Where do we go when we die?
That’s the question that everyone – believer or not – has longed to find the answer to. Is it Heaven? The white Pearly Gates? Is it nowhere – and we’re doomed to eternity in the cold, dark earth? Do we come back, reincarnated as Justin Bieber’s pet monkey? Do we become a star in the night sky? Really…Where do we go?
As you know, my mom had a stroke back in December. And I’ve never shared this, but she was “gone” for about 45 minutes. And during that time, she had…well…a near death experience. And came back with a lot to say.
I don’t know if what she experienced was Heaven, but it sure sounds like it. And the vision she came back with has been continuing to come up and impact our lives ever since in big ways. — Even just yesterday.
So I had the honor of sitting down and listening to her story in her own words.
So I invite you to take a listen. I promise you, it will move in your sprit and bring you such peace and hope.
Thank you mama, for having the courage to share such an intimate part of your story with us.
And for those of you who would rather read than listen, I’ve transcribed our conversation below.
Thanks for listening.
_________(Click the red play button in the box below or follow this link!)________________
Well, hi mama.
How are you doing tonight?
I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Good. So I wanted to just, first of all, thank you for doing this. It’s really brave of you to want to share your story. I mean, this is something that, I mean, I don’t know of anyone else who’s had an experience like this, and so it’s really cool that you’d want to share this.
Well, I’m happy to do so.
So, you wanna get into it, and go back to December 27, 2016?
Well, sure. So, on December 27, we were out to dinner and I had kind of, overlapping vision. I was having a hard time seeing and we got a phone call and had to leave, and so we got up to leave and I felt really strange. I felt like the room was kind of spinning. And by the time I got to the front steps of the doorway, I pretty much just passed out. And I fell down the steps, and so then dad picked me up and carried me to the car, and I think I was just like, a ton of bricks, you know? So anyway…
It was really scary. I was with you.
And I always tell people, I know you didn’t watch the show, but, The O.C. – do you remember how I used to watch that show in high school?
Well the most famous scene from it is when Ryan Atwood is carrying Marissa Cooper, who’s…who had just died in a car accident – and he’s carrying her, like, in his arms and her head is limp all the back, and her arms and everything, it’s just like carrying, you know… and that’s how dad was carrying you into the emergency room. It was just the most terrifying thing.
I’m so sorry that you had to see that Care.
Oh, mama, it’s okay.
It must have been really scary. But anyway, the story turns out pretty good, because…Anyway, I was unconscious, right. I think was unconscious for about 45 minutes. So, a lot can happen in 45 minutes, and what happened to me was that I – believe it or not, it sounds very funny, but, I did have a religious vision during this time. And so, what I saw was a long path and over the top of the pathway were these hands that were extended and I just knew that they were God’s hands. I didn’t see Him, but I say His hands.
Were they scary, or were they like…
No, no, they were nice hands. They were good hands. And then off to the right, in what seemed to be kind of misty clouds, were a series of faces, and I knew most of these people They were old friends of my mom.
Were they interacting with you, or were they just kind of there?
No, they were just smiling. Like they knew me, and they were really glad to see me, and they were happy. And so they were up on the right, and then my vision went to the very end of this long road, and you know how a road narrows as it gets longer…you can barely see the road.
So that’s what this vision was, and at the end of the road, there was this little tiny figure of this man, and he got bigger and bigger. And pretty soon, I could see that, gosh, he must have been a priest because he had a long robe on, and it was a brown robe, and it had…not really sleeves, but they’re sort of like, well they’re..I can’t think of the word for it, but they’re like, a garment that goes around your top.
Like a tunic?
Sort of, yeah. It’s like it’s a robe, but it’s cut off at your elbows. So anyway, he got closer and closer and I could see that he was dressed like he must have been, I didn’t know how old he was, but I knew that he did not come out of our day and age. He said, “You’ve gotta go back. It’s not time for you yet. You’ve got to go back right now.”
Oh my gosh.
And I said, “Who are you?” And he said, “I’m Father Jacques.” And I said, “Father Jacques who?” And he said, “Father Jacques Marquette. You know, Father Jacques Marquette.” And then he pointed and he said, “You’ve got to go back now. It’s not your time to be here.” And so I woke up. I went back right away. And when I woke up, you were sitting at the side of my bed. And I told you, I said, “Father Jacques…” But I didn’t get the whole thing out. But then I think I went back to unconsciousness.
You want me to jump in here for just a sec?
But you thought I was saying a friend’s name: Father Jan.
Because I was just kind of like, in a bubble. I was just saying, “Father Jaaa..”
So anyway. You then called Father Jan, and got it set up for him to come over and….
Yeah, so what happened was…So when you said, you were like slumped over in this wheel chair in the ER lobby, and dad was you know, being a whirling dervish, you know, “Can I get my wife an aspirin?!” You know like, trying to get…because you know how an emergency rooms are. And there were four guys, when they saw you come in, four like big men who were waiting in the waiting room with their wives or something like that, they all came over and they helped keep you in the chair, because you were sliding out because you were just, you had no control of your body – you were just slumped. So I was kneeling at your feet in front of the wheelchair and the three men were on either side, and that’s when you said, “Father Jaa..” And when you said that, I thought you were saying “Father Jan,” because Father Jan is our, he’s been our family priest – he baptized us, he married my brother, he’s our – he’s basically part of our family. And so I thought that you were …
And I worked for Father Jan for 10 years. And up until like right before I had the stroke.
I know – we were talking about him at dinner before you had your stroke, and so I thought that you were asking for him to give you Last Rites or something. So I quick texted one of our family friends and was like, “What’s Father Jan’s phone number, quick!” You know, like, I need this. But then, when we were talking by your bed, you were like, no, “Father Jacques” and I was like, wow. You know.
Who is that?
Yeah, like who the heck is that?! So keep going mama, you’re doing great.
Ok. So, Father Jacques. I had this vision of him, and he told me I had to go back. So I did go back, and I told you about him. And you pulled up on your phone a picture of him, and I said, ‘that’s him!” He looked like he was born in another century. He had funny hair. Wore it in a different than they do today, He had the cape and the long outfit on. Anyway, so we identified him as Father Jacques Marquette, and that is who he had told me that he was. And so, then I started to get a little better and better, and I was really…I couldn’t read anything. But more recently, I’ve been able to read, and so I’ve sent away for like, Amazon and different places: four different books about FJM, and I ‘ve read all about him, and it’s crazy. CRAZY! But he, when he came over in the 1600s – he came over in 1666, and he went up to – near Sault Ste. Marie.
Where is that?
Sault Ste Marie is in Michigan. And it is not very far from our cottage, which is in northern Wisconsin. So he travelled the area right around out cottage. And then what happened is really really crazy, and it’s just got to be a God incident. He travelled down the Fox River, which both dad and I lived on the Fox River. Dad lived on the Fox River his entire life.
But my parents moved to the Fox River after they sold their home. So anyway, we both had places on the Fox River that were about a half a mile away from each other. So thinking about FJM coming down the Fox River, it was just incredible to me. And then to think that he took the Fox River until it met up with the Wisconsin River, and then it met up with the Illinois River, and then that met up with the Mississippi River, and he took it all the way down to Arkansas where he decided to turn around and come back, because the Native Americans were rather fierce down there. Anyway, but I learned a lot about FJM.
Wow. So that’s just crazy. And you were saying, he’s not a saint yet. Do you think that this is some – Do you think that he wanted to reach out to you so that he could get canonized? Or, that’s just – that’s just incredible that he was from your stomping ground. And not to mention, he’s a Jesuit priest, and our oldest brother went to a Jesuit college, and spent a year on the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. It’s just all so – just
Yeah, it is. Well that’s why I’m like obsessed with it, Caralyn. I just…I’m like really obsessed with it because there are so many reasons why it should make sense to us. And I would love to do something to further FJM’s canonization process. And I’m – so far I’ve done a pretty good job of researching his life and what he was all about. And where he came over from France. But I would also like to – I’d like to know…I’d like to do something to help him get canonized.
Well, I think telling your story like this is huge.
Yeah, and so I have to find the right people to tell it to. And that’s why I want to go and actually walk and drive the trail that he took.
Yeah, so tell us what you’re planning to do.
Well, we’re planning to go up to – start in Sault Ste Marie, and then we’ll drive over to the west. I forget the name of the town, but he started his ministry over here in a town that’s on the very western edge of Lake Michigan. And then to trace that back to Sault Ste Marie, and then come down from Sault Ste Marie to all the little places along the Fox River, and then down to Chicago, and then over to the places that led him to his final destination, which is Arkansas. I want to gather as much information. And there are actually, if you research this online, there are a ton of places that are – that have markers on them where his canoe went through. And I would love just go and gather and pray and get as much information as I can and see if something happens.
Yeah. Oh my gosh, I think something will. I mean , I think if you go on this pilgrimage, I think that God is going to reveal something to you, or you’re going to learn something about yourself or – I think that if you – when you go, it’s going to be a big deal, and I’d love to go with you, if…that’s in the cards.
Well I would love to have you come with me. It’d be fun actually.
You know, to go and retrace his steps, going back to the 1600s. Our country has changed so much. There are just high ways and everything all along the banks of Lake Michigan for example, and down to Chicago, and then all the way over. You know, the highways kind of follow the rivers, so
That wasn’t how he was getting around in the 1600s, huh.
No. No , it wasn’t. He was doing it all by canoe. I think it would be a lot of fun.
So. Should I tell about the…yeah. So just yesterday, you got an email from one of your church friends who said that this Christian film company was looking for locations for a Christian film that they’re filming in Southwest Ohio, where we live. And, so you just out of the blue, just forwarded it to me, and was like, “Hey this is a Christian film company that’s coming to, literally our backyard, Just head’s up.” You didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know anything about it, but I was like, “Eeh, I’m going to look into this.” So , I do a little research, and I come to find that it’s literally a story – the film is literally telling the story of Father Jacques Marquette. Isn’t that insane?!
I know! We actually already talked about this, so my surprise level is kind of tamped down by now, but last night when I found out, I was absolutely shocked and I was amazed that they were going to be doing a story about FJM.
Yeah, I had goosebumps all over.
And in our town!
Yeah! And so I actually reached out to the director, and I told him your story, and I have an audition for the role! Which is crazy! Obviously not FJM, but for another role in it, which is just , I mean. I don’t know mom! FJM, like God is using him for our family for something, you know!?
I don’t know, it is really – it’s jaw dropping, and it’s an amazing event. It’s amazing.
Maybe we should buy stock in Marquette University.
Yeah. That would be good, wouldn’t it.
So, it’s been 10 months since your stroke. What do you think God is trying to tell you through this? What have you learned? Really. What do you think?
Well, I really don’t know, and that’s why I want to go. I’m a do-er. And I want to go and I want to learn everything there is out there about Father Jacques, and I want to retrace his steps. And I just I don’t know Caralyn, I can’t say right now. But ask me in another month or so and I may be able to tell you.
Okay. And then just, what about in general. What are some of the take aways, because your life has done a 180. You’ve really been through a lot here, and what’s been a take away for you from all of this?
Well, the biggest take away is how much I love and appreciate all that my family gives and who they are. And what they’ve done for me. And when you’re recovering from something like this, you’re really absorbed in just, your thoughts, and trying to get words out and make sense, and so it’s been an amazing journey for me. And the – one of the biggest things that I can say is that, how grateful I am, of course for dad, because he’s in this with me 24/7.
Yeah, he’s amazing.
But also, Care, for you. Because you have given so much to me, and you know, I can’t pay you back. I can’t pay you back!
Oh, mama, I’m not looking for you to pay me back. I’m paying YOU back for all the dirty diapers you changed when I was growing up! No, but honestly mom, it’s been – one of the biggest take ways for me has been really – it’s shown me a lot about the priorities in my life and truly, how much I love you and you know.
Well, thanks Care. That’s really obvious.
You my best friend.
I can’t tell you how much I love you and appreciate you. So thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.
Well, I know dad is going to be getting home here pretty soon, so I will let you go. But again, thank you for – it’s so brave of you to share this story. You know, I think a lot of people shy away from talking about their faith. And that’s one of the things I’ve learned from you growing up is that you should never shy away from talking about God. You know – I’ll brag on you for a second here. How many years did you teach bible study? Was it 13 years?
Yeah. And you know, these weren’t little 6-person book clubs…which there’s nothing wrong with – these were like, 150 person classes that you..I mean…One of the coolest things during your recovery of your stroke was when you did all of your friend “Meet Ups.” And so what was, was that you met with a different every day. You literally sent out a sign up sheet on an email thing through Calendly, and just sent it out to your address book of friends. And was like, “Hey! Who wants to meet up for coffee!? Like, just sign up for a 30 minute time slot!” Which – first of all, I hope you know that not many people have an address book of people that would actually show up to do that. You know, that’s a huge thing that is amazing in itself, but then I went with you on all of these. And then to hear each person – literally every single person that you met with told you, they were like, “Mary, I can’t tell you how your bible study class change my life and my family’s life.” And they were quoting things that you said six years ago, as though it was just yesterday, because it had made such an impact. That was the most – I mean, I have so much admiration for you, anyways. But this was just – incredible just to see and hear in people’s own words how you have changed their lives. So that was just really – that was amazing. So I think you are a brave, strong woman. And sharing your heart and sharing your faith is something that I really look up to.
Well thanks Care. And you know, God has got something for each one of us to do. And I know that whatever He has in store for you – and it could your blog. Or it could be something yet to come. I know that you will have the same experience where – I know you will have the same experience, let’s just say that.
Thanks mama. Alright, well maybe we’ll have to do an update when you get back from Wisconsin.
That’d be great. I would love that, Care.
Well, thanks so much again. And this is us signing off.
You’re welcome. This was a lot of fun. Thanks for thinking of me.
Love you mama.
I love you too, honey.