Excerpt for Into God's Country by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Endorsements for Into God’s Country:



“I was so blessed by Into God’s Country. What happens when you put God into a box? Well, He is not only IN the box but He is nearly everywhere OUTSIDE the box as well… surprise! It is amazing to me that the God of the Universe seeks out unique and personal opportunities to communicate His great love, affection, concern and care for us in so many ways. This book encapsulates this amazing communication of care and comfort to, not just one man in his loss, but to an entire group of people telling the same story from different viewpoints of what the transition from our fragile earthly bodies to our heavenly lives will be like when you are in Christ Jesus. The riches of the experience and the security of our destination are so ingrained on every page of this truly lyrical book. Most of the time you describe a book as a ‘page turner’ because of action and suspense like a thriller but this is a thriller of a whole other kind! This is a great ‘must read’ and then ‘buy-for-a-friend’ that I have come across in a long, long time! Kudos, gentlemen on this translation of God’s intervention into our world to send a message of His loving care by turning our mourning into dancing.”


Amanda Llewellyn, Multi-Award Winning Writer and Producer

(The Moment After I & II, 168 Hour Film Festival winner;

Sid Roth’s, “It’s Supernatural” Segment Producer)



Into God’s Country is a remarkable journey from a complacent faith to one that is battle-tested through adversity and grief. Eric Stogner’s story of how God prepared him and his wife Katie for her eventual passing from this life to the next is a story of God’s grace and how it truly is possible to find joy even in the shadow of death. Months before she died, Eric was given a ninety-minute vision of heaven. His glimpse of eternity was confirmed by five other people who received either a dream or vision related to Katie’s graduation to glory. Eric’s story rings true and powerful. If you or a loved one are troubled about dying and where you will spend eternity, you will find this book a tremendous encouragement. It offers a sure hope for an eternal future allowing you to face the unknown darkness of death with faith, hope and even joy for what lies beyond the veil of this life.”


Russ Breault, President, Shroud of Turin Education Project, Inc.



“I love your book! It is well written, and really speaks to the reader – in a way that it feels like it’s from the Holy Spirit at times, and in a way that inspires me to be more open to hearing His voice. I feel like I'm there with the people who are having these experiences.”


Dorothy Bullard, retired

Prescott, Arizona


Into God’s Country


Dreams and Visions show

a Believer’s passage to Heaven


Eric Stogner

with Jim Dobkins



Copyright 2017 by Eric Stogner


ISBN: 978-0-943247-19-9


Cover design by Marti Dobkins and Elijah Dobkins

Published by UCS PRESS


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Most of the Bible verses quoted in this book are from the New International Version (NIV) translation.


NOTE: Some names in this book have been changed for reasons of privacy.


Also, out of respect for God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all references to God in any of the Triune God forms, the pronouns are capitalized; i.e., He, Him, so forth.


Author’s Note

It had been almost five years since the first diagnosis. Five years of my wife and I riding the rollercoaster of illness and remission that is typical of the life-altering crisis of cancer. I knew that death loomed. But I had no way of knowing how much longer the journey would last or that it would all be over in less than four months.

I also had no idea that God would explode onto the scene,

BOOM.

Everything changed. My world was never again the same.

I had an encounter with God in a new and powerful way through a dream that was like nothing I had ever heard about or experienced.

It radically changed my life, and my wife’s last four months. But God didn’t stop there. He also burst into the lives of four other adults and a l0-year-old girl – all of whom had dreams or visions from God about the passing of my wife, Katie. They all occurred in the weeks leading up to and immediately after her death. Each of these separate experiences brought powerful messages of comfort. They also revealed incredible images of what happens in the spiritual realm when a Believer in Christ passes from this life to the next.

It sounds astonishing to describe, but we were each shown a portion of my wife’s journey Into God’s Country:

Heaven.

In my dream I was dramatically assured everything was ready for my wife’s welcoming into Heaven.

God creatively showed me that He is not an impersonal God. Rather, He cares for us, and is at work in the details of our lives.

You can read the Introduction and find out what my concept of God was like before the dream shattered everything I thought I knew about God. As I experienced my dream, I was sent on an emotional ride that raced from amazement to anger and feeling I’d been kicked in the gut to a place of unimaginable peace and not wanting the dream to end.

In the days and weeks that followed, I was overwhelmed and amazed as I learned of and heard about the dreams and visions others were having about the same events. Though the dreams focused around the very personal details of the passing of my wife, when you stepped back and heard all the dreams told collectively in the order that they occurred, it became clear that they told a very universal and complete picture of God’s love and concern about our lives. And showed us what we, as Christians, have been given and have to look forward to. It became clear that this story was much bigger than just a personal story that applied only to my family, but it was THE UNIVERSAL story that applies to all who are members of God’s family.

Like everybody else, all Christians will die, but we will also all be raised and live again – forever, in Heaven. This is the essence and bottom line of what it means to be a Christian. We all have souls that live forever and the wondrous stories and promises we have heard about concerning Heaven and how to get there are all marvelously true. This book recounts the words and images we were collectively shown and serves to pull back the vale that obscures this mysterious and often fearful transition on the pathway to Heaven.

I am not so much writing my story, as I am simply relating to you the story God has told and revealed to me and through the events I was honored to experience. Also, remember that I am not only telling what happened to me but I am revealing something of your story, as a Believer. My hope for fellow Believers in Christ who read this God-inspired book, is that your Faith and Hope of everlasting life and Salvation will be strengthened and deepened and any fear you may have of death will be obliterated.

If you are not a Believer, my earnest hope is that you will gain an urge to explore the Bible in search of the True living God who unconditionally loves you and has a plan and a hope for your future.


Eric Stogner



Dedication

I dedicate this book, first and foremost to God, who is the real author – because I am not telling you a story I wrote or could have imagined; but rather I am simply recounting all that God did during what can only be described as the most spiritually significant season of my life.

Secondly, I dedicate this book to my family – including first wife, Katie; my children, Matthew and Kristen; and my new wife, Clara. You see, there is even a powerful ending that comes after the story I share with you in this book of how God continued to bless me through others. Somewhat poetically, like Job in the Bible, after a season of trial and loss, my fortune was also restored two times over when I remarried and went from having two kids (one Matthew and one Kristen) to having four kids (two Matthews and two Kristens).

Well, OK, Matthew, Matthew, Kristen and Christina. But, you get the idea. God has blessed me with almost double of everything – something I could never have imagined. And they are all a great blessing in my life.


Acknowledgments

In addition to the people featured in the book who each experienced dreams and visions, I could fill many pages with names of people I would like to acknowledge, because so many played key roles in my life during this season of trial and spiritual growth. But a few true stand-outs include:

Jim Weathers, my friend and mentor who walks so closely with God that he sometimes seems to glow like Moses after an encounter with God. Ann Laramore, a co-worker and spiritually-minded friend whose servant heart is always seeking ways to honor God and help others in their hour of need. She helped me hold it all together throughout the hardest times. Also, Jamie Bosworth, another dear friend, along with the guys who are part of my band of brothers who meet in a real log house to learn about and experience God every Friday morning. I guess Jamie is like Aaron to me – another great leader and trusted friend. I think of him as my best man, for the role he played throughout the journey – he actually served as my best man when I remarried.

Finally, the author John Eldredge, someone whom I consider to be a modern-day C.S. Lewis. He is a great teacher and communicator who walks closely with God and has gifted us with outstanding book after book explaining orthodox Christianity and making it so clear and inviting. God used his works to train me up throughout the cancer journey so I would be equipped for what lay ahead.


About the Author

Eric Stogner


Eric is the Manager of Kitchen Design in Design & Construction for Chick-fil-A, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, and has worked as an engineer, designer and innovator for over 22 years in the restaurant industry, after serving in the United State Army for four years. He earned his BS in Industrial Engineering at Lehigh University, and his MBA at Auburn University.

Eric values time with his family and enjoys various activities, including water sports, boating and travel. He is a former coach and Boy Scout, and he is actively involved in the Christian community through Church, Bible Study groups, and various leadership roles.

Most of all, Eric pursues an intimate and abiding relationship with the Lord. He has a passion for sharing his dream, and the dreams and visions of others that are revealed in his first book, Into God’s Country, in hopes that people will conquer their fear of death, and believe that Heaven is truly a real place and the eternal abode of those who believe in Jesus Christ.

Eric was born in New Brunswick, NJ. He currently resides in Peachtree City, GA with his wife, Clara, and is father to four grown children.


About the Co-Author

Jim Dobkins

Into God’s Country is Jim Dobkins’ 13th book credit as author or co-author. He has also ghostwritten several books. Jim scripted the documentary short Someone Who Cares, which was in Oscar competition. He has co-authored True Crime books, and several Faith-Based books with Russ Miller, including The Theft of America’s Heritage, Darwinian Delusion, 371 Days That Scarred Our Planet, and The Submerging Church.

His first book, Winnie Ruth Judd: The Trunk Murders, which he co-authored, was nominated for Crime Book of the Year and was a one-month bestseller in the Doubleday Bargain Book Club. Jim also co-wrote The Ararat Conspiracy, and authored his childhood memoirs, The Peach Tree Limb.

Jim earned his BA degree from Arizona State University, and is a ScreenwritingU Graduate. He lives with his wife Marti in Arizona. They have a son and a daughter, and seven grandchildren.


Table of Contents



Introduction: I have a powerful story to share with you.

Prologue: Leading up to my dream

Chapter One: My Dream

Chapter Two: What Does It Mean?

Chapter Three: Their Dreams and Visions

Chapter Four: God’s Trail Of Clues

Chapter Five: My Grace Is Sufficient

Chapter Six: Twilight Time

Chapter Seven: Adjusting the Compass

Chapter Eight: The Luxury of Cancer

Chapter Nine: Roots and Branches

Chapter Ten: Telling Katie About My Dream

Chapter Eleven: Up Is Down

Chapter Twelve: My Best Man

Chapter Thirteen: Déjà Vu

Chapter Fourteen: The H Word

Chapter Fifteen: Countdown To Departure Into God’s Country

Chapter Sixteen: Matthew's Verse

Chapter Seventeen: Kristen’s Faith

Chapter Eighteen: God Cares About The Unborn

Chapter Nineteen: One In Ten

Chapter Twenty: A Special Christmas

Chapter Twenty-One: Can Getting Into Heaven Be Guaranteed?

Chapter Twenty-Two: Red Pill or Blue Pill?

Chapter Twenty-Three: Heaven Comes Down

Chapter Twenty-Four: What I learned About How God Works

Chapter Twenty-Five: The story was not over yet

Chapter Twenty-Six: Hey, Eric, what’s going on lately?

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The nurses cried

Chapter Twenty-Eight: A Lost Sheep Is Rescued


Introduction: I have a powerful story to share with you.

I have to say right from the start that, prior to this experience happening to me, if someone else had spoken to me the way I am about to speak to you, well, I would probably have felt uncomfortable and would start to back away.

Really, I mean, it feels like I have been a Christian all my life, but in all those years I had never heard of things like I am about to share. I assure you that they are true and real – more real than the things of this world. I just never was told or shown such things before.

Now I can't stop sharing what the Lord has revealed to me. Let me give to you what He gave to me – a glimpse Into God's Country.

The reason for this book’s title.

Right after I and the other five people had experienced dreams and visions about the process of my wife’s passing from this physical life into the next life, all my friends were unanimous that I write a book.

All except one.

That person questioned why I felt I wanted to write a book and share this story with others. I was stunned by this response.

Frustrated by this opposition, I could not stop thinking about it as I left work that afternoon. I became more and more agitated as I drove home, thinking, “Why does he think this story does not need to be told? Is it not obvious? It’s stupendous, amazing, and frankly, out of this world.”

As I drove, I mindlessly hit the button on my car satellite radio to find a song. I knew that might take my mind off the subject. The title of the song that first came up flashed on the screen:


Reason to believe


I didn’t recognize the tune, so I immediately changed the channel. The next title was:


In God’s Country


I did a double take and said, “WHAT?”


And began switching the knob back and forth. The readout kept flashing:


Reason to believe – In God’s Country

Reason to believe – In God’s Country


“YES,” I shouted. “That is exactly why I want to write this book! – To give people a reason to believe in God’s Country.”


And this story is not just a reason to believe in the Kingdom of Heaven. It has so much more. God revealed His heart toward us, how He operates, how He holds the keys of life and death and how He truly never leaves or forsakes us.

He demonstrated what death and resurrection and ascension actually look like in the spiritual realm. He shared what we will look like when we receive our restored bodies. He showed the lengths He will go to reach out to and rescue one more soul.

Truly, the term good news is an understatement. The Gospel is great news – the greatest news ever told. So, those two song titles sum it up:

Reason to Believe In God’s Country

And, even this little story of how those words flashed before my eyes, at precisely the moment I was troubled with a question, a concern of the heart, is an illustration of one of the ways God can work. This was no coincidence and over time I have almost stopped believing in coincidences. So often, they are God-instances. God is a creative and gifted communicator, preferring sometimes to wink or nod gently – like flashing just the right words on a satellite radio display at just the right moment. Yes, He can do that and, yes, He does do that.

The message was clear to me:


WRITE THE BOOK.

This is a story that God meant to be shared. Others also pointed out that if this story was just for me, just to comfort me at a difficult time, my dream by itself would have been sufficient. But the fact that five others had related dreams in the same time period, clearly shows that this is meant for a much larger audience.

God did not act in secret this time – in fact, it seems that He wanted to reveal a lot of His truths to a wide audience.

Most Believers go around with a vague sense of what happens when we die. This true story removes the veil and provides great hope and excitement for what lies ahead and beyond the horizon of this world.

I knew I had to share the hope and the joy, and the reality of what it means to be a Christian, and what we all have come to inherit as a Believer in Jesus Christ.

The end of the story.

If you have read through the Bible, you know the end of the story:

God wins.

The Evil One loses.

Revelation is a fascinating book. Genesis tells us how everything began. Revelation tells us how everything will end.

While I would never wish the hardship that I experienced on others, I would wish to be able to pass along the deep revelation of truth God gave me in the process.

I thank God that He interrupted my life and the lives of four other adults and a 10-year-old girl with dreams and visions that gave us more reasons to believe in God’s Country.

My former viewpoint of God.

Much of my life I thought God was distant and uninvolved:

An absentee God.

My view of God was one of a benevolent clockmaker. He must be a genius to invent and create the world, with all its intricacies of life. But once created, He wound it up with a key like a clockmaker winds a clock, and then set the world on a shelf and let it run its course, essentially unattended, until the clock spring runs down at the end of the age.

Oh yes, He did spend a season tending to His creation, sending Jesus down to set some things straight and give a more thorough description of the Creator’s intents, but after Jesus left, the clock went back on the shelf and we who live on this earth were essentially left to fend for ourselves in this world God created.

God seemed distant and unavailable. I certainly saw no evidence that God was actively involved or at work in the world. Everything seemed to be on auto pilot.

I knew nothing of the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Triune God. But now that has all changed. The story I have to share is not only the powerful climax of how God opened the eyes of my heart to this reality, it goes well beyond that.

To me it is an even more powerful and more universal revelation of also what He does when a believer passes into the Kingdom of Heaven and Into God's Country.

He truly is a caring God who loves us unconditionally. He wants so much for us to live with Him that He keeps giving us opportunity after opportunity to accept eternal salvation through Jesus the Christ. One famous author once referred to God as the hound of heaven because He is so intent on pursuing us.

This is already a fantastic truth if you are my Brother or Sister in Christ.

If not, I pray that this book will spur you to open the door to your heart when Jesus knocks on it.

What this book is. And is not.

This is not a book about cancer, or how to fight and beat cancer.

It is a book about learning to recognize God’s presence in your life, including in the good times and in your suffering and troubles. Psalm 34:19 says “the righteous person may have troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” I hope to show and confirm that you are never alone. I also want to help everyone I can to see and become aware of the hallmarks of God’s love, God’s plan and His fingerprints on your life.

This book provides examples of how God uses affliction to seek His children, to draw His sheep to Him, to refine them and bring them into Christ-likeness.

I look forward to hearing from you after you have read this book.


Prologue: Leading up to my dream

September 18, 2009

Early Morning

It felt like I had been jolted with a high voltage shock. My emotions had been turned inside out and upside down.

Yet when the angel spoke I did not want the experience to end.

But right now, my mind reeled. Breath came rapidly like I’d just run a marathon.

I was in my bed. Yet I felt like I’d just been somewhere else and that I had just been dropped back into my bed from a fairly high place.

The clock was right where it should be, on the night stand:

5:30 a.m.

WHAT?

It seemed that I had just stared at the clock, and it was 4:00 a.m.

My mind struggled to reconcile that bit of information: 4:00 o’clock and 5:30 a.m.

Whatever happened to me took an hour-and-a-half. And that was the unmistakable sense of it. Something happened to me. Something so powerful and so new that I did not have the words to describe it.

I fell back on the bed, emotionally drained by a strange combination of almost every emotion you can feel happening all at once.

But why?

What had just happened?

I desperately tried to reconstruct and analyze the events of those 90 minutes and remember the contents of my dream. Was it a dream? For a minute there I couldn’t even distinguish whether what I had just experienced was a dream or was real. Though I was lying in the comfort and safety of my own bed, there was no doubt that just moments before I was somewhere else. I assumed I must have been dreaming. After all, I was in my own bed. But, then again… No – this was different – very different.

This was so completely over-the-top – so absolutely real, in full color and detail. This was no ordinary dream. Frankly, it didn’t feel like a dream at all. It felt extremely real.


The truth is that I rarely have dreams. If I do, I usually wake with no memory of anything going on in any kind of dream – good or bad. The few times I have remembered something, it was usually just a snippet of action; typically me observing some random event from the sidelines with little, if any, coherence or meaning. This dream or vision was entirely different and extremely riveting.

So, without even thinking whether it was even possible, I just closed my eyes and tried to get back into the dream. Whatever it was, it was so real and ended so abruptly that I thought somehow I might be able to pass back through whatever portal I had just fallen out of to get back to the action where I was only moments before. I soon discovered that there was no getting back into the dream. Try as I might, I could not simply will myself back there. Instead, I lay on the bed and repeatedly cried out loud as I reached up toward the ceiling:

“Lord, what was that? WHAT WAS THAT? What did You just do to me?”

I somehow knew, without question, that what just happened was from the Lord. There was no other thought or sense of doubt whatsoever. It felt like the Lord Himself, or some other being from the spiritual realm, had just taken me through an experience. As I lay there and started to calm down, the details started flooding back to me.

After sleeping in the same position all night, I remember popping wide awake and glancing at the clock. 4:00 in the morning. I am not a morning person. I never enjoy waking up early and rarely wake up alert and refreshed. Yet for some reason on that morning, I just popped wide awake at 4 a.m. for no purpose I could determine.

There was another reason that the idea of waking up well-rested was such a distant memory for me.

It had been about four-and-a-half years since my wife, Katie, had first been diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she had a remission period for a while, it had been about a year since the cancer reoccurred in other parts of her body – bones, liver, and lymph nodes.

As with anyone whose wife is fighting cancer, I shared in Katie’s battle fatigue every waking and sleeping moment. No matter where I went or what day it was, I also faced the stress and disappointments of the cancer struggle that was causing her life to ebb away.

This particular morning, however, I had awakened at 4:00 and felt very rested. Ninety minutes later I was an emotional wreck, recalling a very detailed series of events that seemed to be just moments old. At 4:00, when I was awake, I remembered thinking, “Even though I am awake and rested, I don’t really feel like doing anything else at this hour.” I was not struck with the idea of getting up, reading, spending time in the Word, or anything else, so I decided to try to roll over and go back to sleep. Even this was unusual. I have always had a hard time getting back to sleep after being awakened, especially since being in the midst of fighting cancer. Oddly, this time I was able to drift back to sleep very easily.

In fact, in retrospect, it almost seemed like I was put to sleep. Who knows? All I know is that when I closed my eyes it was 4:00 a.m. and now it was 5:30 a.m. During that time something seriously rocked my world. I was still trying to grasp what I just experienced.

What also was different – rather than the dream being fuzzy or fragmented, this multi-sensual experience came back in precise detail. I not only remembered the plot, but all kinds of details about the setting. As I recalled the dream, I could feel the atmosphere of the rooms, hear the noises and dialogue, and see the elaborate details of the rooms I was taken through. As I replayed the dream, there was a sense that, if you were watching it on a video it would only take about ten minutes in all to watch, and yet it also had felt timeless, as if time had been suspended.

At the time of the dream, life felt uneasy, but stable. There was an expectation that Katie’s health could gradually worsen, but also a hope and desire that any decline would be delayed and perhaps she could live with the cancer for a long time. Both my parents survived for over a decade after their cancer reappeared. Katie and I hoped for a similar long run before things got worse.

Little did we know what was coming, or what the Lord was about to say and do in our lives. Of course, God knew, and it was in His perfect timing that the following events unfolded in our lives.


... and noticed what appeared to be an angelic being standing near the door on the other side of the room. The being stood out in stark contrast from the surroundings, but I sensed only I could see him or her. Mari and Jack did not seem to be aware of this stranger in the room.

It felt odd, not scary, but definitely out of the ordinary that some tall being was standing there in the room watching us. I really could not tell if the being was male or female. A strong sense of strength and vitality emanated from this being. I tried to look at its face, but could not see it – or was not permitted to look upon it. It was whited out, glowing like the sun.

An angel in light.


Chapter One: My Dream

As the dream opened, I could immediately sense that I was very tired, standing alone in a bedroom next to a queen-size bed. I looked down at the bed and, because I felt so tired, I just flopped forward down onto it – thinking a short nap would do me some good.

But, as I lay there, my mind began piecing together what was happening around me and perhaps why I was so tired.

It felt to me as if my family and I had reached a destination – as if I had just finished driving my family – wife, Katie; son, Matthew; and daughter, Kristen – in our minivan on a very long trip to some sort of family reunion.

It felt similar to trips we’d made when driving from Georgia to visit relatives in New Jersey for the holidays. But this trip felt like it had taken even longer – perhaps three days – due to inclement weather or something.

Typically when we traveled in those days, Katie read and the kids watched videos while I drove.

This trip felt more difficult than any others, as if I had been concentrating on the road for a long time, my knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel while navigating through snow and ice.

As soon as we arrived and entered the house, the cumulative weariness overwhelmed me, and I looked for a bedroom to take a nap.

Though sleepy and lying face-down, I took notice of the bedspread. It was white with a large, textured circular pattern in the fabric. White fringe surrounded the edges and hung down near the floor.

I noticed that my heart was weary in a different way from my body. Although I felt a sense of merriment at some occasion, there also was a heaviness and sense of dread about this visit.

Off in the distance I heard what sounded like a small crowd of relatives gathering in another room, saying their hellos, catching up with each other:

“Oh my, look how much you have grown.”

“You have not aged a bit…”

And on and on.

I thought I recognized the voices of close relatives, including Katie’s parents, her siblings and their families. I wanted to join them, but on the other hand, I wanted to rest for a while and catch up with them a little later.

As I lay there, I wondered what specific holiday we might be there to celebrate. Again, there was this sense of joy and excitement to see others at this special time, but I also had the sense that we were gathering because of Katie’s declining health – as if the time to spend with her was limited and precious.

At this last thought I started to feel bad about avoiding the group, and decided I really should get up and join the others. But before I could get up, I heard someone calling out my name like he was looking for me. The voice got louder. It was a child, my nephew, Jack. He came around the bed, approaching my head, and kept repeating, “Uncle Eric? Where are you?” in that sort of child-like sing-song voice.

Then Jack’s mom, Mari (Katie's sister), came in the room and sat down on the bed behind me. I felt the bed move. I had been found, hiding from the crowd and trying to rest.

“Oh well,” I thought, “so much for a quick nap. I guess there is no rest for the weary.”

Though disappointed that I could not rest longer, I was truly glad they found me. I rolled over to take a look at them, and as I did, I looked up into Mari’s face. Our eyes locked and we smiled at each other. It was a happy greeting, but we also shared a knowing look. I could tell she also felt a sense of mixed emotion: gladness to see one another, but sadness because of the context of the gathering.

Regardless of why we had come, it was clear to both of us that there was a sense of urgency in the air that we all needed to be together around Katie.

An Angel in Light

Turning my gaze from Mari toward Jack, I saw beyond Mari, over her shoulder, and noticed what appeared to be an angelic being standing near the door on the other side of the room. The being stood out in stark contrast from the surroundings, but I sensed that only I could see him or her. Mari and Jack did not seem to be aware of this stranger in the room.

It felt odd, not scary, but definitely out of the ordinary that some tall being was standing there in the room watching us. I really could not tell if the being was male or female. A strong sense of strength and vitality emanated from this being. I tried to look at its face, but could not see it – or was not permitted to look upon it. It was whited out, glowing like the sun.

An angel in light.

The brightness of the angel’s face blotted out every facial detail.

The angel beckoned me with an arm motion to get out of bed. As soon as I began to move, I suddenly no longer felt tired at all. I just sat up and arose with little or no effort.

Although I don’t know whether this angelic being was male or female, I will assume – for the sake of telling my dream – the angel was female.

She seemed to be urging me to follow her out of the room. As we neared the door, I could hear and sense that all the others were in a nearby room off to the right, still greeting each other with excitement and anticipation.

But, instead of turning right and heading toward the sound of the voices, the woman turned left. Not a word was spoken between us as I followed her down a short hallway.

We stopped at the end of the hallway and paused just inside a doorway. After a while she gestured toward the room, as if to say, “Behold!” (Though I don’t remember any actual words being spoken.) She seemed to be showing off this room to me, calling my attention to the care and preparation that had been taken by someone to prepare for an important gathering.

The medium-sized room was arranged for a meal or gathering of some sort. I somehow could tell, or better yet, I was made to know that the furniture that normally would have occupied the room had all been pushed to the edge of the room to allow for four special round tables. Each table was arranged with eight to ten chairs and dinner place settings complete with dishes, silverware, cloth napkins, and a centerpiece.

It seemed the room was made up this way in preparation for a large gathering of people for a meal. There was a sense that a fairly large crowd would be present at this event that would be spread out here and elsewhere throughout the house. I was impressed at how a simple room could be transformed into such an elegant dining area. It looked very well done.

I still was wondering what the actual occasion was, and who all the guests were to be.

The woman then began walking forward through the room. I followed her as she moved gracefully between and around the tables, heading toward another doorway on the opposite side of the room. Once again, she stopped in the doorway and gestured into the next room that was beyond this doorway as if to say, “Behold!”

In a heavenly place

This time, I was startled as I looked into the second room because of the nearly-blinding bright light that flooded this second room. I had to blink and squint my eyes to adjust to this bright light.

I could see that two of the four walls – the wall to my left and the wall straight across from me – were made entirely of glass and looked out to a green, lush yard. Or at least there were green shrubs and grass just outside the windows. The sun or illumination outside was very bright.

I remember wondering where I was and thinking that perhaps if I could look outside through these glass walls, I would recognize the landscape and get a clue as to where we were. So I raised my eyes and began to look outside. But the sky was filled so much with light that I could not see any blue sky at all – just bright light.

Outside was nearly a total white-out. It was exceedingly bright, but not painful, though I did have to adjust my eyes and was unable to look out the window for more than a few moments. All I could see were the shrubs and grass immediately outside the windows. As I looked further away, all was blotted out with blinding light. In fact, what it did look like was what you see when you are in an airplane climbing up through a cloud just before breaking through the top. The windows are filled with white but you can’t see any features or anything in the distance. It occurred to me that I was in no ordinary place. Looking for familiar landmarks out the window was futile – I was in a place that I had never been before and it felt like a heavenly place. Not that I really knew what Heaven might be like, but it was just a sense of it – like a place suspended in the clouds up in the heavens. I have never felt or sensed this before or since.

In order to regain my sight, I directed my eyes back inside the room. All the while, the woman just stood silently nearby, gesturing again around the room, as if beckoning me to take a closer look at everything. Again, she seemed to be calling my attention to all of the detail and care that had gone into the preparations.

Indeed, this room was spectacular and even larger and more beautiful than the previous room. Like the first room, I was made to understand that the existing furniture had been pushed out of the way to the corners of the room to make room for another four to six tables and chairs in the middle. This room had the same kind of round tables and chairs with white tablecloths and white chairs, but the table settings were even fancier than those in the previous room. On these tables were formal china, stemware, fancy table decorations, and centerpieces. There were large glass vases in the center of each table with brightly colored flowers. Strings of white pearls and strings of silver beads were placed in a zig-zag pattern around the vases on each table.

Along one wall there were decorative palm trees made of wicker and painted bright white. These palm trees were also decorated with the same kind of white pearl strings and silver bead strings draped from branch to branch. It was quite glamorous without being overdone.

I remember looking down at a place setting and noticing that this time there was not just one plate at each seat, but multiple plates and multiple pieces of silverware. There were three or four pieces of stemware per place setting. I was stunned by the level of detail and care that had been put into each place setting.

Though I am typically not one who cares much about decorations or enjoys formal dinners, I was very impressed and amazed at how well it looked. There was a real splendor to the room. I knew that this was going to be an amazing event – one to be remembered long and well.

Finally, after taking in every detail of this second room, the woman turned to her right and began to move through this room toward another doorway in the wall to the right. I followed her as she led me past the tables. This time, rather than pause at the doorway, we walked all the way into a third room.

This room, the largest of the three, was by far the most beautiful and formal room of all, with columns of ornate woodwork. The southern-style windows ran nearly floor to ceiling, and, though they were decorated with fine drapes, they allowed just the right amount of that bright, outdoor light to enter and fill the room so that the space was very pleasantly illuminated. This seemed to be the room where the main event would occur. It had a grand entrance foyer that connected it back to the rest of the house.

Standing in the middle of the room, I stood by her side. This time the woman did not have to gesture or invite me to behold the room.

A place prepared

I was surrounded by splendor I had never experienced and needed no invitation to look around. The entire room exuded elegance and formal flare. We were standing near the middle of the long room. The theme of the rooms was starting to become apparent to me. I was seeing a place prepared – well prepared.

On one end of the room there was an open grand piano, revealing the strings within. Next to the piano was a tall silver candelabra with many candles burning brightly. On the opposite end of the room was a massive fireplace with a large ornate mantle. On the mantle were two more large candelabras also holding many candles that were lit. The room was filled with fine china and expensive-looking objects displayed around the perimeter of the room. The floor was covered with brightly-colored oriental rugs, and there were fine linens elegantly displayed.

Everywhere I looked I saw white and silver, including the table, chairs, china, and place settings. As in the previous two rooms, I could see that the couches and other furniture that belonged in the room had again been either pushed to the side or temporarily removed to make room for more round tables and chairs. The place settings were even more spectacular than those in the previous room. These were plates of the finest china, sterling silver flatware, crystal wine glasses and pitchers. The centerpieces were made up of ornate crystal vases filled with colorful fresh-cut flowers. White linen napkins were set in silver napkin rings. This room was fit for a king and was made up to perfection.

I sensed that the house was to be filled with many guests of family and friends. I could still hear in the background that the others were in a room not too far away, still excitedly greeting each other. However, as I looked in the direction of their voices, I could not see any of them, though I could see a few other rooms between where we stood and where they were. These also were well decorated and in full formal splendor.

There was this sense that the entire place was very clean, bright, and exquisitely prepared for a special event. I could tell that absolutely nothing else needed to be done; no last-minute cleaning or preparation or anything to worry about. It was perfect, like no place I’d ever known.

All was well and would be ready for the remaining guests and visitors to arrive shortly. All the while, as I took all of this in, the woman in white was standing next to me. She had still not spoken a word, but her presence permeated the room.

Then, for whatever reason, my gaze was drawn down toward the floor. Something near the leg of one of the chairs caught my attention. It was an old grey-and-black, 1960’s vintage movie camera – the kind that used old super 8 movie film – sitting on the floor by the table closest to me. I immediately knew whose it was and why it was sitting there. This was my father’s camera that he had used to film our family when I was a preschooler in the late 1960’s. I realized that this was probably a head table, and was where my father was to sit at this celebration. I understood, without explicitly being told, that my father must have set his camera there to be able to film the upcoming event. This was just like my father, always ready with the camera to capture the moment.

The thought occurred to me that I had arrived at this event in my family minivan. As is my custom, I often bring a video camera to capture events. I felt certain that I had packed my camera. I figured I surely could take much better videos of this event with my modern digital video camera than what my father would be able to capture using that old relic from the 1960’s. I was ready to race out to my car, get my video camera, plug it in to be sure the batteries would be fully charged, and have it all ready for this event. I turned to leave the room and get my camera. Even though I still did not know where I was, I did, at least, still have a sense of where my car was parked, relative to this room.

This is where the dream really gets interesting.

I had nearly forgotten about the woman in the room who had led me there in the first place and showed me all this splendor. As I started to step away, she seemed to reach out and touch my arm as if to stop me from leaving the room so quickly.

I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, you’re still here.”

She was standing next to me and still had not actually spoken a word. I did sense, however, that I was in close communication with her and that she was somehow sending me thoughts and making me understand things. She exuded this strange sense of calm and serenity. I sensed that she was to my left and had reached out and touched my left arm. When she did, I froze, almost shoulder-to-shoulder with her.

The voice

She broke her silence. She spoke in what I can only describe as an other-worldly voice. It sounded incredibly beautiful, like a mixture, somehow, of speech and music – beautiful symphony music. It was like every word I heard spoken from her lips had a harmonic background sound track. I remember thinking, “Wow! Can you just keep talking? Just say anything – the alphabet, nonsense words, anything. Keep talking so I can hear more of that incredible sound.”

And before I reveal what was spoken to me and the dramatic rollercoaster of emotions it was about to send me on, I want to pause and camp out here just a moment longer. You see – I am unable to say enough words or the right words to fully share with you just what the sound of this heavenly voice was like. It was beyond words to describe. I can only describe it as deeply harmonic and sublime. Imagine that you are standing on the 50- yard line of a massive indoor football stadium and the stands around you filled with people. Only these people are all members of a world-renowned choir and they are all singing in perfect 12-part harmony, all at once. The stadium is filled with perfectly- tuned and harmonic music. The ground seems to resonate, as does your own bones, with the sound of the music – and you are in the middle of it all. That is what just the sound of the voice felt like to me.

Her words were both powerfully calming and reassuring.

This is what she said to me, in the most matter-of-fact kind of way you could imagine:

You know, she is leaving us soon.

Immediately, I knew, or was made to know, exactly who she was referring to and what it meant. I knew with complete certainty that she meant that Katie would be passing away soon.

I was stunned; instantly filled with feelings of great pain, angst, concern, anger, fear, and defensiveness. I felt like I had just had all the wind taken out of my body, and that in its place, deep angst had risen up inside me.

It was as if every negative emotion, every hurt, every pain, every frustration and every disappointment that had been collecting over time concerning the battle against the cancer and the pending loss of my wife were suddenly welling up like a huge black tsunami-sized tidal wave on a sea of emotional unrest. It hit me so suddenly and so forcefully that I reacted to it like reeling from a gut-wrenching blow.

I stepped forward one pace and pivoted to my left to fully face this messenger. I wanted to confront this woman who was so harsh as to say such a thing. As I spun around, I was so angry and hurt that I almost wanted to punch her. Instead, I just thrust out my hand toward her in an angst-filled gesture. I can still clearly picture my arm extending out toward her, fingers half-clenched into a fist, and reeling with pain and anger. As I turned toward her, and thrust out my hand, I yelled at her in disbelief with all the anger I had inside me, “What! I’m losing her?!

As I tried to look directly into her face, demanding an answer to my question, I noticed that I still could not look upon her face. I could clearly see a white robe, but I could not really see or recognize a face. It remained so radiant and filled with light that I could almost not even look in that direction.

Then, immediately, without hesitation, and without any anger, angst, or frustration in her voice, she replied using that same overwhelmingly beautiful voice of calm serenity, and shaking her head, “No, you are not losing her. You can never lose her. But, she is leaving you soon.

Again, I froze. All I could do was stand there like a statue for a moment, stuck in that stance as I had gestured toward her. I can still remember seeing my arm extending out from me and my hand in a half-fist of twisted pain.

He calmed the storm.

The reason I think I was stunned, frozen and unable to move was that as those words were spoken, something else was happening to me – inside of me. It was as if radical surgery was done to me in an instant, as if some source of intense pain at the center of my being had just been instantly removed and cured. That is why I was standing there stunned. Something powerful had just been done to me, the likes of which I had never experienced before.

That tidal wave of negative emotion, including feelings of anger, fear, loss, frustration, had all just disappeared in an instant and at the first sound of that voice – totally. Finally gone! Not even an echo remained. It was as if that tsunami-sized wave had just immediately fallen down and collapsed, leaving the sea flat, calm and motionless. I had no more emotional turmoil or upheaval. It was all calm and peaceful like the ocean at sunset.

That is what it felt like inside during this conversation with the woman in white. I believe it was more of a message from beyond, than a conversation. In any case, when the conversation started, my emotional or internal state felt more or less calm with perhaps a few dancing thoughts or emotions darting about like small spouts or ripples in the emotional pool of my soul. As she spoke the first words, the waters in my heart seemed to become even more calm and at rest, like a pond with not one ripple.

However, as soon as I heard those upsetting words that I perceived meant that I would be losing Katie, there arose an amazing swell of internal emotion of angst, anger, and fear all wound together. It felt like a massive column of water rising straight out of the center of my soul, filled with all the fear, hurt, pain, and misery that this cancer experience contained. Yet, as soon as the second set of words were spoken by the woman in white, the massive column of water just collapsed immediately and was absorbed without so much as a splash or ripple in the water. All was calm and tranquil again, perhaps even more tranquil than before. With no explanation, and in the blink of an eye, all the negative emotions that had welled up inside me simply melted away, disappearing beneath a tranquil sea. I later reasoned that this is what it must mean when scripture says God can wipe away every tear.

As all this was happening, I was not made to forget the pain of any of my troubles or my past. If anything, I was able to remember and perceive them in more detail than ever. Nevertheless, at the sound of the angel’s voice, those painful thoughts and memories simply had no more pain attached to them. There was no fear, no angst.

It was amazing.

As I took all this in and absorbed all that was happening to and around me, I remained motionless. Then I felt the sense that I was about to fall forward and was off-balance, since I was still standing there, leaning forward with my arm still thrust out in front of me. So, it was not out of fear of the angel, but simply to avoid falling down, that I took one step backward, away from her.

As I straightened up and relaxed my arm, I remember thinking over and over again, “Who are you? Who are you that you can say those things and do those things to me?”

I kept wanting to know her identity and to see the face of the one who had done this to me, so I started looking this woman up and down once more and tried again to look at her face.

While attempting to focus on her more clearly, I noticed that the field of my vision seemed to immediately expand and enlarge. I had not realized it up to that point, but it had been as if I had been seeing everything through a pair of binoculars. It was as if I had been fitted with a set of blinders, like a horse sometimes wears, that prevents him from seeing to the side, only allowing him to look forward at what is ahead. I had this sense that my field of view had been somehow limited and I could only look straight ahead. Even though I had been able to look around, I had to move my head in order to do so, to focus on what I was looking at and what I was being shown in greater detail.

As I stood back a pace from the woman, it was as if the blinders fell away and I was able to regain my full peripheral vision. When that happened, I was instantly able to see where I was standing and knew intuitively exactly where I was. I was shocked to discover that it seemed like I was standing in my old childhood house in New Jersey. This flooded my mind. At that moment, in the room where the conversation had occurred, we were standing in the formal living room of my old house.


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