afterlife in a Big Life Ministries presentation, to be be held at Bay Pointe Community Church, this Sunday, October 17 from 6-7:30 p.m.
How did the book come to be? After months in the hospital and years of therapy and surgeries, another pastor asked him about the time he
was declared dead. Until then Don had kept his experience to himself but he finally opened up to his friend, describing it in words he declared inadequate to the experience. Warm, radiant light engulfed me . . . he said. I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors.
Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen. . . I stood speechless in front of a crowd of loved ones. He became aware of a bright light he called brilliantly intense and utterly luminous. But not God and not Jesus. For Piper, heaven was amazing light, old friends standing in front of a brilliantly ornate gate, and heavenly music. Hed been sad to leave, he said. He didnt want to be drawn back to his earthly life.
How does Pastor Don Piper differ now from the man he was before the accident?
Piper: I have learned a far deeper compassion and understanding of others. I was a pastor before the accident and counseled people. I officiated at funerals. I always knew the things to say but now Im not just saying comforting words. I know where their loved one has gone. My priorities are completely rearranged. There is no fear in
me of the end of life. I hope I can pass that on to others.
NE: The man who hit your car -- an inmate from a local prison driving a guard on a food pickup for the prison -- have you spoken to him since the accident and your experience in heaven?
Piper: The man went back to prison. In a sense, so did I. Years of hospitalization, pain, rehabilitation. He was paroled by the time I
was well enough to contact him but what Ive done is written him a letter, included in a new book I just finished writing. In the letter I forgive him and tell him that I probably wont meet him here on earth but I know now I will meet him in heaven.
I didnt want to write the book at all. It took a long time for friends to convince me I had to tell the story. Then I agreed only if I could tell it with absolute honesty, unvarnished, just as it happened. Im sure not a hero in this, more a victim. Still, if I could help others, bring comfort, then I said Id tell the story.
Otherwise Id never have been talked into writing about heaven. That was so wonderful and so private.
NE: Do you think the life you led before the accident merited the reward you were given?
Piper: No, I was an ordinary man on the way to church. What I know now is that it isnt what happens to you, but what you do with it. I
had to decide how everything that happened was going to affect me. Was I going to be defeated or use my circumstance to bless others? I know now that heaven is real. Thousands ask how to get there and I know that living a fuller life leads to an eternal life. That doesnt mean a pain-free life here on earth, not an easy life, but what ever it is, it has a beautiful ending in eternity.
NE: Your wife, Eve, what did she learn from your experience? Has she grown too?
Piper: Eve is the hero of my story. When the truth of what I would become hit me, it hit her too. She took care of me through this long
roller coaster ride. She emptied those bedpans, balanced the checkbook, worked at her teaching job, stayed at the hospital with me through those long months. Eve is stronger now too. She learned to lean on others and on herself. Weve been married for 37 years. Im a survivor, but Eves an overcomer.
NE: Are you the same person today as you were then, standing outside of heavens gates?
Piper: I didnt understand why I was given that glimpse of heaven and then it was taken away. What changed was that I understood why I had
to go through the pain I went through. Now, when I hold a hospital patients hand I understand how real that pain is. When I speak to the family of a loved one who has just died, I speak with assurance.
My message to everyone is always: you can make it. Life may be different after a huge life event, but it will always get better.
NE: In heaven, you say you received no special message; that you were only shown possibility. Do you wish there had been more?
Piper: Im glad I didnt see anymore than I did. If I had, I couldnt have functioned back here. I would have been too angry over the loss. It was enough to know how glorious and magnificent it is and what is waiting for all of us. In the talk Ill be giving at Bay Pointe Church Ill be telling people that were taking reservations
for heaven now. I was only 38 when I died and came back. You have to be ready for heaven at every moment of your life.
Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli will be teaching: A Novel Experience: Fiction Writing Workshop, at NMC on Friday, Nov. 5, 9 am 4 pm at Oleson Center. Call 231-995-1700 to register.