(Continued from last week…)
On the drive home from an Easter weekend visit to his wife’s family, Jeff Olsen, his wife, Tamara, their seven-year-old son, Spencer, and their one-year-old baby son, Griffin, were in a single-car accident that killed Tamara and little Griffin. Jeff’s injuries were very severe, eventually resulting in, among other things, the loss of one of his legs, but he later explained, “No physical pain could even come close to the spiritual pain of knowing that half of my family had been killed. My mind was tortured with thoughts of it. I could not escape those thoughts, not even with all the morphine [they were giving me].” Immediately after the accident, and over the course of the ensuing weeks, Jeff had multiple near-death experiences that strengthened his soul, and helped him get through the months and years of recovery.
“As they wheeled me into the [second] hospital and began to make arrangements to lift me into another hospital bed, I could feel myself slipping. I could feel all that darkness closing in on me for a second time. I was blacking out, passing in and out of consciousness. I could hear my mother begging me to hang on. I heard my brother trying to get the nurse’s assistance. I began to vomit violently.
“It was almost as if I was watching the whole scene from another dimension. Then the grief of the emotional loss hit me again deeper than ever. It felt like pure panic, and I wanted in the worst way to get out from under it all. I’d had enough. At my core, I simply could not take any more. The despair felt like a lead blanket of blackness over my soul.
“How could God allow this to happen to me? How could a God whom I believed was a loving father put me, or anyone, through such an ordeal? I knew at some level that others had gone through worse things, but the sting of what I was experiencing was exquisite, and I could find no escape, no comfort. I had attempted to turn to God through silent prayers, but he didn’t appear to be home.
“My mind was in a constant argument between faith, knowing there must be purpose in this somehow, and blame—blaming myself for the crash that caused the death of two of my family members and maimed me beyond repair….
“I had always thought I was such a tough guy. I thought I had learned to handle pain: working on the farm, riding bucking horses, training with the wrestling team, and bearing the impact of football. But those pains were nothing compared to this. And the emotional grief was indescribable. They had buried my wife and baby, and I hadn’t even been there. I felt so empty, so alone….
“The room began to close in on me….and it was like I was looking at the whole scene through a thick, round, glass portal. I became tiny lying on the bed….
“I continued to rise above the scene as my body became smaller and smaller. It was as if I were high above the room, looking down on myself. Everything was dark except my quivering body on the bed….my convulsing physical form, which continued to become smaller and smaller as I rose….
“I heard a hissing sound, and I was suddenly swept away from the horror of looking at myself to a more peaceful place outside in the still night. I didn’t hurt anymore, but I found myself observing an even darker scene. It was like I had broken through a time barrier somehow and was now standing in a garden, but it was no heavenly place. I could feel despair coming from an isolated spot. There I saw another man shivering and convulsing in tremendous pain. I heard his pleas and whimpers as he asked for his cup to pass. I watched from a distance, but I could actually feel his anguish, and watched as he trembled and bled. I heard the words: ‘The Son of Man has descended beneath it all. Are you greater than He?’
“I knew the man’s sorrow and grief. I could hear it, taste it, and feel it in the core of my soul. I shuddered. I was standing there, actually watching and feeling something awful yet sacred. I wanted to rush to him….I witnessed the suffering of this soul and knew I was not separated from it. The feeling of being connected and one with everything and everyone rushed over me….
“My consciousness raced back to my hospital room and into my body. Immediately I began to vomit violently again. However, something about what I had seen gave me higher perspective. I now viewed my situation differently. I no longer felt so sorry for myself….I was willing to fight, I decided. I had been sent back, and the suffering I was experiencing was mine alone to bear. Somehow, peace filled my soul. I began to feel calm and comforted. I found renewed strength. A new courage filled my heart, a knowledge that Jesus himself understood what I was going through personally. I was not alone. He knew me and was totally familiar with my pain, in the body and in the spirit. He had hurt. He had lost. He had suffered. He begged to have the bitter cup pass from him, and yet he accepted his life and his experience with childlike meekness. I now had the perspective to do the same.
“What if God’s hand had played a part in this whole ordeal somehow? What if there was a purpose in this madness? What if this was what I came here to experience in some way? Would this refine me and teach me things I could learn in no other way? The reality hit me. I’d been sent back to learn something. I too must rise again, having been made more whole by all of it….
“I was suddenly embraced by calmness that felt like a warm, soft blanket wrapped around me. I lay there, still quivering with pain but calmer in my heart. I was going to live!” (I Knew Their Hearts, [Cedar Fort, Inc, 2012], pp. 41, 48-53)
(to be continued…)