ARE WE BORN INTO DEATH?
Those of you who read Heaven Knows may remember Julia Phillips Ruop who became seriously ill in the 1930’s and needed urgent thyroid surgery. In those far-off days, only a local anaesthetic was available for most operations, and during her surgery the doctors had to keep Julia talking and singing so they could locate her vocal cords!
Can you imagine that? I don’t even like going to the dentist, so I don’t want to think about how terrifying it must have been to carry on a conversation with your surgeon – let alone sing to him – as he operated on your throat!
She was doing quite well at this daunting task, however, when suddenly she found herself looking down at her physical self. She could clearly see the group gathered around the operating table from a short distance above their heads.
“Doctor, her pulse is going!” the nurse exclaimed.
Julia was initially amazed at this strange perspective, but quickly calmed down as she began a long journey through a dark passageway. “This must be what they call dying,” she thought.
I did not include details of Julia’s other-worldly travels in Heaven Knows, so here they are:
“I emerged into an overwhelmingly wide space of light,” she later recalled for Guideposts Magazine in 1963. [It was] “a pulsing, living light which cannot be described in words. Here my body felt light and free and for a little while I drifted about with no apparent destination.”
Eventually, Julia found herself sitting on what seemed to be a cloud, or some kind of heavenly island. She was looking into an enormous convex window which she described as resembling half of a huge crystal ball.“I knew that it was not glass,” she explained, “for I could easily have stepped through to the other side.”
What Julia saw there made all earthly joys pale into insignificance for her. “I longed to join the merry throng of children singing and frolicking in an apple orchard. The air had a brilliant clarity that made small details stand out in a new light – the orchard in translucent white and pinks, startling shades of greens, reds, yellows and russets. There were both fragrant blossoms and ripe red fruit on the trees.”
“My heart yearned to become a part of this beauty,” she recalled wistfully, “but somehow, I could not bring myself to go through the window.” She became aware of a loving but invisible presence, and was conscious of the fact that “an invisible, tenacious restraint pulled me back each time I leaned forward with that intention.”
By this time, she had lost all memory of her identity. Even her name no longer mattered to her. “All I needed to do was to keep my eyes wide open and step through the window to be a part of what I saw.”
Instead, she found herself closing her eyes, and as she did, she receded further and further away from the window.
After another long journey through the passageway, she returned to the room where doctors and nurses were working frantically over her motionless and limp body.
“Why must I return?” she wondered. “Do I have to come back?” She received no answer, but she knew intuitively what the response would have been. She also knew that she had ties on this side, although she couldn’t remember who or what they were.
“Reluctantly,” she recalled, “I entered [my body] through what seemed to be the natural door, the former soft spot at the top of my head.”
Once in the body, Julia tried again to remember who she was. She tried to alert the doctor that she was back, but doubted she had enough strength to make the weakened physical shell she had entered move so much as a muscle. All the same, she made a valiant attempt and managed to wiggle one finger. A nurse exclaimed: “Glory be, she’s coming to!”
Julia had been ‘gone’ for fifteen minutes!
In her drowsy state, she tried again to remember her name, but it still wouldn’t come. Suddenly, the names of her beloved husband and four-year-old son came back to her, and when that happened, she instantly knew she was Julia.
“The rest of that day and the next,” she wrote, “that other world was far more real to me than the one to which I had returned.”
The lure of that heavenly place she had glimpsed was so strong that she had to fight the inclination to escape once more to its glorious freedom. She begged her husband hold her hand day and night, and when he needed a break, her sister took his place. Julia sensed there was a mysterious link between her soul and the palm of her hand and felt that without this connection, she would drift away, back to that “real world” where peace, beauty, serenity and overwhelming love had surrounded her.
Julia later wrote: “While I was hovering between two dimensions of life, all the meanings of life and death seemed to pass before my inner eyes. Awareness came strong that the dying of the earthly body was not a calamity. Death was a natural transformation into another phase of living, where one could go right on joyfully progressing, if ready. One graduated from this room of learning to another, just as real and important.
This recognition brought another intuitive breakthrough: “… there is a comparison to be drawn between birth of the spirit, and childbirth. We know that if the infant has ready the equipment for breathing … then he is able to live in a world of air. However, if the fetal development is incomplete or faulty, he is unprepared for a world where breathing is a necessity.”
She recognized that in the same way, if the soul or spirit remained undernourished or underdeveloped, it could not enter into – or function freely – on the other side.
“It came to me with certainty, then, that one began there in the next world where he leaves off in this life. And if one is unprepared or unable to breathe the atmosphere of that state, or bear the light of a more intense or luminous quality, then one would have to go through a period of waiting or adjustment.”
This breakthrough provided her with a deeper understanding of the purpose of suffering, and to the value of everyday relationships.
“Not to grow spiritually,” she concluded, “seemed to me then, and still does, the real death of the individual.”
All comments are welcome!