(RNS) Eva Piper considered herself a shallow Christian until the accident that revitalized her faith and turned her Baptist pastor husband, Don Piper, into the best-selling author of “90 Minutes in Heaven.”

Eva Piper considered herself a shallow Christian, that is, before the accident that revitalized her faith and turned her Baptist pastor husband, Don Piper, into the bestselling author of "90 Minutes in Heaven.” Photo courtesy Roslan & Campion PR

Eva Piper considered herself a shallow Christian, that is, before the accident that revitalized her faith and turned her Baptist pastor husband, Don Piper, into the best-selling author of “90 Minutes in Heaven.” Photo courtesy Roslan & Campion PR


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“It wasn’t until Don’s accident that I really opened myself up to a really honest relationship with the Lord,” said Eva Piper, who says she’s embarrassed to recall her superficial faith.

Eva Piper writes about life after her husband’s alleged visit to heaven in “A Walk Through the Dark,” released on July 30. Her book comes nine years after the publication of her husband’s book, which spent more than five years on The New York Times’ best-seller list.

While the survivors’ tales of visiting the Pearly Gates have been a boon for publishers, they’ve also had a more direct impact on spouses and parents. For the family members, life — and faith — changes nearly as much as it did for the men they nearly lost.

Don Piper was hit by a semi-truck while driving home, and paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. But, 90 minutes later, he said he was prayed back to life by a fellow pastor.

Eva Piper’s book, which is more of a practical guide for caregivers, recalls her frustration with her husband’s disappointment at being brought back to earth and long nights spent beside hospital beds asking God “Why?”

The niche genre of “to-heaven-and-back” books have hit bookshelves with surprising regularity — and success — in recent years. The popular book “Heaven Is for Real” is being adapted into a movie, coming out in 2014.

Todd and Sonja Burpo, the parents whose 4-year-old son Colton is the subject of “Heaven Is for Real,” have their own book out, “Heaven Changes Everything,” about the impact that their son’s near-death experience had on their lives. The original book has sold more than 7.5 million copies after 22 printings.

Eva Piper tells her perspective of life after her husband, Don’s alleged visit to heaven in “A Walk Through the Dark,” released Tuesday (July 30). Photo courtesy Roslan & Campion PR

Eva Piper tells her perspective of life after her husband, Don’s alleged visit to heaven in “A Walk Through the Dark,” released Tuesday (July 30). Photo courtesy Roslan & Campion PR


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Writer Paula Black has recounted her husband Dale’s trip to heaven following a plane crash he survived at age 19. She intersperses her narrative with questions she asked her husband, ones she thought a reader would ask.

“We haven’t felt like it was the right time to do anything with it, but we probably will at some point,” Paula Black said of the as-yet-unpublished book.

“That’s because it’s impacted me so much.”

Her husband wasn’t initially interested in being “one of those people” writing about something that can’t be proven. But eventually, she said, it had such an impact on her that he finally agreed to include it in his 2010 book, “Flight to Heaven.”

“It has completely transformed my faith,” said Paula Black, who didn’t hear about her husband’s trip to heaven until 40 years after the fact.

She said Dale Black’s experience allowed her to grasp the concept of “God is love,” which took on a new reality and depth after he told her about heaven. Raised Christian, Paula Black said talking with her husband about his experience brought substance to her faith, and enriched Scripture.

“It changed my understanding of who God is,” she said. “I had a saving relationship through Jesus, but it brought it so much alive.”

Her husband originally planned to write a book about surviving a “non-survivable crash,” but when Paula Black found out he’d been to heaven, she said that had to be in his book. “It has defined you,” she told him. “Heaven changed you.”

Both wives said that their husbands’ accounts made heaven more real for them. The same is true for Annette Wiese, whose husband Bill Wiese penned “23 Minutes in Hell” in 2006.  She said she had never given much thought to hell before the book.

“I never realized how important the decision of faith is to that degree and impact,” she said. She believed her husband’s vision right away, “because I knew his character.”

Despite the positive approaches and renewed faiths of these wives, many critics have worked to dispel firsthand afterlife accounts.

Esquire magazine recently reported on Eben Alexander (author of “Proof of Heaven”) as a man looking to reinvent himself in the wake of a rocky neurosurgery career. Oliver Sacks, a noted neurologist, recently dissected the scientific explanation for out-of-body and near-death experiences that lead to religious epiphanies in The Atlantic.

“While it is understandable that one might attribute value, ground beliefs, or construct narratives from them, hallucinations cannot provide evidence for the existence of any metaphysical beings or places,” Sacks wrote. “They provide evidence only of the brain’s power to create them.”

Eva Piper said she’s received a scattering of negative emails and notes, “but far less than I imagined.” Most people, she said, “really, really want to know about heaven. They want to know that there’s a better place than where we’re living now.”

21 Comments

  1. Prayed back to life? Really? If this were true, wouldn’t this be a circumvention of “God’s will”? The accident must have been “God’s will” as well, as he controls all, right? This reminds me of Job. God made him suffer tremendously just to “prove” to Satan that he would remain faithful. Why would the creator of all need to prove anything to anyone? Sounds like two people have figured out yet another way to make money from people’s unrealistic beliefs in something that can’t be proved. God is good!

    • Because Our Father in Heaven wants us to KNOW HE is in Heaven, and that there IS a Heaven. You may have grown up in a loving family of faith, but there are many who have suffered Religious abuse, sexual abuse, or have grown up without faith. In His infinite Mercy, He may be allowing these experiences to be reported just as His Miracles in Scripture. God’s thoughts are not your thoughts. You may have a limited understanding of His motives, but that should not blind you to the Grace of so many being uplifted in their old faith or given a new faith at a time when they most need it. Just be grateful for the Grace. You’ll find out why He does this when it’s your own time.

    • The accident must have been “God’s will” as well, as he controls all, right?
      Not really… this is where we err about God. God never wills us harm in any way. God does allow the natural course of events to take place by not intervening in every action of ours. If He did we would never learn our lessons. It hurts Him more than us to not intervene. It pleases Him when we show love for our neighbor by praying to Him to bless our neighbor and wishing good for our neighbor. He delights in the same and thus is moved to answer our prayer.

      Your point on the book of JOB is a good one, which seems to contradict what I have said above. It too was puzzling to me at first and I questioned God about it and also contemplated much on it. The insights from my contemplation were as follows:

      True God does not have to prove to anything to anyone. His greatest attributes are love and mercy. He loves the greatest sinner just as He loves the righteous.

      JOB has always been upright and blessed in many ways…. his love for God is steadfast. He proved himself to God in good times. But true love should also be steadfast in bad times. Holy Scripture says when much is given, much is expected.

      Satan has very little regard for us, humans. When Satan came to God sneering that JOB was only faithful because the blessings God bestowed on him, God allowed Satan to tempt JOB. It was Satan who inflicted the sufferings on JOB. God sustained JOB. God knew JOB will be a much stronger and faithful individual after JOB had gone through the trials and God rewarded JOB accordingly in the end.

      It is much like any of man’s invention which has to be put through rigorous tests to discover if the invention lives up to the claims of the inventor. Just like the critics, skeptics of the inventor are allowed to test the invention, so God permitted Satan to test man…. it is through trials that we mature, gain knowledge, understanding, wisdom, fortitude, patience, perseverance, courage and respect of God.

      Take time out in the quiet to experience God. He will manifest Himself to anyone who seeks Him sincerely.

  2. Particularly silly is Oliver Sacks’ comment that so-called “hallucinations” “provide evidence only of the brain’s power to create” metaphysical beings or places. The experience of such beings and places is entirely subjective, but there is not a shred of evidence that anyone’s brain “created” them. Sounds like more barking from believers of the bankrupt physicalist model!

  3. When I was a kid, I had 3 diseases at the same time…measles, mumps and pink-eye. I had a terrible fever. My Mom, who slept 2 floors above, ‘somehow’ knew
    that my brain was boiling. All of a sudden I was looking at her from above. I saw the back of her head and everything in my room. I remember not wanting to return. I was back into my body and aldways wondered if the fever caused a hallucination. I read many, many years later about near- death experiences. It was just too spooky to ignore. There was no tunnel of light, just a quick return.

  4. That’s all fine and good if she want to believe that. But the fact of the matter is it’s all just somebody’s made-up story after they experienced an oxygen-starved brain. When we die we most likely just worm food. Our brain get eaten up. There isn’t any ghost in the machine that rises up like a metaphysical mist that survives death. Once you’re gone, you’re gone. That’s just the way it is. Refusal to accept that is the primary force driving religion.

    • Except for one thing. How does that explain the several instances recorded of people rising above their bodies in their Spirit Body and witnessing their surgery, and or after accidents and then giving a full description of what they saw. AND THEY WERE BLIND IN THE BODY. Splain THAT to me Lucy.

      • “several instances recorded” Sorry Jim, there have been more than several. There have been several thousand documented cases of people witnessing their own surgeries and/or ER encounters and later telling people what they heard and saw.

    • Ryan, we would have been worm food had the Son of God not come to redeem us. We do have a soul, the spiritual part of us along with the physical body. How do you suppose we experience emotions of various levels? Think about it. Can a piece of bone, muscle animate on their own? What causes us to remember events… the brain? What is the brain made of that it can experience: happiness, love, sadness etc? Man has created computers, to think and analyze matter like a human but at a much faster rate… yet the computers cannot fell any of the emotions. The mystery is revealed in religion. Rejoice you and I are not created to be mere worm food we have a Creator Who seeks us out lovingly and Who wants to provide for us in everything. Do not let the evil one deceive you. Spend quiet time discovering this God … He is very close to you… Invite Him in your life… you will be much surprised and delightfully so.

  5. If someone does not want to believe in a life after death they can always find a reason to doubt, even with much evidence in a life after death glaring them in the face.

    • True! You either believe after you hear about Near Death Experience (NDE) or you don’t. In the end, it comes down to Faith. There are those that believe what the Bible teaches about a Heaven and a Hell and those that don’t. Guess we just need to continue to pray for those that don’t.

      I continue to remember a story our priest once told us in a Bible Class. A sect of the early Jews were the Sadducees. They did not believe in an afterlife. He went on to say, that is “Sad,U See”.

  6. Helen, you said “God never wills us harm in any way”. The “us” must not have included Job’s family. Supposedly they were all killed, if not by his will, then is there someone more powerful? What about the great flood? If you can believe it, I can’t. He supposedly saved Noah and his family, but murdered everyone else in the entire world because they were wicked. Really? Everyone except Noah and his family? They must have not been in the “us” category either. Read the bible. If it doesn’t make you re-think how you view your God, then take the blinders off and read it again. It is absolutely one of the most immoral books ever written.
    Good day!

    • Suppose much of the Bible was about false ideas of God? In Job’s case the real story was his faith and trust, not God’s childish malice. A God of arbitrary and childish malice may well have been deliberately presented as a false idea. In fact, the Book of Job takes the form of a trial, with accusations and witnesses. God – that is, the false idea of god – is on trail and found not innocent.

      If you read Genesis 1, you see that God made humanity in God’s likeness – with free will, and with the responsibility to work together to govern this world wisely. God does not take away our freedom by determining our every move or punishing the bad and rewarding the good.

      You may read the story of Abraham and Isaac as an example of extreme obedience. I don’t I read it as Abraham’s disobedience to a false idea of God. His conscience (dramatized as an angel) told him human sacrifice, considered a pious necessity at that time in that part of the world, was wrong, an offense against humanity and therefore God. He proceeded to stop the practice among his people. Again, this famous story is another example of the Bible’s presenting a false idea of God and disowning it.

  7. I just want to share a favorite quotation from St. Augustine. ” Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”

  8. I’ll share one as well. Not my favorite, but quite apropos “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.” – Benjamin Franklin

    Good day!

  9. It is interesting,Earold, that you would quote Benjamin Franklin. Did you know that he was a freemason? Did you also know that the father of modern day freemasonry was Albert Pike who studied satonism and also witchcraft? The grandfather of freemasonry was Sir Frances Bacon who also studied satonism and witchcraft. That’s sad.

  10. I regularly have dreams about my parents and other dead loved ones. They bring their friends that I never knew. They seem amused when I wonder how they are all of the same age when in this life they were of very different ages. Sometimes they are kids, sometimes adults. They always enjoy themselves, hold witty but normal conversations, garden, play act, tell me stories about their lives that I later find to be true. They are radiantly healthy, without the limitations they had in this life, although they tell me they cannot reveal their true glorified bodies because that would harm me. They sometimes teach me phrases in the “language of numbers’ – 525, for instance, means “he/she lives.” There’s never any talk of God. Only of friendship, kindness, amusement, enjoyment, love.

    Do we all imagine the afterlife – whether real or just imagined – differently? Are my dreams a balance to my life of solitude (which I like)? Who knows?

  11. Thank you dear for sharing your experience, it is so good for us as Christians to have people who can boldly come out to help us check our walk with God. He is faithful and a great God who doesn’t want us to be lost but to come to a full knowledge of who he is and accept his son Jesus Christ so that we can inherit eternal life .

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