continue my visits. It was as if I was magically pulled into the room every time I passed the door. One day I asked Matthew how he had lived so long with all that he had endured. He seemed to be deciding if it was time to share this information. He cocked his head as if listening to someone talk, and then he said simply and matter-of-factly, "Okay, I'll tell him. Well, doc, it was a gift from God's angels." I was a little surprised by this revelation, but sometimes patients did mention angels, and I usually just ignored it as a side effect of the medications or the hallucinations of the dying mind. But this felt different somehow, as Matthew was very lucid and had refused all medications since his admission. Not wanting to jeopardize the relationship I had developed with Matthew by openly doubting his comments, I eagerly pursued the conversation by asking him what he meant by "it's a gift from God." He replied, "It's okay to tell you my secrets now. The angels just gave me permission to talk to you. I have lived this long because I asked my angels for extra time to allow my mother and sisters to accept my illness and death and especially to accept God."
"Why do you think your family needs all this help?" I asked Matthew.
"Dr. Lerma, my mother became very angry with God after my dad left us. She had no job, and my father did not help with money. She was angry with God. Then when they found my cancer, she lost her belief in God. She wondered why God was taking everyone she loved and at a bad time in her life. She stopped going to church, and my sisters followed my mom. I am going to help my mother and sisters. God has allowed me to stay until they are healed."
"Don't you want to be healed, Matthew?"
"In the beginning, yes, but now I know that, if I'm healed, my mom will not find God, and that is not good. I want to always have my mommy. So I am going to die to help my mommy find God. This way, I will have her forever. Do you understand, Dr. Lerma?"
"Oh Matthew, of course I do. I don't know what to say. I wish you could be healed and your mom find God too. Why can't the angels and God make that happen?"
Matthew replied, "Dr. Lerma, if you could see the other side, you wouldn't be asking me that question. You will see. It is all going to be perfect."
I was completely mesmerized by Matthew's astonishing revelations. How could his comments be construed as delirious? The clarity and clear understanding of his reasoning were beyond belief. I was now deeply captivated with Matthew's logic, and thus continued my conversations and delved further into researching the hallucinations of the dying.
Matthew continued, "The angels assured me that my family will find peace through Christ as a result of my faith and unconditional love for them." I could not believe the wisdom that was being imparted by this 9-year-old. Matthew said he had always believed in God's angels and had been conversing with them every Friday since he began chemotherapy. By this time, he knew that his illness had a purpose — a purpose to help his family and the world. I asked him how it would help the world, and he said, "Oh, you'll see how it works. The angels have plans for you, too, but that's still a secret." I couldn't drag any more information out of him, no matter how often I asked. I never knew a child who could keep a secret so well, but this was no ordinary child. The angels had chosen a worthy messenger.
What kind of child has the presence of mind to think so clearly about death, and to be so concerned for others when he is experiencing such trauma? And why did he request admission to our acute care center? What made him think he was about to die? How could he not be in excruciating pain with such a rapidly progressive, intra-cranial malignancy? These were questions that plagued me, and finally I decided to ask Mathew.
That same evening, when I got around to asking Matthew why he had requested admission for inpatient care, he confided, "I know my time is close, and I don't want to die at home. It would make my family too sad."
"How do you know this?" I asked.
As he glanced toward his mother, Matthew smiled and stated, "My angels told me."
This was the first time he had mentioned the angels in his mother's presence, and she looked completely shocked as she said, "You never told me that. Why didn't you tell me you were seeing angels?"
Again, as though it was as natural as rain, Matthew replied, "I wasn't supposed to tell you until now, but now it's okay to talk about them."
I pretended to whine as though I were a curious child, "So what can you tell me about the angels?"
Matthew grinned mischievously, and said, "Now that you ask, I can tell you a lot, but Dr. Lerma, first read me a short story, then I'll tell you more." He handed me a small children's book and told me to open it to page 24. As I searched for the page, I saw the simplicity of the stories and suddenly felt silly reading it to Matthew, as it was difficult to view him as a child. Yet, I felt it prudent to oblige him, and I cheerfully read the story aloud. It was obvious by now that Matthew had a knack for getting what he wanted; people just seemed to want to comply. The five-minute story he requested was about a little girl who kept a wonderful secret given to her by a fairy. The fairy told her that she could reveal the secret at a special time, and only at that special time. The importance of the story was veiled, but clearly evident. Matthew's mother and I both knew that his special time meant that death approached surely and steadily.
After the story, Matthew said the angels asked him to reveal the angelic messages, and that it was important to do it now. Mathew said, "I'll answer as many questions about the angels as they will allow." As a scientist, I set aside my clinical mind and opened my heart to this frail little angel messenger. My curiosity was piqued, and I eagerly began asking Matthew questions about life and God. He was clearly excited to be sharing his knowledge with regards to his disease and angelic experiences. Matthew told me, "Finally, I get to talk about all the cool stuff. Boy, it was hard not to tell anyone what I was seeing. Why don't we talk tomorrow? I am sort of sleepy right now."
"Absolutely," I replied. "Any time you want to talk with me, just have the nurses page me. I don't care what time it is. I am here for you, Matthew. Remember: I love you."
He smiled, gave me a warm hug and a kiss on my cheek and said, "Sleep with the angels, Dr. Lerma. I love you, too."
Matthew had me paged the following morning. He wanted me to talk and play with him. Surprisingly, I had an unusually low number of admissions that day, so I was able to spend all morning with him. Oddly, the next day was even slower, and in fact the entire week had been among the slowest in years. Was this just coincidence? Whatever it was, the extra time could not have come at a better time. As I entered his room, Matthew, without any pain or distress, asked me if I wanted to assemble Lego structures. "Boy, that sounds cool. I always wanted a Lego set when I was young," I told him.
"Well, here's one. Let's go at it," Matthew commented. While playing, Matthew looked at me, as though he could see me, and said, "Okay, let's talk about the angels. Ask me some questions. I can feel your heart, and it has questions, so shoot."
I started the conversation. "Are there any angels with us today, Matthew?"
"Oh yes, they are here."
I looked around, but couldn't see anything, so I just kept talking. "How many angels do you see?"
"What color are they?"
"They are bright gold."
"How tall are they?"
"They are a little taller than my favorite basketball player, David Robinson."
"Do they come to you when you are sleeping or when you are awake?"
"Both ways. They come in my dreams, and we all go swimming with the dolphins, seals, and penguins. It's a lot of fun. When I'm awake, they teach me things about the earth and people."
"Can you tell me what they teach you about the earth and people?"
"Yes. They tell me that the earth is sick like I am, and that the people have to learn to make it feel better so that everybody can be healthy and happy. Sometimes when I'm swimming with the dolphins and playing with Gabby, I can hear the earth crying because it is sick and is sad. It makes all of us sad. But Gabby has shown me what makes the earth laugh."
"And what makes the earth laugh, Matthew?"
"You make it laugh by swimming with the dolphins, seals, penguins, fish, and a bunch of other animals, and saying thank you to God for the water, plants, and all that stuff. Do you get it, Dr. Lerma?"
"Boy, do I get it. Thank you, Matthew, for teaching me what I have forgotten with regard to respecting our planet and the animals God created for enjoyment and survival. By the way, Matthew, do your angels have names?"
"Yes. The biggest one is Gabby, then Noe, and Raphy. They love us so much, Dr. Lerma."
I thought those were very strange names for angels, but then again, could those be nicknames for Gabriel, Noel, and Raphael? Was it possible that two of Matthew's angels were the Archangels the Bible spoke of? At that moment, a beautiful, young lady entered the room, and Matthew, looking elated, shouted out, "Hi, Mrs. Smith!" She and I looked at each other in total amazement, and silently wondered about his extrasensory perception. I immediately thought about what an opportune time it was to find out more about Matthew's social, emotional, and spiritual persona. Once again, without any prompting from my behalf, Matthew asked his teacher to recount a story that happened a few months earlier. It was this brief story that gave me a precise picture of who Matthew had always been. Mrs. Smith recounted:
Matthew begged to go to school for show-and-tell day, and, although he was not in great shape to do it, the school wanted to help make him feel good in any way they could. All the kids showed up with that special something that would distinguish them from each other. Bubbly Susan brought her goldfish, little Jeff his fire truck, and Xavier even brought his loving mommy. In the end, it appeared that toys, animals, and even parents were the exhibits of choice. That was the case until Matthew was wheeled to the front of the classroom.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Into the Light"
Copyright © 2007 John Lerma.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction The Last Days of Life,
Chapter 1 Negotiating With Angels,
Chapter 2 The Smile,
Chapter 3 A Change of Heart,
Chapter 4 The Dreamer,
Chapter 5 Angel Feathers,
Chapter 6 Deep Remorse,
Chapter 7 The Angelic Nurse,
Chapter 8 Father Mike,
Chapter 9 Heaven in Room 212,
Chapter 10 MiMi and the Confirmation,
Chapter 11 Redemption,
Chapter 12 The Phone Call,
Chapter 13 The Circle Completes Itself,
Chapter 14 The True Believer,
Chapter 15 A Test of Faith,
Chapter 16 The S Factor: The Supreme Act of Love,
Evidence for Pre-death Visions of the Afterlife,
About the Author,