Heaven is for real . . .
It's been over 40 years since Ann Howard had a near death experience, but she remembers the day with great clarity.
Howard, who was middle-age in 1977, was living in Columbia, S.C. with her husband Bill and their two children — college-age daughter Debbie and high school son Mike.
A newspaper in Columbia published Howard's story on March 1,1977, after Debbie shared with her college class. Debbie's professor notified the newspaper and a reporter with The Record visited the Howard's home.
Howard said this week that she is lucky to have had the experience and be able to remember it.
Howard came across the newspaper clipping that shares the account of her experience.
She said the "find" was timely because of the Easter season and the release of the new movie "Heaven is For Real," based on a true story of a little boy's near death experience.
"There is no way to explain how beautiful everything was," she said this week of her brief glimpse of heaven."I remember trying to get to the end of a tunnel. I could see the light and hear the most beautiful music, something like the Philharmonic Orchestra."
She was hospitalized in Columbia with a severe asthma attack in the mid-1970s, she told the newspaper in Columbia. She said she was given morphine to ease her discomfort in her struggle to breath and almost immediately went into cardiac arrest in her hospital room.
"Back then no one really knew how to treat asthma," Howard said.
Bill, who was a pharmacy representative, was at the hospital at the time and was in the midst of having a conversation with several doctors just down the hall when the hospital switchboard operator called a "May Day," Howard explained.
All the doctors came running and found Howard in distress.
Howard said she could see herself "overhead and all the doctors were looking down on me in the bed. I wanted to tell Bill that I was okay and not to worry," she said.
"Since that experience, I have no fear of death. I feel like I'm in a hurry to get there," the now 80-year-old said.
Howard said although she's gone to church her whole life she doesn't consider herself a "religious" person.
"But I definitely believe heaven is for real," she said. "Nothing can compare to what I saw."
She said she has visited six continents and 124 countries, "and nothing compares to the beauty. It is hard to tell someone how gorgeous it was. How do you describe it?" Howard said.
"I do not know enough words to describe it. You have this feeling it's alright to go there."Howard said although she doesn't remember any specific person coming to her, "there were a lot of people running to me."
"It was the most beautiful experience I've ever had," Howard said.
She said doctors later told her she was in the cardiac arrest less than five minutes.
In the newspaper account of her experience, Howard says:
"I couldn't see my husband, but I knew he was there. I couldn't talk to anybody, and of course they weren't talking to me but to each other. I wanted to tell my husband that I wasn't in any kind of pain, but that I felt I was leaving.
"It wasn't bad. I was in, like, a darkness, a tunnel is the best kind of explanation I can give. In the darkness I was in there was a way to get outside, an end to the tunnel."
She said what was outside, at the end of the tunnel, "was beautiful, more beautiful than anything I could imagine. And there was music almost too beautiful to really be."
"I could see the end, and I couldn't wait to get there. The closer I got the more I wanted to tell my husband it was good and didn't hurt. I don't really know how to explain it except to say that it was a wonderful feeling."
"The end (of the tunnel) was like a green garden, but there was an awful lot of light shining through and golden reflections coming through all this green.
She said as she drew closer and closer the music seemed to be getting louder and louder. People were talking and I could hear voices. I was going to the end with anticipation with a feeling of wanting to get there," she said.
Howard said she told the reporter that she had no death wish and had even thought, before this experience, that she wished someone could invent a drug that would help a person live forever because death was frightening.
She no longer fears death.
Howard said the experience has also made her more sensitive to other people's walk toward death and helped her prepare for her own parents' death.
"It is so fitting that I found this newspaper right now at Easter and with this movie being released," Howard said.
Howard has read the book and plans to see the movie.