It was in September 2003 that Nathan and I went to South Beach, Miami for a long weekend. We partied like locals and hardly slept. I have almost no memories of that weekend.
What happened next was the second time I visited heaven. (The first being when I saw the beautiful happy tableau of the housing project in Norfolk). As I was on the plane above the clouds in the late afternoon on Sunday, I felt the warmth of the sun. The setting sun over the clouds seemed to bestow peace on my soul. I thought, “I am in the clouds in heaven….this is what it feels like…..restful and vibrant and warm and peaceful.” What I didn’t realize was that because of my lack of sleep that weekend I was tumbling into a manic episode.
When manic, I feel a close understanding of God. Of who he is and why he does what he does and what he wants for us and how we’re going to get there. My view of the world, of the meaning of life, and of how we get to heaven, did not hit me like a ton of bricks one day. It just developed in my mind over the course of my life. Like any of us, I developed a world-view, an understanding of the world around me. It took time. And it took mania.
So for three days in September 2003 in Lexington Virginia, I walked in heaven on Earth. I remember heightened awareness. Everything was more vibrant and clearer and more colorful. There was this current of sunshine, which was Love, pouring down from above in golden rays and filling us all up and pouring out of our mouths and eyes and fingertips. I saw God truly was Love, made real in the golden sunlight that was radiating throughout the world. My brain felt super aware and receptive, and the word “Love “ was glowing at the front of my brain. I was absolutely overcome with love for myself, and for those around me, and for everyone on earth. It did not feel like some strange psychadelic trip. It seemed like the most natural state I had ever been in. It was present day. I was still doing all the things I normally did, like going to class and having lunch with friends and spending time with Nathan. But every interaction was a true joy. Everyone was so happy, just beaming with joy. We all seemed delighted to be with one another. And so familiar with each other. We seemed to all recognize our connection to each other, to understand the love pouring through all of us and binding us all. I could not stop smiling.
I did sleep some in those days, because my doctor in Norfolk knew I was manic and told me to take more Trazadone and Risperdal. But I still felt this vibrant, sensory, glowing sensation of love. This pervasive peace. Joy, optimism, cooperation, caring….this all surged out of people.
I went to meet with Stanley Pigue, the minister at Trinity United Methodist Church in Lexington. I had been to church there a few times and felt pretty comfortable with him. I told him I was in Heaven. I wept.
He was gentle and thoughtful. He said I had a special perspective, one that obviously came about because of my mental illness. Nonetheless, it was a special closeness to God and his message. Not many others had felt what I did, he told me. He said I should get healthy again but should realize that I was gifted. To not dismiss it as sheer lunacy. He though God was trying to tell me something. Stan Pigue buoyed me. He gave me hope that I was not deranged. That my vision, my walk in Heaven, was not something blasphemous and evil….it was a lucky shift in dimension for me. I should not be ashamed of it. I should listen to what God wants me to do. He said he had read of others having had similar experiences but never met anyone who had walked in heaven.
With increased medication, I gradually arrested that manic episode and returned to the rat race. Within a few days, I no longer felt touched or special. There was no more golden glow, no warm currency of love. Just routine, run of the mill life.
My grades did gradually improve in law school and I got a good job as a law clerk at the U.S. District Court in Norfolk. In 2006, after I completed my term as law clerk, I moved to Arkansas to marry Nathan, and I bounced from one law job to another. I was always terrified of my bosses finding out I was Bipolar. That crippled me and cost me three jobs as an attorney.
Nathan and I wanted to get pregnant. In 2007, my psychiatrist in Fayetteville, Arkansas told me to come off all of my medications to get pregnant. I did.
Coming off all of my medications precipitated one more trip to heaven in present day. It was in Fayetteville in August 2007. I again felt the powerful currency of God’s love, pouring forth from all of us in golden rivulets. I remember walking into the Burger King on College Avenue in Fayetteville and being delighted to see all inside. I had a spontaneous conversation with a man in line about the Cardinals season. He told me he was 44 and had no teeth and had not watched the Cards as much as he would have liked. We laughed and felt close. The joy on my face seemed to engender familiar conversations from others; it seemed to break down walls.
Everything worked. Everything I did and saw fit together seamlessly. I call those times “Green Light Days,” because traffic seemed to part…..everything was on time and fluid. There were no roadblocks, no frustrations, no hangnails or paper cuts. When in heaven I even seemed to have a bit of foresight, in that I knew things would work, and could see the puzzle pieces fit together. This wasn’t just optimism or faith or the power of positive thinking….it was prescience, like I saw the answers before the questions were even asked. That’s not quite right….it’s more like I knew the questions would be answered before they were even asked, but would marvel at the answers. Anytime I saw a potential hitch in how things worked, something natural but miraculous would happen to unkink the potential snag. You know when you go to a super nice hotel and the concierge and staff take care of every detail so you don’t encounter a second of trouble? It was like that: we were all very well taken care of. But we weren’t passive at all; we were not guests. We were active owners of heaven, making little miracles every moment. Imagine if everyone you laid eyes on was an answer to your prayers, every single person you saw made your heart’s fondest wishes come true. They knew your pleasure just by looking in your eyes. You would be ecstatic to be with people. I could not wait to see the next smiling face, the next miracle worker. I was truly filled with delight and wonder at the beautiful things to behold, and at the lovely way we interacted with one another. It made me very proud to be human; I was proud of all of us and how we glorified one another. You’ve just got to see this heaven….you will be BLOWN AWAY.
I have learned that the opposite of love is fear, and there was absolutely no fear in heaven. Because fear was banished, there was no evil, no hate, no transgressing against one another. The automatic, involuntary action for all of us was love. It was as reflexive as breathing.
Heaven was a busy and happy and productive place. It was not quiet, somber, hallowed or holy. Everyone worked in concert and cooperation. We were all happy to help each other. It was full of life and love and freedom and fun.
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