Foxgloves & Fireflies: Broken hearts and ‘a little thought with eyes’


Image credit: Prime Magazine

There is just no good answer to the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Many have tried to come up with some comforting and reasonable sounding answer, but there really isn’t one. You can come up with all the platitudes you wish, heartfelt as they may be, they still don’t answer the question.

The one thing I can tell you is that the good people that bad things happen to seem to have the ability to lean closer to one another, and closer to God in times of crisis, and that is the difference in say, a family who is not tight-knit, or people who do not know the love of God, and the lifting of a weight when you can give your cares and burdens to Him.

However, that doesn’t necessarily take away the pain of loss, the heartbreak and grief when a loved one is taken from us, nor does it give us total peace when we close our eyes at night and the hurt is so great that it’s almost overwhelming.

There is no answer to why these things happen. They happen because someone had one too many drinks and got behind the wheel of a car, or because someone was offended, or for no good reason at all – they just happen.

When tragedy does strike, there are always plenty of people to lift us up in prayer, to give what solace they can, and to carry the burden with us for the first few days and weeks, but then life goes on, and we must try to figure out how to best carry the burden of loss on a daily basis.

One thing that has given me immeasurable comfort in times of the passing of a loved one is the following story. It is true, and came from someone that I’ve known all of my life. To me, it is a message from God to sustain us and give us hope.

My friend left this life for 22 minutes in the summer of 1971.  She was in the hospital on a heart monitor when she drifted away. The monitor immediately sounded the alarm and medical personnel came running into her room as the call ‘Code Blue’ went out over the floor.

I know this because she saw it.

Later, she would tell me that she repeated everything they did and said to them, but they brushed it off, saying that it was impossible for her to know what happened during those first minutes.

After the initial flurry of movement, which she described as seeing from below her, she was somewhere else. She saw the much discussed ‘light’ and said that there was an even brighter light further along. “I wanted to go into that light more than I’ve ever wanted anything,” she said. “Somehow I just knew that the answer to every question was in that light and I felt pulled along toward it.”

She describes the sensation as being, ‘a little thought with eyes,’ because she no longer had a cumbersome body to hold her to this life. “I was totally aware of everything,” she said.

But the thought of her two small children intruded on her journey and suddenly she was drawn back to where she had come from. “It felt like trying to squeeze myself into the neck of a bottle,” she explained. “Then I gasped and started breathing.”

Years later, when my mother died, I had her tell me the story over and over again. Afterward I asked her if the experience seemed like a distant dream after almost 20 years had passed, “Oh, no, just the opposite,” she said quickly. “It seems like the most real thing that has ever happened to me, and the rest of this life,” she waved her arms to indicate the area where we sat, “This seems like a dream.”

Another decade passed and I sat beside her as she spoke to a grief support group, publically telling her story for the first time. Grieving women sat all around us, tears coursing down their cheeks as the story unfolded.

“All I can tell you is that where I was during that time…it was pure love,” she described, tears welling in her own eyes as she shared her story, even after 46 years had passed. “I knew without a doubt that I had been there before, and that I was finally back where I was supposed to be… it felt like home.” 

She went on to try to make the group understand something that is hard to grasp for some, and impossible to believe for others. I knew she was struggling to make them understand that it was exactly as she said, but words couldn’t convey it well enough.

“In that light was peace and love like I’d never known. It encompassed me and filled me with its essence, but it wasn’t my time, so I had to come back.”

I believe that God gives certain people the opportunity to glimpse a fraction of what Heaven is like, then sends them back on a mission to help us understand the mystery that everyone will encounter one of these days.

That message gives us hope; it gives us some measure of peace to have the assurance of our loved ones entering that place of light, love and everlasting peace.

No matter what happened here on earth in the aftermath, our loved ones are instantly on that journey into the place where peace passeth all human understanding. They have no pain, no horror, no heartache, in that place, only love – forever love.

Her interpretation of being ‘a little thought with eyes’ is probably the best description of a soul that I’ve ever heard. The fact that she was out for 22 minutes is incredible. Her story is one of many that are told of that realm. In 1971, though, I had never heard it before.  However, coming from her, hearing the wonder and excitement in her voice, I never questioned her story, and I still don’t. I know it’s real, more real than the room I’m sitting in, or the chair you are sitting on right now.

It still doesn’t answer the question of why bad things happen to good people, but it sends a message   every single time this story is told. A message of love that we can hold onto, a reaffirmation of what we’ve been told for thousands of years. We don’t have to understand it now, all we have to do is believe in His promises, and continue to tell His story.

Hearts break every day. Sometimes the sound is almost audible, the sound of those breaking hearts. But, this story always comes to mind when I can hear them shattering around me, because I know that in that place arms are waiting to welcome them, and love surrounds them for all time.

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