I’m so excited to review my fellow blogger Tricia Barker‘s new book: Angels in the OR! Tricia and I have been following each other on WordPress for years now, and I was delighted to discover that we both have books coming out this spring, within a month of each other. My book won’t be out for a few weeks yet, but Tricia’s book hit the shelves this past Tuesday, and my pre-ordered copy of it arrived at my door the same day. I’ve spent the last few evenings engrossed in her story, enjoying the opportunity to hear it told from beginning to end, in beautifully spun detail.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tricia’s story (she’s been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, A&E’s I Survived, and National Geographic, among other places), she had her spine crushed in a car accident when she was 22 years old and briefly died on the operating table while a neurosurgeon was working to repair the damage. Tricia didn’t believe in an afterlife, but she was pleasantly surprised when, during the operation, she found herself outside her body, accompanied by two otherworldly beings: “unbelievably intelligent souls whose presence gave me indescribable peace,” she says. She calls them “angels,” for lack of a better word.
These angels conveyed a great deal of reassuring information to Tricia, including the fact that she would return to her earthly life and be able to walk and even run again. They also let her know that, for the moment, there was no need for her spirit to stay in the operating room. So Tricia decided to venture farther afield. She moved through the rooms of the hospital and saw her stepfather getting a Snickers bar out of a snack machine. She was surprised by this, as she’d assumed her stepfather was a health nut like her mother. But, when she later returned to her body, she discovered that her perception of him getting the Snickers bar had indeed been accurate!
After this, Tricia moved up into the night sky, quickly passed through a tunnel, and then found herself floating “in a warm, safe place filled with stars.” She witnessed a review of her life that focused on its beautiful, loving moments and encouraged her, as an adult, to retain the sense of joyful play she’d had as a child. She also journeyed to a place where she was able to merge with the love and light of God. After reveling some time in this profound state, Tricia received a very specific instruction from God: she was to return to her earthly life and become a teacher.
Teaching was far from being Tricia’s dream job. She had grown up very poor and had worked hard to get to college so that she could land a well-paying job and live much better than she had growing up. What was more, she hated speaking in front of people. But God didn’t leave her much of a choice. Almost immediately after this instruction from God, Tricia was back in her body, and she knew, without a doubt, that she had to do what God had asked of her.
And that is really the beginning of Tricia’s story. In her near-death experience, she was given a tremendous gift–a glimpse of the boundless love and light of God–but she would need every ounce of that gift to overcome the formidable obstacles that would stand in the way of her fulfilling the mission she’d been given. It wasn’t just the months in a body cast and the years of chronic pain that would follow. It wasn’t just the low salaries and lack of administrative support she faced as a teacher. During her very first teaching assignment out of school, Tricia was raped. And yet the event that could have brought her desire to share God’s love with the world to a grinding halt became the kernel of her unique gift to her students. Her experience of sexual assault was a door to understanding far more of her students than she would have imagined. Her personal trials became a source of strength for her as she mentored and advocated for other young women and men who had been through similar nightmares.
In Tricia’s near-death experience, while she was merged with the light of God and just before she was given the instruction to become a teacher, she’d been shown a river. “Next to the river,” she says, “were so many other lights that were somehow connected to me.” I can’t help but think that these lights, gathered along the river that flowed far into the future, represented the many souls that Tricia would touch through her teaching. As well, I imagine, as the souls that she is now going to touch through the publication of her book.
Tricia’s book Angels in the OR is a light-filled portrait of a woman’s journey to bring the hope and love of God into an often dark and desperate world. It is raw, honest, and leaves one profoundly encouraged about the healing that a willingness to love makes possible.
Image by David Mark.