Oh boy. I am a bit uncomfortable doing this on a public forum. But here goes.
In October of 2003, I was on vacation and travelling by car. I stopped to help at the scene of a grisly one-car accident in rural Nevada. A young woman, the sole occupant, whom I did not know, died in my arms at the scene after 45 minutes of me administering first aid. Her car had out-of-state plates so I knew this happened hundreds of miles from her home. I was terrible scene and left me with memories of horrific images of the scene and her broken body.
I had this one recurring thought. “What a stupid empty death.”
I contacted her family (an adventure in itself!) and we agreed to meet at a town near the accident scene. This was a little less than two weeks after the accident. I wanted to explain what happened to their daughter and show them scene of the accident. It turned out they were devout Catholics.
It was the most bizarre and surreal day of my life. But too much to explain here. At the end of the day, they started for home and I returned to my hotel room. I was very down and dejected, like I had been since the accident. Worse, they had shown me pictures of this lovely young lady. These picture made my memories of the accident more harsh, more lurid, more horrific.
All that I could think was that terrible line, “What a stupid empty death.”
I was so upset, so grieved, that I shouted it out loud.
Right then, a woman behind me turned on a bright light and came up and spoke to me over my left shoulder She said, “No death is empty when it brings someone closer to God.”
I turned to look, and with shock I realized I was in my hotel room. All alone. The back of my chair was pushed against the wall. There was no woman and there was no source for the still brightly shining light. Suddenly I could not move or breathe.
Moments later it was two weeks ago. I began to re-live, to re-experience, the entire preceding two weeks in every detail and in real time. Everything, from brushing my teeth to every passing thought. Yet I was still in my hotel room and time was not passing, or at least I was not breathing. I was an observer in my own head. I knew what the other me was thinking and what would happen, yet I could not influence the other me or events. I became acutely aware of my sins, each and every one! It was not like a video. I was there. Yet I was still in my hotel room. There were two of me, one doing, the earlier me, the other watching, me now.
As I experienced this, I became acutely aware of my sins. An alien concept to an atheist. I also knew this was no dream. I was being shown this by… Someone.
Long before the two weeks were over (for the second time and in just one evening and just one breath) I realized I had been wrong all my life. There was a God. He was showing me this. The experience (I cannot call it a “vision”) ended with the woman speaking those words to me again, “No death is empty when it brings someone closer to God .”
God wanted my attention and He got it. He was directing me to the Catholic Church. I instantly had this powerful faith in God, that he would preserve me. At the same time, I was also filled with a great desire to submit to God’s will and be obedient to His Church.
That was a Saturday night. I went to Mass in the little town the next morning before I started for home. It was the very first time I had ever set foot into a Catholic Church. October 18th, 2003, 8:00 Mass.
Except a couple of times because of illness, I have not missed Mass since that night.