"If you have ever wondered about what it is like to die, as I am sure most everyone has, then I can tell you from experience that it is exhilarating, enlightening, painful and frightening," says Tony Woody. "Most significant, it is a place of profound unconditional love."
Tony knows. His near-death experience happened in the summer of 1986, when was serving in the Navy stationed at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River in the state of Maryland. It was a hot humid day, Tony was scheduled to go on leave for two weeks and had planned to drive to Texas to see his family. Before pulling out, Tony went to a squadron picnic. Unfortunately, the potato salad served at the picnic was
contaminated with salmonella bacteria, and Tony began to feel the effects after
several hours of driving. Getting sicker with each mile, and assuming it was
flu, he continued on to Texas, pulling over to the side of the road many times
and getting violently ill. By the time he reached his family's house in Texas,
Tony was severely dehydrated and extremely exhausted. Within a few hours he had
fallen into a coma, and his worried father called an ambulance.
"The next thing I can remember was hearing an incredibly loud buzzing noise behind my left ear," Tony says. "Try to imagine you're standing in the middle of a hundred billion giant beehives and all of the bees are extremely angry and agitated.
That's what it sounded like." Then Tony found himself looking down upon a group
of doctors and nurses working on someone in an emergency room. It was a man,
with tubes and wires all over him, and he appeared to be slipping away, despite
the medical team's work. "One doctor seemed to be directing the event and he
ordered some type of medicine to be administered via a large needle directly
into the man's heart through his chest," Tony recalls. "That is when I realized
who that man really was. Somehow I was looking down upon myself."
Fear gripped him. Was he really dying? Then everything disappeared, and Tony was in total darkness, seemingly moving at a high rate of speed. All of his fear
instantly vanished, and he felt an overwhelmingly desire to go wherever he was
being taken. "I somehow knew I was going to be fine, that no harm would come to
me and that I would soon be home. Home not in the sense of where my physical
body lived, but home as in where my life source originated, my spiritual
Then Tony saw The Light. Just a tiny pinpoint at first, but almost immediately he seemed to cross an immense distance, and he was immersed within The Light flowing through his body, showering within and without the purest and most perfect form of unconditional love. "I never wanted to leave," he says. "I felt at absolute peace and joy, and somehow it was communicated to me that this was my Creator. I knew this is where I came from and that I was home again. Until that moment I had no idea how much God really cared about me. Not until then did I truly know how very important I am to Him and how concerned He was for me. I could also feel His goodness as if it were an actual tangible thing and not just a concept. The love was much more powerful and tangible than the goodness. Maybe it's because love is the most important thing that there is."
But the experience hadn't ended. Still basking in the love, Tony witnessed a panoramic review of his life. Just as a rock thrown into a pond has a ripple effect on the water, so Tony saw the consequences of his actions and words upon the lives of other people. "I re-experienced every thought, every emotion, every accomplishment, every failure, every confrontation and every time I helped someone," he says. "In essence everything that I had ever thought, said, felt and done was there from the moment I was conceived in my mother's womb until the moment I had died." All of it was there, the good, the bad, the sad, the glad, the happy, the angry, the indifferent---along with the profound unconditional love and compassion. "Without that," says Tony, "I might not have been able to face up to it. Not that I had been a terribly bad person; I just didn't realize how powerful of an impact my actions and words would make upon the lives of others."
Then Tony was shown a possible future that awaited him, if he wanted it. It seemed clear that he was being given a second chance, and a very important choice to make. Stay and make the transition on into the life after life: Suddenly Tony saw relatives and friends---even his mother!---who had already left earth; they were waiting to assist him should he decide to stay.
Or, he could go back and live out the rest of his life. "I was shown my future wife Lisa whom I had yet to meet," Tony says. "I saw her enter the church we eventually got married in, and I was also shown the moment I would first hold my daughter when we went to China to adopt her. Not only did I see all of these things; I felt all of the joy and happiness that went with them." In his heart, he decided to live.
Almost immediately Tony was slammed back into his physical body, wracked with pain. "I don't know why it had to hurt so much, but life can be very painful, so my
guess is that it was the pain of life all flooding back at once. I also felt deeply saddened that I was being separated from The Light. I did not want to leave His presence, and my heart ached to be back with Him. The next thing I can remember was waking up in the intensive care facility with my father looking
down at me and calling my name."
Tony had a lot to think about after he left the hospital. "That sorting process did not come without heartache and a deflation of ego and self-importance," he says. "Ihad to look within and understand some things about myself before I could understand what my life was about, and what I was to do with it."
Ultimately Tony has decided to try to live his life in a manner that expresses as much love as he can, and help as many people. He is much more conscience of the decisions he makes in life, always weighing the possible consequences, and doesn't want to cause any pain or suffering for others. "To me that is part of the challenge of life," Tony says. "Sometimes my best isn't good enough, but I will try until the end, which is really a new beginning."
Few of us will experience something like this, but we can all rejoice in the promises God has made!