On a hot summer day in July, 2015, my mother, my two younger sisters and I sat in a doctor’s office in Galveston, TX, awaiting the oncology specialist with Mother’s test results. At my younger sister’s suggestion, I had taken off work to attend the doctor’s appointment, but I was only there physically. Mentally, I was still at work, creating a list of to-dos: people to call, meetings to schedule and a list of activities to accomplish. As a single mom of two active teen boys, my sole focus in life was my definition of success: climbing the corporate ladder at an oil and gas company and providing well for my family. I did not overly concern myself with the things of God or the supernatural. I was confident my mother was fine. She was a vibrant, attractive and active 70-year old who had survived breast cancer in her early 50s. Whatever the report, I assumed all would be well and life would continue its hectic pace.
The young female doctor walked in and sat down across from my mother. Her bedside manner was gentle and calm as she quietly explained the diagnosis of an aggressive uterine cancer that had already spread to the abdomen, lungs and to nearby lymph nodes. She explained the lack of a cure for this type of cancer, mentioned optional trial drugs, offered chemotherapy to extend life, and then sat quietly with tears in her eyes. No one moved and my mental tasking abruptly ended. Finally, the kind doctor got up from her chair and held my mother in a warm embrace as the three of us daughters sat in stunned silence. One conversation had changed all the priorities vying for my time and attention. Was there really a God? It was time to find out.
The book Heaven is for Real became popular in 2010 when Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent documented a near-death experience of Burpo’s 3-year-old son Colton. Though I considered the book entertaining and uplifting, I didn’t give much thought to near-death experiences — until Mother glimpsed heaven herself nine months after the cancer diagnosis.
After a medical procedure in April, Mother was moved from the operating room to a recovery room in Intensive Care. My sisters and I were anxiously waiting and watching for her return. As Mother was wheeled down the hallway toward her private room, she began shouting excitedly, “Angels! Angels!” Her eyes were darting left and right as she intensely watched the ceiling tiles.
My youngest sister quietly asked, “Mom, do you see angels?”
My mom nodded her head vigorously. “Yes!” she cried.
As the nurses began to situate Mother in her room, one spoke to us soothingly over her shoulder. “Don’t worry. Your mother was given a heavy tranquilizer for the surgery. She might say some crazy things. It’s normal.”
We nodded our heads in understanding, and the nurses left the room to allow us some privacy.
The second the door closed behind the departing nurses, Mother shouted excitedly, “Tana, Lori, Alyssa, I saw Jesus! I WENT TO HEAVEN! Jesus touched my hands, and told me now was not my time, but He would see me soon!” She went on to describe innumerable angels flying around in Heaven, her deceased mother dressed in a beautiful gown of silver and gold, indescribable singing, and amazing colors she had never seen before. With overwhelming joy and a sob in her throat, Mother described Heaven for over an hour, declaring “Jesus is real! He is beautiful with loving eyes! Heaven is real!” And as she contemplated her visit, she wondered aloud, “Heaven is so beautiful! Why would anyone ever want to come back here?” A week later, on May 5, 2016, Mother went to Heaven and did not come back.
“And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) NKJV
Jesus spoke these words to a repentant thief who died beside him, but the Bible also teaches “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14 NKJV). Jesus calls us to respond to the salvation message — that he through his atoning death and resurrection provides the only way to the Father. Although my mother was not healed the way I had expected and prayed for, I was more convinced than ever that God exists and answers our prayers, and Heaven is indeed real. My boys and I learned together to pray in faith, expecting things to happen, for “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
Five years later, I am now a Bible study leader, teacher, and prayer warrior. God invited me out of corporate America and into a completely different life working with and for him. My journey started with a loving mother who accepted his call, making her bold stand for God. Each of her three daughters witnessed her glimpse of Heaven and also accepted God’s call. Like Isaiah, who got a glimpse of the eternal stage in Isaiah 6, we each answered, “Hineni! Here am I! Send me.” This Hebrew word hineni expresses a person responding willingly to an authority figure. When I consider the authority of the One who sits on the throne, deserving all honor and glory from every creature who has ever lived on earth (see Revelation 5:13), what other response makes sense? When our loved ones who are in Christ leave this earth, they merely cross over to a place of rejoicing and celebration. Meanwhile, those of us who live on earth can wake up daily and say, “Today, God, here am I. Send me into the world to do your work in the lives of others. Amen.” ~ Tana
Tana Deshayes is a Bible Study leader with 4Word Women, a Christian organization that helps women in the workplace reach their God-given potential with confidence (www.4wordwomen.org). As a Board member of the 4Word: Houston chapter, Tana works on community outreach to share the gospel message. Following God’s call, Tana retired from corporate America in 2019 after working 20+ years in the oil and gas industry. She has a passion for teaching and mentoring women in the workplace and believes that bringing the “heart” of women into the business world is the key to success. Tana is blessed to be the mother of two handsome young men who are “skillful in playing, mighty men of valor, men of war who are prudent in speech, and the Lord is with them.” (1 Sam. 16:18)