[dropcap type=”4″]W[/dropcap]e all love journey stories, especially those that tell us how someone got to where they are and those that remind us of our own journeys. Typically, the stories are ones that go from unbelief to faith or from lukewarm faith through the dark night to dynamic, inspired faith.
But how about a journey to heaven and back?
“Miracle Man,” by Catholic theologian Judy Landrieu Klein, is the story of her husband, Bernie, who died of a heart attack and then, through a miracle, came back with a story beyond near-death.
Bernie Klein was a high-energy man, the owner of a public relations firm, who dominated his family and those around him. His stubbornness cost him more than one business adventure, and Judy, more than one headache.
Bernie suffered a mild heart-attack and was forced into a regimen of medicine and life-style changes. Stubbornness didn’t help him or his family, especially because he only took his medicine when he thought he needed it. Bernie’s son from a previous marriage sank into depression and committed suicide. Bernie and Judy’s son also sank into depression and fell down the steep path of drugs, and their daughter found herself pregnant out of wedlock.
Judy’s religiosity turned extra-Catholic on the day that her daughter went into labor and Bernie suffered a second, more massive heart-attack. Judy rushed to the ER while the family took care of the daughter. There, Judy was astonished to find out that Bernie needed an immediate triple-bypass.
From this maddening, overwhelming milieu, things got better and worse at the same time.
A child was born, Judy and Bernie’s grandchild.
Bernie’s surgery went well but the state of his heart was terrible and he slipped into a drug-induced coma. Tests show that Bernie lost 75 percent of his heart function and he was then kept alive by artificial means as doctors filled him with medication to try and repair the irreparable and fight a mounting infection.
Prayer warriors, family, and friends filed in and priests arrived to administer the Anointing of the Sick, time and time again.
Judy’s faith — her deep faith — was the only thing that stood between her and crushing reality: Bernie would not make it.
Then one day, 38 days later, as doctors backed off the coma medication, Bernie woke up.
He told Judy that he experienced his death, his actual death, and he described, in great detail, the typical near-death experience reported by so many others. The difference, Bernie insisted, was that he actually saw his heart die, split in two and change color to one part dark blue and the other part gold. We may take this, of course, to represent the dichotomy between good and evil. Bernie detailed how he fought to get away from the dark blue part and strive for the gold — a lesson for us all.
He told Judy that he went to heaven but was denied entrance. He met Jesus, he also told her, and the Lord spoke to him in a language that was fully understandable but inarticulate.
The battle raged on and the doctors couldn’t see much improvement in the state of his heart. Bernie asked to be taken off life support — to Judy’s great chagrin — and the doctors removed him. As he slipped into deep slumber suddenly he recovered with renewed strength, though the doctors still saw no actual improvement in the state of his heart, and the battle still raged on.
The battle was inspirational and exhausting, especially for Bernie, for Judy, for the doctors, and for all their family and friends, but what was the miracle of this man? That he lived and died and lived again? Perhaps it was that Bernie was able to tell us a fantastic story of journey through the halls of the after-life.
“Miracle Man” is one of those stories that grabs and reminds us that the most dynamic life can be over in a heartbeat. Decide for yourselves. If you like journey stories, this is your book. If you like prayer warrior stories, this is also your book. If you like stories of living and dying and living that are dizzying, you’re going to like this book.