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Woman's World Article, May 16, 2006

"Mommy, look!"... "Mom, let me tell you what happened in school today!"I put down my bag and smiled. Twelve-year-old Jon-Paul wanted to talk about school, and Orion, three, had a drawing to show me.

But the truth was, I was only half listening. I'd just come home from work, the phone was ringing, I had dinner to get on the table, and there was a growing pile of laundry in the hamper:

And no matter how much I loved my children - and, oh how I love them - many times, I was just too tired and overwhelmed to give them attention I knew they needed. I wished it weren't that way. And my heart would sometimes twist. Time spent with your children is precious, I knew that. In fact, I should have known that better than anyone. You see, I was just seven when my father died. One day he was there. The next, my mother said he'd be in my heart forever. No more hugs. No more standing beside me as I perched on the diving board, telling me: "Okay, Lindsey, keep your toes pointed. You can do it."

As a child, I was desperate to bring Daddy back to life. As a teenager, I'd talk to him in the dark of my room, weep to him when I was scared. I wanted to believe he was my personal angel, watching over me. But as the years passed and my life got more and more hectic, I wondered - questioned - if he was there at all.

Then one day, something would happen that would make me realize that my father's love had been with me all along...

The warm weather had finally arrived and the kids had been looking forward to the picnic by the lake near our West Milford, New Jersey home for weeks. I, of course, was preoccupied with the shopping I hadn't done - and with the dark clouds scraping the tops of the mountains in the distance. Nicole, my 16-year-old niece, was first out of our station wagon. Jon-Paul and Orion began to run toward the lawn. My husband, Paul, and I were trailing behind, him with a cooler, me with a lawn chair.

Suddenly, a golf-ball-size piece of hail thudded to the ground beside us. "Everybody back to the car!" I called. Lightning lit up the blackening sky and thunder pounded above us. I pulled Orion into my arms and slid him into the back seat as Paul ran to get the other kids.

A moment later, as I stood on top of the sewer grating, leaning against the car with a chair on my shoulder, a feeling suddenly swept over me. No, it was almost like a voice in my head. Step away from the car, something seemed to command. What? I wondered. And yet, I stepped back toward the grass.

Then I saw it. A jagged bolt of lightning slammed into a tree about 30 feet away. I heard the snap, the sizzle. Suddenly, the world seemed to erupt with a tremendous roar and a brilliant flash of light, bright as the sun. And then, there was nothing. The world around me was silent, still - and dark. I felt light, as if I was floating. The weight of the world seemed far away far below. Below... I looked down and saw my body, lying twisted on the ground. Oddly, I didn't feel afraid. But my heart squeezed for my family. Then through the darkness, I heard someone say my name. "Lindsey", a soft, deep voice spoke. It had been years, but it was familiar to me as if I'd heard it the day before. "Daddy?" I said. A face appeared before me. My father's smile, his eyes - glimmering with love.

And in that moment, I felt more love than I had ever known. I could feel it in my toes, at the end of every strand of hair. I'd ever known such utter joy, love and peace before.

Then I began to notice it - a swirling tunnel of light behind him. I knew I was just steps away from Heaven, from boundless joy and endless peace. "Oh, Daddy," I cried, wanting to stay wrapped in that incredible embrace of love. My father's voice echoed in the air again. "I love you very much," he smiled. "But, Lindsey, you can't stay." His eyes blazed into mine. "It's not your time. Your children need you."

Suddenly, I looked down again - and how I could hear Orion crying, could see Jon-Paul's face, my husband's. They're scared - and they need me! I realized. I looked back to my father, surrounded now by other shimmering forms. "Go home now," my father said. Yes, I nodded. Home to my family...

And then, like the roar of a train gathering in volume as it got closer, I felt the world around me return. "Lindsey! Lindsey! Open your eyes!" I heard frantic voices above me as I lay on the ground. I opened my eyes - and he wept with relief. "I'm here," I whispered to Jon-Paul.

By now, people had gathered around explaining how the current from the lightning had jumped from the tree to the wire fence - and then to the drain pipe that ran under the ground ... below the very grating I'd been standing on! "With that metal chair on your shoulder," a paramedic told me, "if you'd still been standing on the grating, there's absolutely no way you could have survived." My heart lurched. Step away from the car, the voice had commanded. Oh, Daddy, I closed my eyes against my tears. You saved my live! In the weeks that followed, my body healed. And so did my heart. Something happened to me that day. I now know that life doesn't end, it changes. And love never dies. I feel such overwhelming serenity knowing that we are all being watched over. It's filled me with such peace that I'm different with the people who love me. My father told me I had to go back to my family. I had to finish raising my children - something he didn't get a chance to do. And now I'm doing exactly that - with a heart more open and loving than ever before.

"Mom, look at this!" "Mom, let me tell you what happened today." "Honey, let me tell you about my day." I stop. I smile. I sit down, and listen. We talk and we laugh. And we hug. Oh, boy, do we hug!

I'm never too busy anymore for the simple, wonderful, little things that really matter. We talk about the accident often - and Orion can never hear it enough. "Tell me again about Grandpa and the angels," he'll say as I tuck him in to bed at night. And I smile and say, "Okay, one more time. Then it's time for sleep."

- as told to Paul Abercrombie with Carla Merolla



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