When Charlotte’s heart stopped, her amazing visit to heaven began
One day back in September, Charlotte Holmes watched from above as a dozen medical personnel surrounded her hospital bed and fought heroically to bring her back from death. One staff member knelt astride of her on the bed, delivering chest compressions as others administered drugs, adjusted monitors and called out readings. In the corner of the room, Charlotte saw her husband Danny watching, alone and scared.
Then, she smelled the most wonderfully intoxicating fragrance she’d ever smelled. And with that, heaven opened before her.
Charlotte, who has lived with Danny in Mammoth for 48 years, had been admitted three days earlier to Cox South Hospital in Springfield after she went for a routine checkup with her cardiologist and was sent directly to the hospital when her blood pressure spiked at 234 / 134.
“I’ve always had trouble with my blood pressure, and I’ve been in the hospital two or three times before when they put me on IV medication to bring it down,” she said. “That time, in September, I’d been there three days, and I was hooked up to all the heart monitors. They had just given me a sponge bath in my bed, and they were putting a clean hospital gown on me when it happened. I can’t remember anything about that moment, but Danny said I just fell over, and one of the nurses said, ‘Oh my gosh. She’s not breathing.’”
Danny told her later that her eyes were wide open, and she seemed to be staring. The nurse ran out of the room, and called a code, bringing a crowd of medical personnel rushing into the room. One got up on the bed and began the chest compressions.
“I thought I wasn’t gonna bring you home,” Danny told her later.
That was the moment, Charlotte said, when “I came out above my body. I was looking down on everything. I could see them working on me on the bed. I could see Danny standing in the corner.”
And then came the wonderful fragrance.
“The most beautiful, wonderful smell, like nothing I’d ever smelled before. I’m a flower person; I love flowers, and there were these flowers that had this fragrance you can’t even imagine,” she said.
The flowers were part of a scene that suddenly unfolded before her. “God took me to a place beyond anything I could ever have imagined,” she said. “I opened my eyes, and I was in awe. There were waterfalls, creeks, hills, gorgeous scenery. And there was the most beautiful music, like angels singing and people singing with them, so soothing. The grass and trees and flowers were swaying in time with the music.”
Then she saw the angels. “There were several angels, but these were humongous, and their wings were iridescent. They would take one wing and fan it out, and I could feel the wind on my face from the angels’ wings,” she said.
“You know, we’ve all imagined what heaven will be like. But this … this was a million times more than anything I could have imagined,” Charlotte said. “I was in awe.”
Then she saw “the golden gates, and beyond them, standing there smiling and waving at me, were my mom and dad and sister.”
Charlotte’s mother, Mabel Willbanks, was 56 when she died of a heart attack. Charlotte’s sister Wanda Carter had been 60-something when she too had a heart attack and died in her sleep. Her dad, Hershel Willbanks, had lived into his 80s but then died “a very sad death” due to lung problems, she said.
But there they were, smiling out at her from just beyond the golden gates, looking happy and healthy. “They had no glasses, and they looked like they were in their 40s. They were so excited to see me,” Charlotte said.
Her cousin Darrell Willbanks, who’d been like a brother to her, was there too. Darrell had lost a leg before he died of heart problems. But there he was, standing on two good legs and happily waving at her.
A blindingly bright light streamed from behind her loved ones and the huge crowd of people standing with them. Charlotte is sure the light was God.
She was turning her head away to save her eyes – the light was so bright – when something else caught her eye. It was a little boy, a toddler. “He stood there in front of my mom and dad,” she said.
For a moment, Charlotte was confused. Whose boy was that? she wondered. But as soon as the question came into her mind, she felt God answering it.
It was her and Danny’s son, the baby she had miscarried nearly 40 years ago when she was five and a half months pregnant.
“Back then, they didn’t let you hold the baby or bury it when you miscarried that far along. They just held him up and said, ‘It’s a little boy.’ And that was all. It was over. I went through a long, deep depression after that miscarriage, wishing I could have held him,” she said.
Seeing her little son standing with her parents, she said, “I couldn’t wait to hold him. I had missed that.”
It was all so wonderful, heaven was. And, from beyond the golden gates, she felt God saying, “Welcome home.”
“But then, I turned my head away from that bright light again and looked behind me. And there were Danny and Chrystal and Brody and Shai,” she said referring to her and Danny’s daughter Chrystal Meek and her adults kids Brody and Shai. “They were crying, and it broke my heart. We know that in heaven there is no sorrow, but I hadn’t walked through the gates. I wasn’t there yet. I thought how I wanted to see Shai get married and Brody get married to make sure they were OK.”
At that moment she felt God telling her she had a choice. “You can stay home, or you can go back. But if you go back, you have to tell your story. You have to explain what you’ve seen and tell my message, and that message is that I’m coming soon for my church, my bride,” Charlotte said.
About that time, as Danny was watching the emergency responders continue the chest compressions, he heard one of them ask, “Paddles?” apparently referring to an electro-shock defibrilator.
He heard the person in charge answer no and instead order some kind of shot. “And then he said a guy comes running in, and they give me the shot, and he could see on the monitors that my blood pressure was going down,” Charlotte said.
And then, Danny told her afterward, he saw one of Charlotte’s eyes blink, “and I knew you were coming back to me.”
Charlotte had been dead 11 minutes.
When she came to, she started to cry. Danny asked her, “Mama, are you hurting?”
Charlotte shook her head no. And then she asked him, “Did you smell those flowers?”
Danny had messaged Chrystal the moment Charlotte had stopped breathing, and Chrystal had rounded up her kids and they all rushed to Springfield, arriving at Charlotte’s side just as she was being taken to ICU.
When she saw Chrystal coming toward her, the first thing Charlotte said to her was, “Did you smell the flowers?”
Chrystal turned to her dad and said, “Huh?”
Danny shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “She keeps saying she smelled flowers.”
Charlotte was in the hospital another couple of weeks, and during that time, “I couldn’t stop talking about it. I’ve got this burning in my life and my soul. I got to see something so amazing, and I’ve just got to tell people about it. Heaven is a million times better than you can imagine. I stop people in the grocery store. I even stopped my mailman and told him. I’m not bashful. I want to share this story wherever I can.”
When she was in heaven, she felt God telling her that, when she went back, she would see angels. “And just in the last month, I’ve started seeing them. I can see people guardian angels behind them,” she said.
Charlotte has always been a devout Christian. She and Danny are part of the band that provides the music at Mammoth Assembly of God. “But now, more than anything, my favorite thing to do is pray with people. Danny even built me a prayer closet. He knows if he wakes up at 3 a.m. and I’m gone, that’s where I am. It’s so important to me, and in doing this, I’ve heard from so many other people with their testimony.”
Charlotte has told her story at several churches and meetings of other groups in the area.
“I just can’t keep from talking about it. And there’s so much more to the story. I don’t want people to think I’m crazy – well, I don’t care if they think I’m crazy. I know what the Lord showed me, and I can’t quit saying how wonderful and merciful God is,” she said.