This article is part of the #flamfaces series.
Here, Noel Towns of Launceston shares a snippet of his story.
I put my faith in Christ at the very young age of eight years and have felt His guidance throughout my journey, maintaining regular times of Bible reading and prayer. I have wrestled with the challenges and tensions between my faith and real world experience in both personal and business spheres for my entire life.
Over a 40-year real estate career I often experienced my faith values intersecting and informing appropriate ethical behaviour in the work place. Our faith also led my wife ‘Chris’ and I to adopt four Ethiopian siblings to add to our family of five biological children. This has been an exciting and rewarding experience and an ongoing journey. We now have 25 grandchildren and still counting!
A major turning point in my life occurred in August 2016 when I was raced to hospital with a septic gallbladder, which needed to be removed. Before that happened though, I collapsed and died in the hospital ward due to a blood clot passing through my lungs and blocking the pulmonary artery to my heart (Pulmonary Embolism). It took doctors 45 minutes to resuscitate me – a procedure that involved the heart being shocked, a cocktail of drugs being administered and a machine called a ‘Lucas’ (chest compression) being applied several times.
My doctor said that it was a miracle that I came back especially without brain impairment.
Just prior to this I remember praying to God and telling him that I was ready to go and also ready to stay – ‘His call.’ While I was being resuscitated I was in a peaceful place having a conversation with God. I didn’t experience an audible voice, it was more like mental telepathy and an instant download of understanding. There was no awareness of time.
What amazed me later was that, of my first eight days in hospital, I can recall almost nothing other than my prayer to God and His message to me. This is despite being in agonising pain when my wife drove me to hospital, many visits from family and friends and apparently long, in-depth conversations. Drugs administered to me may account for some of this, but cannot explain the memory loss about the agony my wife told me I was experiencing prior to my admission.
It’s difficult to summarise God’s message in a few words. It was primarily directed to Christians and the Church. Part of it was a challenge – in view of God’s amazing grace demonstrated to us – to minister grace and forgiveness to others. If we are truly Christian we have no choice but to forgive others. We often pray, “as we forgive those who sin against us.” But there was more.
This event led to my retirement from real estate and I have since written and released a book, Back From The Other Side. It chronicles my life story with particular reference to my recent hospital experience and the message I heard from God.
Needless to say, this event has dramatically changed me. I now intend to proceed at a slower pace enjoying God’s creation and relationships with my wife, family and others. Amazingly, it has taken away my fear of death and it has created in me an urgency. We are all only one breath away from eternity and I now live that reality each and every day – the fragility of life. Having a near death experience caused me to become laser focused. Being retired has given me more free time but I have a heightened awareness of the need to use that time wisely. I need to invest that time in other people. None of us knows how much time God will give us in the future. We are all only ‘one breath away.’
Someone much wiser than me once said, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
Get your hands on a copy of Noel’s book Back From The Other Side (Amazon) HERE.
(photos by Sarah Haberle)