By Michael H. Brown
IS THERE SOMETHING SUPERNATURAL ABOUT LIGHTNING, AT LEAST IN THOSE ‘NEAR-DEATH’ EPISODES?
What is it about lightning? Does it have a supernatural element? We know from Scripture that Satan fell from Heaven “like lightning” (Luke 10:18).
But there is another element to this and it has to do with near-death experiences: a number of those reporting them had their encounter with the afterworld after nearly dying from strikes of lightning.
Bobby Brunson from Charleston, South Carolina, who worked for the railroad, was literally “killed” by a bolt of lightning as he touched his daughter’s bike during the approach of a nasty storm. He was clinically “dead” for 28 minutes. That was what emergency responders recorded. Actually, he was in another world.
Dannion Brinkley. He’s another fellow from South Carolina whose alleged near-death came on September 17, 1975 (this in Aiken). He was struck by lightning while using a telephone during a storm.
Tiffany Snow. At the time, she was a successful songwriter and record producer in Nashville when lightning struck her in 1999 and resulted in a profound (alleged) near-death episode.
They are interesting cases. Some are also highly controversial — with New Age elements. And so we must exercise great caution. There are some people who — bafflingly — are hit by lightning more than once.
The latest and most compelling was that of a Catholic, Gloria Polo, of Bogota, Colombia — who we have known about for many years and whose recollection of events has captivated the faithful with its tough, unwavering, and uncompromising look at what constitutes sin, how Jesus views us, and how we are judged — and whose (amazing) book in fact is called Struck By Lightning: Death, Judgment, and Conversion.
It is a book that details how on May 5, 1995, Gloria was taking shelter from a storm with her nephew when both were struck by a bolt of lightning — him fatally.
She survived. But what occurred to Gloria — a dentist living a very materialistic, arrogant, and ungodly lifestyle — was brutal. As she notes:
“The lightning bolt entered from my shoulder, burning terribly the whole body, inside and out; in short my flesh disappeared including my breasts, especially the left one, leaving a hole,” she writes in the book. “It caused to disappear the flesh of my abdomen, of my legs, of the ribs; it carbonized the liver, it gravely burned the kidneys, the lungs, the ovaries… and came out through the right foot. For my contraceptive, I was using a spiral (an intrauterine devise in the form of a T), and because of the material with which it is made (copper) it is a good conductor of electricity; the lightning bolt carbonized and pulverized also the ovaries which became like two raisins. I remained in cardiac arrest, just about without life, with the body that was jumping due to the electricity that was still present in that place.
“But this is only the physical part…
“The good part is that, while my body laid there carbonized, in that same moment I found myself inside a beautiful white tunnel of light, a wonderful light, which made me feel a joy, a peace, a happiness that I do not have words to describe the greatness of that moment. It was a true ecstasy. I looked, and in the end of that tunnel I saw a white light, like a sun, a beautiful light… I say white to tell you a color, but we are talking about colors that cannot be compared to those that exist on the earth. It was a splendid light; I felt from it a source of peace, of love, of light… When I went up in this tunnel toward the light, I said to myself: ‘Caramba, I’m dead!’
This was only the beginning of her experience. On “the other side,” she saw what she calls the “book of life.” This was her entire existence in review — as God saw her.
Did we say sobering? It was actually more like hellish.
She was shown how Jesus regards sexual immorality. She was shown — very profoundly — how Heaven views abortion as well as methods of contraception that cause abortions. She was shown in very detailed fashion how God views materialism: her extravagant devotion to how she looked, what she wore, who she knew, how she dressed. She saw how God regarded her lack of faith — her disregard for the Mass and the sacraments — particularly Confession. She saw the great benefit — the grace — of virginity until marriage (something she did not have).
“Our Lord showed me all of this,” she says. “Only by way of the priest do we have the sacrament of reconciliation, for example! Only by way of him do we obtain the pardon of our faults. Do you know what the confessional is? It is the ‘bathing of souls’! Not with water and soap, but with the Blood of Christ! When my soul was filthy, black due to sin, if I would have confessed, it would have been washed with the Blood of Christ; furthermore, I would have broken the strings that held me tied to the evil one. Would he not therefore have reason, the devil, to detest the priests?! Also those who might have been great sinners, have the power to absolve sins. And the Lord showed me how: in the Wound of His Heart… Yes!
“You know, there are things which surpass the intellect of man because they are spiritual realities, and yet we are talking about truths more real than ours… Through this Wound, I was saying, a soul rises up to the Divine level, to the level of the Divine Mercy, to the door of Mercy, it rises up to the Heart of Jesus, eternal Priest; and there, Jesus places His Cross, bleeding in His Eternal Present… And that soul returns clean. Now I see how my soul returned clean in the Confession, and in every sin that I confessed, Our Lord breaks the stings that united me to Satan. (And I, unfortunately, stayed away from Confession!)
“… But all this happens only by way of the priest. Thus we have the obligation and the duty to pray for them, so that God might protect them, might enlighten them, and might guide them.
“For all these motives the devil hates terribly the Catholic Church and the priests.”
She was shown the devastating effects of criticality (so common in our current climate!) not just of priests but of anyone.
“How to repair the honor of someone, after having spread gossip, or calumny?!” she has said. “How to restore the good name to that person?! Yes this is difficult!
This is why in purgatory, those who have done evil to someone with words, have much to suffer. Almost everyone uses the tongue to criticize, to destroy, to offend, to devastate the good name of people. These tongues, down there, are the cause of great suffering! They burn! How they burn! You cannot imagine! The Lord showed me how we deceive ourselves, in the judgments that we make about others. While we, for example, look with contempt at a prostitute, the Lord looks at her with infinite Love, with infinite Mercy. He sees inside her, he knows her whole life, and knows what led her to prostitution. Might you know that many of them live this way because of our sins, also because of our contempt and because of our lack of love for neighbor. Has anyone ever lent his hand to help a prostitute? Or toward someone caught stealing? We go through life judging and seeing the defects of others, their errors, and condemning. But when we see someone do something mistaken, at least let us shut the mouth, let us bend our knees and pray for that person.
At times we are not able to do anything more: but God can. Let us not judge her, let us not criticize her, otherwise we sin more than her. We absolutely cannot give rise to false witness, or collaborate so that it is spread, nor judge, nor lie, because doing like this we rob the peace from the neighbor. And be careful, because a lie is always a lie, there is not big ones or small ones, green or yellow, or red color: to lie is always grave, and the father of the lie is Satan.
“In my case, so many lies for what? My life was put in the open, to the Light of God. And you? … But may you know that on the other side, no one steps up to argue or to demand… There, there is only your conscience and God!”
While most who have near-death experiences glimpse Heaven, Gloria’s glimpse was of hell.
“In my judgment, for example, my parents were there to see my lies, but my mother did not accuse me. Only, she looked at me with infinite tenderness. My worst lie, then, was to lie to myself when I said that I did not kill, I did not steal, that I was a good person, that I never did evil to anyone, and that God does not exist; and that I would go to Heaven all the same! What a tremendous shame, I experienced now!”
“I was a ‘cafeteria Catholic,’ for my whole life, because my relationship with God was taken care of in a twenty-five-minute Sunday Mass, and that’s all. I went to the Mass where the priest spoke less, because I got tired! What anguish I felt, with those priests who spoke a lot! This was my relationship with God! For this all the worldly currents drug me along: I lacked the protection of prayer well done with faith, even in the Mass! One day, when I was studying for the specialization, I heard a priest affirm that hell does not exist, and not even the demons! It was precisely what I wanted to hear! I immediately thought to myself: if the demons do not exist, and there is no hell, then we all go to Heaven! And thus, what is there to fear?!
“What makes me most sad now, and I confess to you with great shame, is that the only tie that still held me in the Church, was the fear of the devil. When I heard that hell does not exist, I immediately said: very good, if we all go to Heaven, it is not important what we are or what we do!
“This determined my total moving away from the Lord. I distanced myself from the Church and I began to speak badly, with cusswords, etcetera. I no longer had any fear of sin, and I began to ruin my relationship with God. I began to say to everyone that the demons do not exist, that they are the inventions of the priests, that they are the manipulations on the part of the Church, and finally… I arrived to the point of saying to my colleagues at the University that God does not exist, that we were products of evolution, etc. etc., succeeding in influencing many people.”
She had an abortion and even helped pay when friends needed money for one.
“Let us return now to the operating room,” she writes. “When I saw myself in that situation, what terrible fright! I finally saw that the demons existed, and how, and they came to seek precisely me! They came to present to me the bill, one could say, since I had accepted their offers of sin! And these offers are not free! One pays!! My sins had their consequences…
“In that moment, then, I began to see come out, of the wall of the operating room, so many persons, apparently common, normal, but with a look full of hate, diabolic, frightening, who made my soul tremble: I immediately perceived that we were dealing with demons. I had in myself a special awareness: I understood in fact that to each one of these I owed something, that sin is not gratuitous, and that the principle lie of the devil is to say that he does not exist: this is his best strategy in order to work as he pleases with us. I realized that yes, he exists, and that he came to surround me, to seek me! Just imagine the fright, the terror!!
“My scientific and intellectual mind, now did not help me at all. I went around in the room, I was trying to get back into my body, but this flesh of mine did not receive me, and the scare was terrible! I ended up fleeing as fast as I could, I passed through, I do not know how, the wall of the operating room, hoping to be able to hide myself in the aisles of the hospital, but when I passed the wall… Down! I made a jump into emptiness…! I headed toward several tunnels which went down toward the bottom.
At the beginning there was still a little light, like beehives in which there were so many people: young ones, old ones, men, women, who were crying, and with frightening screams they were grinding their teeth… And I, ever more terrified, continued to descend, seeking to get out of there, while the light was going away diminishing… I carried on roaming in those tunnels in a frightening darkness, until I arrived to an obscurity that cannot be compared to anything else… I can only say that, in comparison, the darkest obscurity on earth is not even comparable to the full sunlight at midday.”
“I thought about my children and I sighed: ‘Woe is me, my God, my little children!” she goes on. “What will my children say? This mother so occupied, that she never had time for them…’ In fact, I left early every morning, and I did not return before eleven at night.”
But let us relate that the prayers of her mother saved her! She was eventually drawn from the pit and despite her physical condition survived; she has been granted a second chance. God always exercises mercy! He looks for all the good we have done, however “small.” It goes on. There is more — much. A few more snippets:
“And so I saw the reality of my life, and I felt much sadness,” says Gloria. “I had left my home determined to conquer the world, but at what price! … Putting in the second place my home and my children! … In that moment of emptiness due to the absence of my children, without feeling anymore my body, nor the dimension of time or of space, I looked, and I saw something very beautiful: I saw all of the people of my life… In one single moment, in the same moment, all the people, those living and those dead. I was able to embrace my great grandparents, grandparents, parents (who were dead)… everyone!
It was a moment of fullness, wonderful. I understood that I had deceived myself with the story of reincarnation: they had told me that my grandmother had been reincarnated, but without telling me where. Since the information cost me too much money, I let it go and I did not delve into the research in order to know in whom she might have been reincarnated. You know, I defended the theory of reincarnation… And now, there, I had just embraced my grandmother, my great grandmother…
“I embraced her well, as I could do with all the people who I knew, living and dead. And all in one single instant. My daughter, when I embraced her, became frightened: she was 9 years old, and she felt my embrace, because I could also embrace the living (only that, normally, we do not feel this embrace).
“I almost did not realize the passage of time during that moment so beautiful. And then, now that I no longer had the body, it was stupendous to see the people in a whole new way. Before, in fact, I only knew how to criticize: if one was fat, skinny, ugly, elegant, not elegant, etc.
“When I spoke about others, I had to always criticize something. Now no: now I see people from within, and how beautiful it was… While I embraced them, I saw their thoughts, their sentiments…”
But eventually, she was saved from the pit. The prayers of a mother. The mercy of Jesus — to Whom she called.
“In my great shame and immense sorrow, I began to cry out: ‘Lord! Jesus Christ, have compassion on me! Forgive me, Lord, forgive me! Give me a second chance!”
“It was the most beautiful moment. I do not have words to describe it. Jesus bent down and pulled me out of that pit! He lifted me up and brought me to a level place…
“So I continued to go forward, full of peace, happy; and the more I went up, the more I felt I was about to see something very beautiful. In fact, toward the bottom, I sighted a beautiful lake… yes! I see a stupendous lake, trees so beautiful, but so beautiful, wonderful… And very beautiful flowers, in all colors, with an exquisite perfume, so different from our flowers… Everything was so beautiful in that stupendous garden, so wonderful… Words do not exist that can describe it, all was love.
“There were two trees, to the side of something that seemed to be an entrance.
It is all so different from what we know down here: you can not find in the world similar colors, up here it is all so beautiful! … It was in that moment that my cousin entered in that wonderful garden.”
[Gloria’s book Struck by Lightning; Brunson’s book is When Lightning Strikes]