Woman Declared 'Dead' for 20 Minutes Returned with Description of 'God's City'
By Michael H. Brown
There were no harps. There were no angels winging in the ether. But a woman who experienced what is known as "clinical death" in 1959 -- and now recounts them in an autobiography -- describes Heaven in terms that strikingly parallel depictions in the Book of Revelation.
The woman is Betty Malz of Terre Haute, Indiana, and as she recounts in her book, My Glimpse of Eternity, it happened when she was 27 at Terre Haute's Union Hospital suffering from acute systemic infection in the aftermath of appendicitis.
At five a.m. on a July morning that year, Betty was pronounced dead and a sheet was pulled over her head for twenty minutes. Her parents were notified -- both by normal means and in a way that seemed supernatural. "The Lord had awakened her father, the Reverend Glen Perkins, at 3:30 that morning and had told him to take the forty-five minute drive back to the hospital," states the introduction to her book. "It was part of God's master plan that Betty's father was to be standing by his daughter's bed to see for himself the drama about to take place." And a drama it was. "I'm sorry to call you at this hour," a nurse had said, phoning her mother. "Your daughter, Betty, passed away a few minutes ago."
Dead. In her mid-twenties.
Or was she?
After her pulse stopped, Betty found herself in a setting that was ineffably serene. Peace exuded from the very terrain. "I was walking up a beautiful green hill," she writes. "It was steep, but my leg motion was effortless and a deep ecstasy flooded my body. Despite three incisions in my body from the operations, I stood erect without pain, enjoying my tallness, free from inhibitions about it.
"I looked down. I seemed to be barefoot, but the complete outer shape of my body was a blur and colorless. Yet I was walking on grass, the most vivid shade of green I had ever seen. Each blade was perhaps one inch long, the texture like fine velvet; every blade was vibrant and moving. As the bottoms of my feet touched the grass, something alive in the grass was transmitted up through my whole body with each step I took."
Could this be death, she wondered? Could she have passed to the other side -- across the "veil"?
If so, it was nothing to fear. Like so many who have reported near-death occurrences, she describes the smooth departure from her body, the sense of well-being, the lack of any terror whatsoever.
"Then I realized I was not walking alone. To the left, and a little behind me, strode a tall, masculine-looking figure in a robe. I wondered if he were an angel and tried to see if he had wings. But he was facing me and I could not see his back. I sensed, however, that he could go anywhere he wanted and very quickly. We did not speak to each other. Somehow it didn't seem necessary, for we were headed in the same direction. Then I became aware that he was not a stranger. He knew me and I felt a strange kinship with him."
As in other cases we have reported, the communication seemed to flow directly from mind to mind, spirit to spirit. The imaginings of a young woman who was raised in a religious environment, her father a preacher? Or the real thing?
What's clear is that Malz's descriptions are consistent with thousands of other cases that have been reported since near-death experiences burst on the scene in a studied fashion in 1975. Most strikingly similar are the ways in which those who "die" describe the heavenly environment. The depictions call to mind Chapter Four of Revelation.
In Betty's case, there were incredible multi-colored flowers and on her right side a low stone wall.
"A light from the other side of the wall shone through a long row of amber-colored gems several feet above my head," recounted Betty. "'Topaz,' I thought to myself. The November birthstone. I remembered this from working in Edwards Jewelry store in New Castle, Indiana, before my marriage. November 6 is my birthday.
"Just as we crested the top of the hill, I heard my father's voice calling, 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.' His voice was a long distance away. I thought about turning back to find him."
But instead Betty walked on and soon she and her unknown companion came upon "a magnificent, silver structure" that was "like a palace except there were no towers.
"As we walked toward it, I heard voices. They were melodious, harmonious, blending in chorus."
It was soft, incredible music, and Malz was awed by the richness. She recalls two words from the singing: "Jesus" and "redeemed."
But her heavenly companion: who was he? It felt like she had always known him. It felt like he had always been near, even though she had never seen him before. It was her guardian angel, and he stepped forward to put his palm on a gate that Betty had not previously noticed.
"About twelve feet high, the gate was a solid sheet of pearl, with no handles and some lovely scroll work at the top of its Gothic structure. The pearl was translucent so that I could almost, but not quite, see inside.
"When the angel stepped forward, pressing his palm on the gate, an opening appeared in the center of the pearl panel and slowly widened and deepened as though the translucent material was dissolving. Inside I saw what appeared to be a street of golden color and an overlay of glass or water. The yellow light that appeared was dazzling. There is no way to describe it. I saw no figure, yet I was conscious of a Person. Suddenly I knew that the light was Jesus, the Person was Jesus."
Betty's description is almost identical to that of Dr. George Ritchie, a psychiatrist who experienced death and likewise had the sheet pulled over his head as a young man in Texas. Vibrant colors. Gorgeous white buildings. What seemed like pure gold. "The brightness seemed to shine from the very walls and streets of this place," Dr. Ritchie had said about what he called "God's city" -- and what Betty calls the "City of Tomorrow."
It is also like Revelation and the vision of heavenly worship -- when John describes the "holy city" and a wall that was constructed of jasper. "The city was of pure gold, crystal-clear," wrote the famous prophet. "The foundation of the city wall was ornate with precious stones of every sort; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz...
"The twelve gates were twelve pearls," wrote the prophet, "and the streets of the city were of pure gold, transparent as glass."
Does Malz simply mimic those verses? Was it something that sprung from her religious upbringing -- from her subconsious?
One can legitimately wonder, but the sticking point remains all the others who have described eternity in the same fashion and yet who, unlike Malz, were unfamiliar with Scripture.
And there is the simple power of the experience, especially the return to life.
"When the young nurse's aide popped into the room and saw me sitting up in bed, she screamed, 'Ma'am, you're a ghost!'" writes Malz. "Her black face was ashen. I reached for her hand, surprised by the warm feeling inside that made me want to hug her and reassure her.
"'Tell the floor nurse, I'm not only alive, but I feel wonderful," Malz remembers saying.
[Resources: My Glimpse of Eternity, Return From Tomorrow]
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