It was a beautiful, sunny morning, January 10, 1978. Temperatures had dipped below freezing during the night, but by 10 o’clock in the morning the sun was already warming up when I climbed into my little Triumph Spitfire sports car. I was on my way to town for a meeting with the director of the school where I had been teaching classes since I was in high school. It was a 15-mile trip that I had done hundreds of times.
Exiting Vårgårda at the intersection by the Doggy dog food factory, there were no on/off ramps to the highway, only a stop sign before I would turn left. It was just like any other day, only a little prettier and sunnier then most winter days. I loved my Triumph, which I had bought six months earlier. It handled beautifully and purred like a kitten, licking the asphalt as I sped away. I drove down the hill, past the gas station and over the bridge past Doggy. I carefully stepped on the brakes as I approached the stop sign. Large spruce trees by the side of the road cast a shadow across asphalt. I tried the brakes again but nothing happened. The road approaching the intersection was covered in black ice. It was impossible to stop and there was a huge semi-truck speeding past. I saw the big wheels and realize that I was heading straight towards the truck. My reflex reaction was to pull the handbrake to skid sideways so I wouldn’t glide under the trailer. I found out later that that reaction bought me a mille-second of time and I missed the truck trailer.
The car spun around, coming to a stop in the middle of the highway, with its nose pointing towards Vårgårda. But I have no memory of what happened after I saw the wheels of the truck and pulled the handbrake. A tank truck was behind the semi-truck. The driver hit the brakes 200 meters from where I stood but, because of the icy conditions, couldn’t stop the truck. Another car was approaching in the opposite direction so he had no choice but to plow into my little sports car.
In a violent collision the truck ended up on top of my sports car and together we slid for another 300 meters before coming to a stop. My Triumph was completely crushed underneath the cab of the truck. The only thing somewhat unscathed was the driver’s seat. Since the car had spun around on the road, the truck hit it on the passenger side.
It seems that someone was watching over me. Medical personnel were immediately on the scene. The car behind the tanker was driven by a doctor on his way the hospital. In the second car there was a nurse, also heading to work. A third person ran to the Doggy factory to call an ambulance but, I later learned, he told them not to hurry since no one could have survived such a crash.
The wheels of the first truck are the last things I remember. After that all feelings of fear or worry were gone. I came instead to a world filled with enormous joy, where there was no sorrow or pain. I had a very distinct sense of the presence of other people, but there was one person in particular who guided me. I experienced a world that was indescribably beautiful and wonderful. A world much more real and tangible than the world I knew. I had no desire to return to the old world, neither did I think of my family or friends. In this new world the joy was so intoxicating it eradicated all thoughts of what was left behind. Death and sorrow didn’t exist.
Suddenly my guide was telling me that I would have to return to the old world. I was only 19 and had everything to live for, but I was devastated that I wouldn’t be allowed to stay. If I had to leave this wonderful place and return to what we consider to be life, I wanted to tell everyone in the whole world about…could it have been heaven? But a very kind voice told me that I would not be able to tell anyone about what I had seen and experienced. I was taken to a round door and, passing through it, returned to the old world and all my memories of what I had experienced were carefully erased.
When I regained consciousness at the hospital all I had left was the disappointment of not being able to stay in, or remember, the world I had visited. I also felt the pain of all my injuries. My disappointment turned to anger and a profound sorrow that is hard to describe. My parents were by my bed. I can’t remember what we said, but my mother told me later that I was so angry when I woke up that they had to leave the room for a while.
For a long time afterwards I struggled to remember my experiences. Sometimes I tightened all the muscles in my mangled body to force the memories to the surface, but it didn’t work, my memories were gone. All I could remember was that it was a wonderful place, more “real” than the life we are living, and the voice telling me that I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about it.
The experience of being pinned under the tanker truck, lying there on that frozen asphalt, then being transported by ambulance and those first painful hours in the hospital would most certainly have been excruciating if I had been conscious. Instead I was given a glimpse of eternity, a reality that has given me great joy throughout my life. It hasn’t taken away my desire to live, but has assured me that something much better is waiting. I am convinced that it was God who appeared as my kind guide who was strangely familiar.