Martha Halda: I feel it’s because we are too busy judging. Judgment causes the unbearable fear of non-acceptance. Think about it, from our first day on the playground, all we want is to be accepted, to be part of the group, invited in. Some people can’t accept what they haven’t seen, touched or felt themselves. Some need science to prove anything or everything before they will accept it, Often, people are afraid that society will think them odd or mentally off. To talk about this, I needed the faith that comes from knowing that what I experienced was 100% real. Faith can go a long way, but first we must to get out of our own way. We need to remove the mighty ego. Many people still need society to accept it, before they are willing.
WJ: That’s a great point – and leads to my next question. A Taste of Eternity crosses all religious lines – and goes beyond them. When I read it, I saw how you touched and experienced the unifying point behind ALL religions. Could you speak to the essence of spirit, based on your experience?
MH: For me, the essence of spirit is sharing, caring, love, a unity of all things. I mean all things: everything is energy, it is all particles or atoms or cells, and they are all part of each other. During my experience, at one point, I had a mental vision or thought that a waterfall would be nice; suddenly, particles from all over a meadow came together and re-formed as a waterfall. It was as if everything existed to bring pleasure.
WJ: Three years after your accident, after being told you would never walk again, you completed the Dublin Marathon. How did the marathon intensify your desire to live life to the max, without fear of what may or may not happen next?
MH: I know that any day could be my last. When it’s my time, then it’s my time, I have no fear of death; in fact, I welcome the day. I won’t do anything to bring it on myself, because I want to be sure I get to go to Heaven again, and I don’t want to feel the hurt I would cause my friends.
WJ: How does your family view your experience now, compared with how they first responded to it?
MH: They don’t really view it differently at all. We don’t talk about it much. It may have changed their views of life indirectly, but it is a personal thing. I feel they have a beauty inside their souls knowing that God is there for each of us, and there is no reason to fear death.
WJ: How did your life purpose change from your experience?
MH: Today, I don’t know if I really have one, in the traditional way. I used to have a very clear purpose as a mother. Now, it is just to see life in all things with joy. I want to understand how and why religions say their way is the only right way; the loving embrace of the God I met was not that condemning. I feel if people would open their hearts and minds to another’s way, they would see the commonality in our beliefs, customs, and lifestyles, and not the differences.
WJ: You came back with heightened senses, one of which is a particular affinity with animals, which you discuss in the book. Could you elaborate?
MH: I just look into the eyes of birds, dogs, cats, birds or deer and can tell if they are happy and well or not. They don’t fear me, and some will become very assertive toward me in a good way. They know they are safe with me. That’s all. When you bring this up, I get the opportunity to feel the way some of the people in my life felt about me talking about my near death experience – shoosh! someone might hear you. (laughs)
WJ: When people read books like A Taste of Eternity, or talk with you about it, what would you like them to take away from the experience?
MH: Simply the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. To give, share, and express love; it’s the most important thing we have to offer! Love is the only Eternal possession we have. When we die, the only thing we take is the love we shared, the memories we make, and our integrity. Everything else stays here. No U-Hauls in Heaven.
MH: Well, I was also the only high school girl skateboarder in the mid-1970s who bombed the steep La Costa hills in Carlsbad (Calif.), where I grew up! So it’s not that much of a departure for me. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I’d been white-water rafting all morning with two young ladies from Scotland who were also go-for-it women. I saw the cliffs, told our guide to beach the raft, walked past some Indian men who were thinking about it but were afraid to jump … and I stepped in front of them and jumped. I laugh every time I close my eyes and see the looks on their faces! It was one of those extraordinary moments. I’m always ready for them.