Harassment, Stalking, and Rape Almost Destroyed the Beauty of a Near-Death Experience But in the Long Run Spirit and Love Wins

Update 1/19/19:  My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered now.  It is a #1 new release in several categories.  I would love it if you helped me make near-death experiences more mainstream.

I’ve written about harassment, stalking, and rape before, but with everything in the news from the recent Time article about silence breakers, I wanted to address these topics again, and ultimately from the perspective of healing, both personally and socially.

I had a slightly different experience from some older near-death experiencers because I returned to the body of a woman in her early twenties.  Navigating this culture and another culture in South Korea proved challenging.

However, in the end, we are not defined by what we experience but by how we overcome these moments, how dedicated we are to focusing on creating a brighter future for ourselves despite the harrowing aftereffects, and how we are able to help other heal.  I also believe we all–male and female—have a responsibility to create safer power structures.

My healing came from group therapy, many types of therapies and healing modalities, many types of self-defense classes, community, helping others, energetic healing, meditation, yoga, writing, speaking about these topics, safe relationships, and time spent creating many beautiful, peaceful moments.

Ultimately, the near-death experience and the beauty of that event returned to me fully, but there were some dark years of living with some of the aftereffects of harassment, stalking and rape when I all I could do was survive.

I believe that love is a transformer of darkness in society.  I found a way to love all the many students I met who suffered in ways similar to me or in much more horrifying ways.  Supporting them in the ways I wanted to be supported made me feel as if I was working to create a better world.   In the end, isn’t that what we are trying to do on a soul level–create greater connection, greater understanding, and greater healing for everyone?

I reiterate time and time again that no victim is ever required to formally forgive, engage with, or talk with anyone who has harmed them, but it is also important to let go and focus one’s energy and time on goals, dreams, and beauty in the world.  Writing helps me let go of these moments even more.

It is no longer just my story.  As I am connected to countless stories from my students and may have worked to eliminate some of their sorrow, or at least pointed them in the direction of a brighter future, anyone who reads my story also helps me let go even more.  You lessen my burden.  You help me carry it, and set me a little freer.

I know our spirits long to fly.  Our spirits do not identify with this form–the PTSD or the pain.  We are the love that we give.

Comp Romp: Narrowing Down Comparable Titles/Inspirations For My Memoir


Update on 1/19/19:  My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered now. It is a #1 new release in several categories.  I would love it if you helped me make near-death experiences more mainstream.

Comparable Titles:  Part of the publishing journey is figuring out where your book fits in amidst many published books.  Since this is my first manuscript, I want to share my writing and publishing journey with students and others.   I completed the first draft of my memoir Healed at the end of the summer, and I am working on my second, third, and fourth revisions.

Angels in the OR is not just a near-death experience story; it is a tough, raw, honest portrayal of my survival, relationships, teaching experiences, and my eventual triumph over trauma. One of the many themes of the book is how the lessons from a near-death experience can benefit many people and assist in their healing.

The Joy and the Agony of Writing:  I’ll be honest—writing a longer work like this has proven exhilarating.  Revising and rewriting entire sections or scenes of a manuscript is challenging, but even the challenges can be important lessons.  While writing this memoir, I’ve learned how to tell the truth gracefully and what parts to emphasize or eliminate. Crafting the story and jumping around in time was one of my favorite parts of the revision process.

When I felt bummed about the many revisions, my editor reminded me that Jeanette Walls revised her lovely memoir The Glass Castle eight times.  I can only pray that my writing will occasionally be as lovely as Jeanette Wall’s prose.

Writing a manuscript is not a quick, easy task, especially when you work full-time; nonetheless, it is a labor of love.  Writing is often an obsession for those of us who stick with it.  As Charles Bukowski says in the poem “So You Want to Be a Writer,” “unless it comes out of / your soul like a rocket, / unless being still would / drive you to madness or/ suicide or murder, / don’t do it. / unless the sun inside you is / burning your gut, / don’t do it.”

Despite warnings like these, many English majors and others continue to dream of writing a memoir, novel, or screenplay.  Years ago, I hoped my first book might be a book of poetry or categorized as literary fiction.  However, when National Geographic interviewed me about my near-death experience, I realized that the brief blurb featured in their magazine did not capture the complexity of my journey, and I knew I had to write this book.  I’ve never tried to sell a manuscript before, and I hope my process might benefit students and others in their writing journey.

Themes: My memoir echoes themes from many books besides books about near-death experiences, but the beginning and ending of the book clearly centers around my near-death experience.  Much of the middle of the book deals with the aftereffects of an NDE and my mission from the afterlife.  Some of the titles listed below are more inspirations than comparable titles, but when I explain my book these are the titles that come to mind.

Though my NDE was a life changing event, I wrote Angels in the OR mainly to help spread good energy into the world, and to help others heal from personal wounds, not to become a definitive source of NDEs.

Near-Death Experience Comparisons:

Dying to Wake Up:  A Doctor’s Voyage into the Afterlife by Dr. Rajiv Parti (2016) published by Atria Books:  Though I did not experience hell or past lives during my NDE like Dr. Parti, I identified with several themes in his book.  Before his NDE, Dr. Parti’s primary motivation was materialism.  Material success was a drive before my NDE, and when God told me to return to my life and work as a teacher I struggled with the idea.  However, I found that the divine light’s mission was exactly right for my life.  Teaching and serving others healed me and expanded my life in ways I never could have imagined.  In Dying to Wake Up, Dr. Parti briefly discusses his struggle with addiction.  A commitment to health and wellness is present in several chapters of my memoir.  Energetic healing helped me address anxiety and PTSD, the after-effects of rape.  Like Dr. Parti, I am motivated to help others find greater spiritual, emotional, and physical health in their lives.

Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani (2012) published by Hay House:  Anita Moorjani’s story is inspirational and exceptional.  Like Moorjani, I saw angels sending healing light through my surgeons.  I was losing feeling in my left leg before surgery, but I regained complete feeling in that leg after my surgery.  These beautiful light beings wanted me to know that they were there to assist and help.  They also wanted me to be aware that they could work through me in the future, and that they work through many others on the planet.  Moorjani’s message of self-love and listening to one’s intuition is one that I discuss at the end of my memoir.  Of all the near-death experiencers, her loving message is one that I resonate with the most.  She also addresses women’s roles in society. I clearly address rape culture in my book, and the importance of healing from toxic backgrounds.


Other Comparisons

Lucky by Alice Sebold (2002) published by Little, Brown and Company:  Lucky is a searing memoir about a rape that occurred when Alice Sebold was a freshman in college.  The book examines how rape affected her friendships, her relationships with her family, her identity, her attempts at romance, and her sense of safety in the world.  These areas of my life also became challenging after I was raped. The aftereffects of rape, stalking, and harassment extend for years, and I cover these aftereffects in the second half of my book.  PTSD and sexual trauma is profoundly painful and can even threaten to diminish the light of an experience as profoundly beautiful as a near-death experience.  As Sebold says, “You save yourself, or you remain unsaved.”

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt (2005) published by Scribner:  Frank McCourt became the hero of many English teachers and professors when his first book Angela’s Ashes came out.   Like McCourt, I experienced neglect and poverty as a child.  My favorite sections to write in this manuscript were the sections about my teaching experiences.  I went into the teaching field fully believing that God and the angels might work through me, and the love and hope that I had for my students transformed my life in ways I could never have imagined.  Their journeys taught me much about myself and helped me find the courage to heal my wounds.  Their successes became my success.  I can tell that McCourt enjoyed writing about his moments in the classroom and including stories about his students.

Second Sight by Dr. Judith Orloff:  I list this book because Dr. Judith Orloff felt more comfortable incorporating her intuitive gifts into her practice as a psychiatrist.  Directly after my NDE, I feared my intuitive gifts and didn’t want to be labeled a psychic, intuitive, or medium.  Using guidance in the classroom as a teacher felt perfectly natural, and I never labeled this type of guidance.  I simply helped the students I could help and opened myself up to assistance from the other side.

When I received a message from God that my contract as a teacher/professor was completed and that I could do “whatever I wanted to do” (even continue to teach if I wished), my mind raced in various directions.  I wondered if my contract was up because I might die soon.  This made me want to write my story in case I didn’t have much time on this earth; I wanted others to know the lessons from my near-death experience.

Eventually, I realized I probably had more time on the earth, and if I applied the same principles I learned during my NDE to any work, all will be well.  In other words, work to inspire and help others grow.

Comparable Titles:   Many unknown writers make the mistake of comparing their manuscripts to great books which have sold millions of copies and that is not my intent. I thought about adding Why be Happy When You Could be Normal by Jeanette Winterson to the list of inspirations mainly for her examination of dysfunctional parents and a difficult childhood, but this is mainly covered in one or two chapters of the book.

Of course, I’m also tempted to compare my book to Wild by Sheryl Strayed , but I didn’t hike the PCT to overcome my personal struggles.  I know that nature has the power to heal us, and her story is a great testimony of this truth. My near-death experience was the awakening that I needed to eventually find my way to greater healing, and my memoir is an attempt to bare my soul in the hope that readers might relate, connect, deepen their own healing journey, and perhaps find the courage to share their own stories.



My Response to #LinkYourLife PROMPT: Fear, Compassion and Community Action

Warning:  Some of the material may be triggering.


I recently started blogging this year in March, and the experience has been fantastic.  I’ve connected with so many amazing people who are also in the process of writing their stories.  I haven’t yet blogged about some of the more tragic issues in my memoir:  abuse in childhood, my suicide attempt in college before I had the NDE (I woke up in dried vomit 36 hours after swallowing enough pills to easily take me over the edge), hospitalization for depression, facing addiction, escaping a violent marriage, and continuing to work on trust issues in relationships.  I have mentioned the stalkers, but I haven’t blogged about those two sick men.  I blogged about being a rape survivor, and this felt both frightening and then freeing.  No one challenged me for writing about it, but the private responses of friends were not exactly what I expected.  I feel more connected to strangers than to family and friends after writing that post.  Maybe that is the writer’s journey.

I realize my life sounds like a horrible, chaotic mess when I list all the traumas in this way, but largely my life is beautiful.  There is so much joy, so much hope, and so much beauty.  Much of that joy comes from being of service to others.  Many of my students over the years have shared moments of trauma with me, and I have an overwhelming assortment of traumas myself.  I can relate to most anything they share.  If I can’t relate specifically, I have faced enough pain to realize what pain can do to a person and the importance of creating peaceful, healing moments to ground oneself in a new reality.

One of the beauties of teaching is that I forget myself as I work with others.  I wish everyone could experience this amazing forgetfulness. The more I am in motion, asking how I might help others, the more my own pain is lifted away.  Even writing is beginning to do this for me.  As strange as it might seem, writing about trauma releases it at even deeper levels.  Pain shared with others seems to lessen the individual’s pain.

Although complex trauma is part of my story, and I’ve included most of these moments in the first draft of my memoir, my hope is that the book will show others that healing is a long journey, but one that is possible and worthy. I don’t run away from my pain any more.  I feel it.  I release it.  Feeling the pain and all the places that I have been shattered allows for more light to come through me in order to help others.  I am largely healed from much of my past, but like a caterpillar who has emerged from a painful cocoon my wings aren’t completely adjusted to flying.  I have to rest on branches frequently and tell myself that I am a free creature and not one bound up in pain and dependency.

I feel stronger because of all the many women’s stories I have read on various blogs.  I hope that my story of my NDE and how our lives are actually quite short from the perspective on the other side, reminds everyone to enjoy the little, beautiful moments in life, no matter what they are going through.  I hope that my knowledge of angels helps others to call on their guides and angels to help them navigate difficult patches in life.  I hope that if I can overcome what I have overcome, then others feel that they have incredible moments of healing in store for their lives.  After all, the title of my book is Healed, and that healing is past tense.  This does not mean I am completely free from post-traumatic affects.  It means that in my individual experience and journey I am able to live in my present moments with more joy and freedom than I ever imagined possible.  I’m not overwhelmed by my past.  I use it to help others.


National Poetry Month and Other Reflections


Update on 1/19/19:  My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered now. It is a #1 new release in several categories.  I would love it if you helped me make near-death experiences more mainstream.

National Poetry Month:  To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’m posting “After the Wreck,” a poem published by the Binnacle in 2007 which is inspired from moments during my near death experience.  I’m also including a poem by Rilke from Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God which I adore.

Writing on Morphine:  I wanted to document my NDE as soon as I possibly could.  I stayed in ICU for a few days after surgery, but once I was moved to a hospital room, I asked for a pen and paper. My surgeon confirmed that I had died, but she didn’t feel inclined to talk about the spiritual experience with me.  The nurses were a bit more willing to listen to my experience but most seemed busy and hurried.  Some people only nodded and looked at me strangely when I wanted to talk about the powerful experience of being in God’s presence.

While in the hospital bed and hooked up to a morphine drip, my greatest fear was that I might forget those beautiful moments outside my body. The pain and disorientation made it difficult to write in a straight line, and the words bled down the page.  I persisted in the hope that a few lines would be salvageable and used later. The lines about the angels in this poem were lines I wrote days after the experience.

Memory:  To this day, I remember the vividness of the angels, the light, and the love from the divine intensely.  I’ve never forgotten the experience and the images.  What faded a bit were the direct messages given to me by light.  I remember a lot of what was communicated, but the information flowed into my spirit body so quickly that it was difficult to slow down the information and remember it as specific words.  Mainly, I knew that I had immediately and forever changed in that moment.

Outside of my body, I remember feeling slightly worried for my body as I looked down at the operating table, wondering if I would walk or run again.  The angels assured me that I would have complete healing.  In fact, they assisted in that healing, and my questions were answered not only with information but with demonstration.

Trauma and Forgetting the Beauty of the Light:  I have not forgotten the NDE in the way some dreams are forgotten, but there are times in life when the material world, when trauma, or when stress has overwhelmed me.  When overwhelmed and burdened by life, I can forget the beauty of that moment.  The memory though remains incredibly vivid.

Certainly, the actions of others have startled me, shocked me, and sometimes horrified me.  In my memoir, Healed, I write about being harassed by friend in a writer’s group, raped while living overseas, and beaten up by my first husband.  I thought my life after experiencing an NDE would be pure bliss, and I would live a protected, purely pleasurable life.  This was not my experience, and I wasn’t prepared to write about these traumatic moments until years later. Though I had greater moments of intuition after the NDE, I didn’t always know how to trust or use this intuition.  In those first years after the experience, I also had an almost child-like openness, trust, and belief in others and that trust sometimes put me in close contact with desperate people.

Service and Healing:  When I examine all my experiences together, these experiences sometimes seem like more than one person should have to endure.  However, I have survived and thrived, and I realize others have endured far worse events. Perhaps part of my legacy is to experience the horrors that many women have experienced and to report that what remains after harm has taken its best shot at me is light and hope.  I heard Matt Kahn say something similar about harm in his latest video, and this idea seems accurate to me.  What also remains after the harm is a deep desire to heal myself and to help others heal.  At certain times, I certainly forgot the light and its message.  At other times, I became angry at God on this journey, but I always came back to the belief that I should help others and should remind others of their connection to a loving, forgiving source.

Self-absorption and all too human wishes and desires vanish the moment I ask my students about their lives or when I am of service to others somewhere in this world.  There is no greater way to make the world a better place than to offer help or kindness.  We are freed of ourselves in those moments.  Who knew that freedom from the self would feel so wonderful?  It does though.


How could I know that the world would have compassion

and that at the moment of impact my back would crack,


but I would retain the sensation of this body, first floating

away from it, then returning, silvered and open-mouthed


like a fish caught on the hook of a reoccurring dream,

struggling, flapping about, and jerked up to the surface


of a room full of florescence, tiny desires to survive

pulsing through my body in rivulets?


How could I know that the angels I recalled from paintings

would become bright, intelligent companions at the end of my bed


and that the torrential light from their eyes would answer my questions instantly?

How could I know that this peace would disintegrate like ice chips


in my mouth and this calming knowledge would drown in refills of morphine.

How could I know that I would forget specifics in the way we forget dreams?

—Tricia Barker

In these bodies, we are often anxious, but I love how Rilke reminds us that God is around us and in us from the beginning.  Certainly, the light on the other side of this life felt familiar. This light is the same light we have in our eyes as infants, and the same light that comes for us at the time of our death.

I am, You Anxious One

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break

into being at your touch?

My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.

Can’t you see me standing before you

cloaked in stillness?

Hasn’t my longing ripened in you

from the beginning

as fruit ripens on a branch?


I am the dream you are dreaming.

When you want to awaken, I am waiting.

I grow strong in the beauty you behold.

And with the silence of stars I enfold

your cities made by time.

–R.M. Rilke