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A Higher Purpose: Not Fearing Death Part 2 of Interview with ‘A Taste of Eternity’ Author Martha Halda

How do life-changing or transforming events affect our life purpose? And how do we integrate everything we do into that purpose – and then share it with others?

Martha Halda has found her way: By writing A Taste of Eternity, a forthcoming memoir about how one afternoon reshaped her outlook on life, and the way she chooses to live it.

On October 8, 1999, Martha suffered a horrific car accident, after which she was pronounced clinically dead three caa18c26a173d0dd5e52ba7e572fad9atimes. She remains the only person in the 50-year history of Palomar Pomerado Hospital (North San Diego County) to survive after scoring 0 on her CRAM (Clinical Risk Assessment and Management). Those who score 0 to 1 almost always die, or live in a paralyzed and/or persistent vegetative state. She recovered fully – even completing the 2002 Dublin Marathon.

During her passing over, she had a profound near death experience. How that experience transformed and shifted her life, and how she carried it forward, is covered in A Taste of Eternity, now making its rounds among major publishers through literary agent Dana Newman.

Martha also offers behind-the-chapters stories pertaining to the book at her blog, http://atasteofeternity.wordpress.com.

This is the second of a touching, life-affirming two-part interview with Martha, which comes at a most fitting time, as millions begin to celebrate Easter or Passover.

Word Journeys: Why do so many people find it hard to believe someone can have a near death experience, taste eternity, or have direct perception of God?

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.

img_1293WJ: 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.

WJ: Finally, last year on your birthday, you did something not a lot of 50-somethings would do: jumped off a 50-foot cliff into the Ganges River near Varanasi, India – not once, but several times.

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.

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Tasting Eternity: Interview with Memoirist Martha Halda

For the past 15 years, I have enjoyed the distinct privilege of editing many compelling and even life-changing memoirs, novels and non-fiction books. Few, if any, can match Martha Halda’s story.

On October 8, 1999, Martha suffered a horrific car accident. She was pronounced clinically dead three times. So dire was her condition that her sons, Aaron

"A Taste of Eternity" author Martha Halda

“A Taste of Eternity” author Martha Halda

(then 14) and Nathan (then 11), were brought into her room to say goodbye. Martha remains the only person in the 50-year history of Palomar Pomerado Hospital (North San Diego County) to survive after scoring 0 on her CRAM (Clinical Risk Assessment and Management). Those who score 0 to 1 almost always die; those who score 2 to 3 typically die, or live in a vegetative or severely impaired state. She recovered fully – even completing the 2002 Dublin Marathon – and to embarking on a life purpose that informs everything she does: giving and receiving love, and experiencing each moment to its fullest.

VISIT ‘A TASTE OF ETERNITY’ HOME BLOG

During her passing over, she had a profound near death experience that expanded the deeper purpose and meaning of her Christian walk and life, as well as giving her a much more clear understanding of once vague notions of heaven. That experience, how it blessed, transformed and shifted her life, and how she carried it forward, is covered in her memoir, A Taste of Eternity, now making the rounds among major publishers through literary agent Dana Newman.

This is the first of a two-part interview with Martha. During this Easter and Passover season, enjoy one of the most transformative and life-affirming interviews you may ever read.

Word Journeys: What two or three things from your near death experience stand out, because of the way they impacted your life moving forward?

Martha Halda: I’d shout it from every mountaintop if need be; We are to share love, to all God’s people and creatures.  I was shown love is the most important thing to give. I have a tendency to tell people, “I love you”. Unfortunately, in our society, this can come off odd (laughs), but love to me is not only physical. I want to take the opportunity to tell the people I care about; it may be my last chance.  Another thing I saw is that all life is connected. There are no accidents in life, only providential events. That has helped me during the more difficult stages.  It is up to us, to choose which way we direct our life, according to events.

WJ: How does that work on a daily basis?

MH: I now try to take better notice of things when they are occurring, knowing there is a lesson I want to learn from them the first time. That way, they won’t have to be presented again, which usually is much harder lesson.

WJ: What are a couple of misconceptions that people who haven’t been through a near death experience carry about them?

MH (chuckles): There are a few. I’ll break them out:

1. Some doctors insist it is only a neurochemical reaction to the dying brain. That amuses me. In my experience, the doctors that think this way are ones dealing with death often, such as oncologists. I feel it is a form of denial or emotional protection.  Others say it’s caused by electrical charges of the neutrons misfiring while people die, similar to the side effects of drugs like peyote, psilocybin, or an LSD trip. I certainly don’t want to suggest this pertains to the majority of doctors; for me it was the exception.

2. That you cannot die and come back. I have been treated as if I were working on the side of evil by sharing this experience.  Some church people do follow an approach that basically says a near death experience would never be a possibility for a follower of Christ.  I am a Christian, I did have that experience, and many Christians find comfort in what I share.

3. Some people are either out of touch, or narrow-minded. My first rehab hospital nurse was this way. When I reviewed my injuries with her, I told her, “I went to Heaven.”  She gripped my arm and said, “never tell anyone, or they will never let you out of here.”  To her, I was crazy.

images-22WJ: You write very specifically and deeply about your near death experience, showing how the concept of time doesn’t exist in heaven. Could you elaborate on how you moved from one place to another, one realm to another, without the feeling of time?

MH: Time had no relevance.  The truly powerful currency came from what was I to learn, the knowledge, and life’s lessons.  My entire forty years of life (as of 1999) was shown to me via imagery, a type of ESP, which included all the human senses.  I felt all the feelings I gave someone, received, or caused a person to have.  My angel and I traveled from one place to another drifting, floating, like watching a butterfly or hummingbird.  We just sort of up and went, gliding to the next place of my review, divinely guided.

WJ: Right after your near death experience, you were put into a medically induced coma. Were you able to absorb your experience while in a comatose state?

MH: Many people think that coma patients are not aware of their surroundings, that you are not receptive, but you actually are. I could hear much of what was taking place and comprehend what was being said.

During my coma, I was also able to reflect on Heaven.  I had more visits from my Angel.  When I became distressed or my pastor was doing laying-on-of-hands healing, she was there; it was like looking out a window to her. She offered me peace, comforting me, reminding me that I would be all right, that God loved me and was looking over me.  The veil of Heaven had been lifted. I had seen the other side, the sweetness, the love, the way in which we are a portion of each other, the way God had intended our lives to be.

WJ: What happened when you first came out of the coma?

MH: When the doctors began lifting me out, the first thing that struck me the wrong way was a country music CD playing; it sounded like a sad woman wailing.  Then the TV …  it seemed evil to me. I remember asking a nurse through eye movement, tears streaming down my face, to turn it off.  The news was so depressing … you can imagine what I thought of daytime TV dramas! (laughs)

WJ: What brought you back to this life – when medical indications, and your own feelings while in eternity, made it seem you would not come back?

MH: My boys, Aaron and Nathan. At first, I didn’t accept that I was to return to life. I begged and bartered to stay in Heaven; it was so lovely, I wanted to stay forever.  As part of my barter, I was shown by God the Father, The Trinity, The Omniscient One, The Ultimate Power, Divine Source, The Absolute, Cosmic Creator – whatever you choose to call it – what would come in my life if I returned … or if I stayed. I saw many horrific things would happen to my boy’s lives, how negatively their personalities would be affected by my death.

Then I was shown my life if I came back, the negatives that would happen. It would not be easy. I saw trials, and heartbreaks. I was given a choice, which way to go. After weighing the two, and seeing the future of my sons, I instantly chose to come back. I wanted to be there for my babies, to love them.

I made a promise to God, if he let me return to my boys, I would tell of his great love, and hence A Taste of Eternity.  It was my choice, but it combined my defiance, some reverse psychology, and the presence of parental wisdom.

To read Part 2 of the interview with Martha Halda

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March Madness, in More Ways Than One

Now that the greatest sports tournament in the country, the NCAA’s March Madness basketball showdown, is underway, time to take a breather from what has truly been a mad March from the writing and editing desk.

Actually, count in February as well, especially since the Southern California Writer’s Conference. It turned out to be a major catalyst and motivator to a lot of people, me included. I’m overjoyed to see so many of the attendees taking the spirit and momentum of the conference to power forward with their novels and non-fiction books. Consequently, they are keeping editors and agents very busy right now.

So, a few tidbits from the writing world, about some friends, and also fun cultural happenings from my other creative loves, music and art.

Spent Saturday afternoon at Rock Your Loxx in Oceanside, a hair salon with a wonderful rock music motif and theme. The salon, owned by long-time vocalist and stylist Stephen Jerome, is filled with classic album covers, books, photographs of thirty years of stars, memorabilia and the like. Stephen’s supplies and scissors sit on a Marshall amp, there’s a drum kit in the corner, and the newest piece is an autographed guitar signed by rock star Stevie Salas, who is from Oceanside.

On Saturday, I (literally) ran down to Rock Your Loxx to find nearly a hundred people jamming

Robert Munger (R) presents an autographed Stevie Salas guitar to Rock Your Loxx owner Stephen Jerome during Saturday's promotion for artist Derek Riggs.

Robert Munger (R) presents an autographed Stevie Salas guitar to Rock Your Loxx owner Stephen Jerome during Saturday’s promotion for artist Derek Riggs.

into the salon and waiting in line outside to see Derek Riggs, a fabulous artist best known for his Iron Maiden covers. Whether or not you like heavy metal, Derek’s legacy is this: He is probably the last great album cover artist of a storied tradition that began with Rick Griffith, Wes Wilson and the psychedelic rock band covers of the 1960s. As we all know, albums went the way of dinosaurs in the late 1980s, replaced by CDs — which are headed in the same direction as collectible vinyl becomes all the rage. It was an awesome afternoon for a hair salon whose unique design is now catching the interest of the greater rock music world, and for a stylist who definitely personifies his salon.

During the day, Rock Your Loxx’s interior designer, my long-time friend Robert Munger, introduced me to one of my media heroes: legendary disk jockey Bob Buckmann, who turned up with his wife. After building a 100-watt pirate station in New York as a teenager, Bob made his name on WBAB-FM in Long Island, followed by WAXQ, known better as Q104.3. He headed to the West Coast, and became programming director for the greatest of all West Coast classic rock stations, KLOS. You Southern Californians, remember “The Seventh Day,” when KLOS DJs “Uncle” Joe Benson and Jim Ladd spun seven full albums on Sunday evenings? Bob had a hand in this and other programs in more recent years.

Now Bob is at KGB-FM in San Diego, offering up his 43 years of professional experience. What a thrill it was to meet him and talk with him about a mutual acquaintance and friend, Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane, who I helped 10 years ago with his memoir, Full Flight. We agreed: Marty had one of the greatest voices to ever grace a rock stage. In fact, he inspired the titling of my novel, Voices, because in the 1960s, a helluva long time before a certain TV show grabbed the title, he was known as “The Voice”.

I know one thing: Stephen Jerome is all smiles today, which is his birthday. As Queen lead guitarist Brian May told me years ago on the American Idol set, where he was overseeing a week devoted to Queen, “The key to shaping a show is to hit ‘em over the head with the first two songs, then you can put whatever you want into the set.” Rock Your Loxx pulled off a great show.

• • •

I needed a good rocking break. It’s been crazy, with several clients getting ready (or already started with) the publishing rounds with fantastic novels, trilogies, memoirs and other goodies. In my 12 years as a book editor, I’ve never seen so many high quality manuscripts at the same time – and I’m hearing the same from other independent editors. The competition to publish traditionally is so fierce that writers are putting out their best work – early on. And I’m proud to say that my clients are writing highly publishable material.

Meantime, through my agent Dana Newman, I’m in the middle of publisher negotiations for works that I will share more with you when the good news comes. Yep, I’m superstitious. Seen too many “sure bet” deals slip through the cracks. But these look good, and when the contracts arrive, I’ll tell you all about them, who’s publishing them and where to find them next year.

• • •

Barbara Stahura and Ken Willingham

Barbara Stahura and Ken Willingham

A tip of the cap to my long-time friend, Barbara Stahura, who recently moved from Tucson to Southern Indiana. Barbara was the most versatile journalist with whom I worked when I was editorial director at Faircount International in Tampa, and also the person most responsible for hooking me up as a presenter/teacher at writer’s conferences.

Almost 10 years ago, Barbara’s husband, Ken Willingham, suffered a serious traumatic brain injury in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. She wrote about the experience in her 2008 memoir, What I Thought I Knew. She also wrote a workbook based on her time participating in Ken’s rehab, After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook, which is quickly becoming the standard-bearer for TBI writing therapy in a field that finally has the attention of the nation.

Today, Barbara is a national expert on TBI, particularly writing therapy, as well as a masterful journaling teacher. In a recent article in the Evansville Courier, she discusses the sudden change in her life, and the ensuing decade that has brought her to this front-in-center advocate’s position. What a great work and service, Barbara.

•  • •

Speaking of inspiration, stay tuned tomorrow and Wednesday for a two-part blog that will likely leave your jaw dropping. Let’s just say the subject, and the author, Martha Halda, are the closest things to me in this life. And soon, we’ll get to read all about it through her memoir, A Taste of Eternity.

That’s all the teasing for now. Back tomorrow. Write and read well today.

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Feasting on Words: Billy Collins, Southern California Writers Conference, and New Books in the Making

A few odds and ends while feeling very inspired and energized by the past ten days, which have included a wonderful Southern California Writers Conference, starting to put together what will be a smashing Spring 2013 issue of The Hummingbird Review, watching editing clients get one deal and opportunity after another, and Tuesday night’s superb event with Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate of the United States…

The Billy Collins program at Point Loma Nazarene University was truly special. Billy has drawn hundreds of thousands of otherwise non-poetry fans into the world of poetry through his easily accessible, humorous, poignant and endearing takes on life’s otherwise ordinary moments. On Tuesday night before a standing room-only crowd of more than 400 at Crill Hall, he read 17 poems spanning his career (10 collections, plus several anthologies), including a couple from his latest, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems 2003-2013, which will be released October 22. He also sat with PLNU journalism faculty member and Writer’s Symposium coordinator Dean Nelson, himself the author of a dozen books, for an excellent hour-long discussion.

One of Billy’s many funny lines? Check out this succinct take on science fiction: “There are only two directions for all of science fiction: We’re going there, or they’re coming here.” Priceless.

Discussing poetry with former Poet Laureate of the U.S. Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

Discussing poetry with former Poet Laureate of the U.S. Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

A couple hours earlier, I interviewed Billy at his bayside Shelter Island hotel for The Hummingbird Review. It was fun, lively, full of wisdom and humor – typical of Billy’s take on the world. We had a wonderful discussion about his poetics and vast contributions, a part of which I will share in this blog on Friday. For the rest, you’ll have to pick up The Hummingbird Review.

A really funny moment popped up during the interview. When my sweetheart, A Taste of Eternity author Martha Halda, and I told Billy how Carlsbad High School teacher Tom Robertson turned us onto poetry in our freshman English class, Billy looked at Martha and quipped, “So you were one of those mean girls!” He was referencing the fact that he (like me) was painfully shy in high school, and not on the radar screen of the school’s most beautiful girls. We informed him that Martha was one of the nicest (and best looking, and still is) CHS beauties, to which he replied, “So you were the nice one!” Gotta love this man.

• • •

I’m still pouring through notes from the Southern California Writer’s Conference, so I want to share a few comments that famed science fiction writer David Brin made that are great takeaways for writers and readers alike (with very special thanks to Alicia Bien for emailing her notes as well):

On the bad guys we all love to hate (or maybe root for) in novels: “Give the villain great dialogue so they are tempted. Make your villains so powerful that the U.S. government can’t beat them.”

Bestselling science fiction author David Brin (photo by Gayle Carline)

Bestselling science fiction author David Brin (photo by Gayle Carline)

On the purpose of writing: “Convey your sense of joy on the page. Control your ego, but believe you can write material that people want to read. Remember: writing is the only true form of magic.”

How to write a first page that hooks readers: “The first page must sing. Copy the first page of writers you respect, see how they move the story, and find that within your own voice, your own story.

Four keys to getting published and drawing your readers:

1)   You need an ear

2)   Bring on the criticism because you can be even better – and you know it

3)   Hard work

4)   Luck

• • •

Have been having a blast editing and/or writing proposals for some truly wonderful books that have made their way onto my computer in the past several months. Will rattle off their titles and authors now, so that you will grab them and share the experience when they hit bookstores in the next 12 to 18 months (as I am fully confident they will):

• A Taste of Eternity, a memoir by Martha Halda

• Home Free Adventures, a travel narrative by Lynne Martin

• Island Fever, Mustang Fever and Storm Chasers, an adventure romance trilogy by Stephen B. Gladish

• Who Will Cry for Us? a memoir by Davion Famber

• The Columbian Prophecy, a novel by Gary B. Deason

• Changes in Longitude, a travel narrative/memoir by Larissa and Michael Milne

• Red Hand, a novel by Seamus Beirne

• Forgoing Stress, a prescriptive book by Leo Willcocks

Next week, I will talk more about a couple of books coming from yours truly, including my forthcoming novel, Voices. We’ll also hear from authors Larissa and Michael Milne, Martha Halda and Stephen B. Gladish. Stay tuned.

• • •

Speaking of March, two events are coming up in the next two months that I hope you will participate in, if you are suitably located geographically: the Tucson Festival of Books March 9-10 at the University of Arizona in Tucson; and the L.A. Times Festival of Books April 20-21 on the University of Southern California campus. Between the two, more than 100,000 people will be in attendance. These events are a paradise for readers, a chance to meet and talk with hundreds of authors and publishers in all genres. Check them out.

 

 

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