I had over 300 pages of research for Imagine Heaven, so I couldn’t include everything in the book. In some of my upcoming blogs, I’ll be sharing “the rest of the story” or my insights. One little fact I wished I’d included in chapter one is found below. If you haven’t read chapters one and two, you can read them here.
When Dr. George Ritchie died while at Camp Barkley, he didn’t realize he was dead, and fearing he was going to miss the train to Richmond for Medical School, he found his very thoughts propelling him toward Richmond somehow:
“Already Camp Barkeley seemed to be far behind me as I sped over the dark frozen desert. My mind kept telling me that what I was doing was impossible, and yet, it was happening. A town flashed by beneath me, caution lights blinking at the intersections. This was ridiculous! A human being could not fly without an airplane— anyhow I was traveling too low for a plane…An extremely broad river was below me now. There was a long, high bridge, and on the far bank the largest city I had come to yet. I wished I could go down there and find someone who could give me directions…I caught a flickering blue glow. It came from a neon sign over the door of a red-roofed one-story building with a Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer sign propped in the front window. Café, the jittering letters over the door read, and from the windows light streamed onto the pavement. Staring down at it, I realized I had stopped moving altogether.”
Dr. Ritchie claimed he later saw Jesus who showed him much more, then he revived. He went on to medical school in Richmond, Virginia, but when America entered World War II, he again had to go back to Camp Barkley to be deployed to fight. Driving from Richmond to Camp Barkley, he and some friends came to the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, Mississippi. George had never been to this place before, yet as they drove along, things became very familiar to him and he started telling the driver directions through the city:
“I knew I had never been there before, and yet I knew exactly how the shoreline would look around the next curve. How the streets would intersect. There! Just as I had known they would! And all at once I knew for sure that straight ahead on that very street we would come in a few blocks to a white frame building with a red roof and the word Café in neon letters over the door… The neon letters over the door were turned off in the bright daylight but the Pabst sign was still propped in the right-hand window. There was the sidewalk where I walked beside a man who could not see me. There was the telephone pole where I had stood so long . . . how long? In what kind of time and what kind of body? “Stop!” I cried. For Pete was passing the little restaurant. Pete pulled over to the curb…“I thought you’d never been in Mississippi?” Pete said. My hand was sweaty on the door handle. I longed to leap out of that car, to run across the street to that phone pole, to grab that guy wire, grab it and shake it… So it was here! Vicksburg, Mississippi. Here was where I stopped in that headlong bodiless flight. Here I stopped, and thought, and turned back.” [quoted from Return from Tomorrow]
This physical verification made Dr. Ritchie realize his journey that night was real, but in a dimension and realm that’s unseen all around us. Jesus told us very clearly there is an unseen spiritual realm, and it’s beauty and wonders are astounding, but it’s not all good. That’s why I wrote Imagine Heaven—because you can watch all kinds of TV shows today about the unseen spiritual world all around us, but people can get easily deceived when they don’t seek God or His wisdom about it. I pray Imagine Heaven helps people understand how real this unseen world is, but also trust what the Bible says about it.
Dr. Moody coined the term “near-death experience” after hearing Dr. Ritchie’s story. Moody asked Dr. Ritchie if he could dedicate his book, Life After Life, to him (the first book on NDEs). Richie replied, “I appreciate that, but I would rather you dedicate it to Jesus Christ because he is the one who gave me this experience.” Moody said he wanted to “stay neutral on the question of religion,” so he dedicated it “to George Ritchie, MD, and through him to the One whom he suggested.”
Why don’t we all get such an experience? As Dr. Ritchie relays and others express, it’s not actually a blessing but a responsibility: “The contrast between the love of Jesus and the world in which I found myself having to go on living made the year following my illness the most difficult of my life.” Many people resuscitated from an NDE say the same thing. They didn’t want to come back because this life is merely a shadow of the exhilarating wonders of the life to come.
If you want to read the full story of Dr. Ritchie (and many others like him), go to imagineheaven.net to get the first two free chapters of Imagine Heaven.