Heaven Is Beautiful: How Dying Taught Me That Death Is Just the Beginning Hot
Based on the author's real-life story of dying on a mountain, this enthralling book combines the thrills of a wilderness adventure with the awe inspiring elements of a paranormal novel.
In March of 1980, college senior Peter Panagore went ice climbing on the world-famous Lower Weeping Wall, along the Ice Fields Parkway in Alberta, Canada. His climbing partner was an experienced ice climber, but Panagore was a novice. On their descent, they became trapped on the side of the mountain. As the sun set, he was overcome by exhaustion and hypothermia. He died on the side of that mountain in 1980. In his minutes on the other side, he experienced hell, forgiveness, and unconditional love. Heaven was beautiful.
Panagore's near death experience (NDE) changed his life and resulted in an intense spiritual journey that has continued for decades. It impelled him to pursue a master's degree at Yale Divinity School focusing on systematic theology and Christian mysticism. His educational background coupled with 30 years of yogic and meditative practice and 20 years of professional work with the dying and grieving has given him unique insight, language, and perspective on heaven, God, death, life, love, beauty, and hope.
"I have told my story to audiences large and small for a decade now. . . . My story touches people's hearts; every time I tell it the audience is gripped and silent. . . . This book is about hope. It is meant to give real hope to the dying, hope to the fearful, hope to the hopeless, hope to the grieving."
This book is a worthy addition to the near-death experience literature. It begins with a tautly written account of an ice climbing adventure in Alberta, Canada. What started out as a day climb by two college friends turned into a nightmare that would test to the very limit their physical and emotional
strength, and ultimately their will to live. One of the pair – the author – was left hanging off a ledge when hypothermia had sapped all his strength and judgment. In this state he experienced a classic NDE, but his description of it adds a powerful new interpretation to the commonly agreed elements.
Despite the overwhelming love and beauty of being in the presence of God, he had a powerful sense of obligation to return to physical life, knowing that his death would destroy his parents who were just recovering from the loss of his sister. I think it's fair to say that the rest of his life was really an attempt to somehow recapture that ineffable connection with the divine. He became a minister, serving congregations in New England, but never shared his experience with anyone other than his wife and spiritual mentor. It was not until a Congregational crisis had gotten really ugly that he stood up in his pulpit, threw away his sermon, and declared that he was not a man of faith, but a man of total belief and knowing his connection to the creator.
One of the fascinating aspects of this book is that the author, while firmly rooted in the Christian faith, is also a long time meditator and yoga practitioner. This gives him the perspective to offer an interpretation of his experience of heaven and hell, sin and redemption that is both Christian and universal. A quick and rewarding read.