Dr. Howard Dailey shares what he says is an unforgettable experience of heaven in his book A Gentle Tug, which he co-wrote with Barbara Pannell after a rogue motorcycle accident left him dead, allowing him for 45 minutes to experience what he calls a miraculous visit to heaven.
Dailey, who is 68 years old today, was 33 at the time of the accident, which happened in rural, middle Tennessee, close to Livingston. The Christian minister recently spoke with The Christian Post about his experiences as documented in A Gentle Tug. Below is Dailey's account, as related via email.
CP: Would it be correct to describe the experience as a near-death experience?
Dailey: This was not a "near-death" experience. This was death.
At the time of the accident we were on a country road. My friend who had been riding his motorcycle along side me stopped and ran to me, but found no life. A lady soon came along that also looked in vain for life, but there was none. The time frame of 45 minutes, was estimated from the time of the accident until my friend had driven back to my business to call for help, until the hearse arrived to pick up my dead body.
At the time of the accident my bike came to a screeching halt, I was propelled through the air. My body hit a tree headfirst and slid upside down onto the ground. I landed headfirst in a crumpled, bloody heap in the grass and weeds. As I hit the tree, I saw a very bright light surrounding me, and I heard a voice say, "This is death."
Immediately my spirit went out of my physical body. I quickly went through a bright light; I was then standing in the most beautiful place I have ever seen! As I was experiencing many of the wonders of Heaven, I was simultaneously seeing my own body laying there on the ground with a big crowd gathering around. I watched as my family and friends were told about my death.
One moment I was in that most beautiful place called Paradise. Suddenly, I heard the words, "I'm performing a miracle, I'm letting you live."
Instantly I was back in my crumpled body. As life came back, blood started flowing once again. I was struggling to breath as blood started filling my lungs.
So, to answer your question, there was no official medical declaration of death, because there were no medics around. To all people who were there, they saw no blood flow, no pulse, nor any sign of life.
CP: If you could summarize your experience of heaven in just a few sentences, how would you do it?
Dailey: ... Streets of gold, walls of jasper and gates of pearl, I am sure are there but that was not what I saw during my brief visit. Still, I was trying to make sense of what I was experiencing. The exquisite lush greenery of the grass, foliage and trees, the beautiful flowers of all spectacular colors surrounded me. I was amazed there were no dead leaves on the trees or plants. Life was everywhere. Animals of all species were at peace with each other. People that I had known on earth and some that I just seemed to know were all coming to greet me. The wonderful fragrance that permeated the air had a delicious aroma to it. The musical sounds of instruments and voices so closely mingled that I could not distinguish one from the other. The awe and wonder of it all left me utterly speechless even to this day. There are no words in our language that bridges the gap between the two worlds.
CP: Why do you believe God chose you for this experience and asked you to write the book?
Dailey: The events in my life have been amazing even to me as I look back. God's call on my life, the accident, my death and recovery, ministering, pastoring a church and running a business full time has definitely kept me busy. Over the years I've realized the events of my life were meant to be shared with other people, and as I began using the events in my sermons, and as I worked in my business sharing these things with my customers, I began to realize that a book was part of God's plan. The book would show how God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways. Why did God choose me for this experience? Let me answer that by saying, even as we look back at life and we think we understand, any suppositions on our part would only be a guess as to God's eternal plan.
CP: Was your experience of paradise in any way comparable to other material on the subject you have read? Have there been any specific accounts you saw similarities in?
Dailey: This is an easy one to answer and possibly [a hard] one for some to understand. I have never read any book since I was in school, except for the Bible. I know there are other books out there on the subject, but I can honestly say I've never read one.
CP: What makes A Gentle Tug different or stand out from other afterlife-experience books?
Dailey: The Gentle Tug is a wonderful book. It is both fast moving and easy to read. It draws the reader in with the title that has such a contrast to the shattered glass on the cover, then to the back teaser, readers can hardly wait to get to the first page of this unique book. The title of this book came to me as the book progressed through the development of the chapters. I was reminded how God always used gentle tugs on my heart to get my attention, thus the title A Gentle Tug.
This book is about life and death which is something each of us has to face sooner or later. A book of this seriousness indeed has its heart wrenching moments, but also there are many stories that take you by surprise which are absolutely hilarious. As a Christian I can tell of my experiences which gives hope to many people that are concerned about their own destiny or their loved ones who have gone on before them. It offers a wonderful opportunity to witness to family and friends that some might otherwise find awkward and uncomfortable.
CP: What do you have to say to people who are struggling with faith and are desperate for a sign of God or heaven but are not receiving one?
Dailey: We have to go to the Bible for that answer. It's found in Hebrews: 11:1 – "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Exodus 14:13 – "…Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord."
Faith is the stuff or material that God uses for miracles or answers to our prayers. Many times we are so stressed out with all the frantic things that life throws at us we feel like we are totally spinning out of control. Sometimes it helps just to step back and take a deep breath. Jesus does not just have the answer, but He is the answer. Many times we are so busy trying to hear a word from God that we actually miss Him. Stand still, fear not and listen. God is faithful.
CP: What do you have to say to those who find your account hard to believe, even those who are people of faith?
Dailey: With so many different religions and anti-religious views out there, I'm sure there will be people that will find my account hard to believe, This is inevitable, but by the grace of God and a good attitude, God will give me the wisdom to reply graciously.
Ever since founding his Christian ministry in 1976, Daily has made radio and television appearances nationwide, and has received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Logos University in Jacksonville, Fla. He practices the art of reflexology, an alternative medicine involving applying physical pressure to various body parts, at his Vitamin Store in Cookeville, Tenn., where he resides with his wife, Thelma. Together they have three children, eight grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.
A Gentle Tug, published in 2011, is available in bookstores and online.