‘Proof of Heaven’ sticks with reader for a while

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Terri Schlichenmeyer, Bookworm
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Nobody packs a suitcase like you do.

A weekend away? No problem. Cram everything you need in a tote and go.

A two-week cruise? Again, no problem. You can roll, fold and stuff half a closet in a carry-on and still have room for a book.

It’s a gift. You’re like a squirrel when it comes to packing, but there’s one trip you’ll have to make someday, and you won’t have to pack a thing.

Yes, you’re going to die. But what happens and what awaits us on our final journey? In “Proof of Heaven,” written by Eben Alexander, M.D., and published by Simon & Schuster, you’ll read about one man’s week-long experience and the inspiring souvenirs he brought back.

It all started with a middle-of-the-night backache.

Alexander, a neurosurgeon, awoke from the pain and headed for a warm bath, thinking it might help. It didn’t, and neither did a back rub from his wife, Holley. The pain, in fact, intensified.

By mid-morning, he was nearly unconscious.

Rushed to the hospital, he landed in the ICU, surrounded by baffled doctors who believed that he’d somehow acquired spontaneous E. coli meningitis. His spinal fluid and the outer portion of his brain were filled with pus. There was no brain activity and no precedent.

The affliction was a 1-in-10-million rarity.

But something amazing was happening to him.

Alexander says his first notion was that he was surrounded by primordial jelly, aware but not aware, and he could hear sounds. Working his way upward and toward “dazzling darkness,” he was greeted by a beautiful woman who took him on a journey on a butterfly wing. She told him three things: He was loved, he was valued and there was nothing he could do wrong.

One week after Alexander’s coma began, doctors informed Holley that he had virtually no chance of recovery, yet as they were walking to his room to stop treatment, he opened his eyes. Within months, fully recuperated, he started to cautiously talk about his journey because what he saw, he says, opened his mind and his heart.

No doubt, this is a thinking-person’s book.

Filled with serious science, medical information and awe-inspiring theology, Alexander gives his readers a lot to chew on. But this memoir isn’t just that; Alexander also gives us an abundance of absorbing backstory, so we know why his spiritual journey was mind-bogglingly significant and why he believes that it unfolded as it did. What’s interesting is that Alexander was a skeptic once.

The only bumps in the road are he wrestles with descriptions of his experience. He admits that mere words don’t do his visions justice, but he tries anyhow and it becomes repetitious.

Even so, most of this book will stick with you for a long time after you close its back cover, making you seriously contemplate what you’ve read. Whether you’re a believer or an undecided scoffer, I think “Proof of Heaven” will pack a wallop.