Lindsey O’Connor: It’s like the longest, darkest sleep you can possibly imagine. I’ve called it “life within death.” Um … it’s like the … living in a place of nothingness.
End of Recap
John: Hm … what is she describing there? That’s Lindsey O’Connor, talking about her dramatic 47-day experience in a coma, where she wasn’t expected to survive. But you’ll hear more about her ordeal and her healing, her miraculous healing on today’s “Focus on the Family” with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, what a powerful, moving story she shared with us last time.
Jim: It was John, um … and you know what, a real testament to God’s faithfulness and that’s why it’s such a privilege to share Lindsey’s testimony with all of you. Um … her family experienced a lot of pain and struggles along the journey and in many ways, some of you are experiencing maybe not exactly the same kind of pain, being in a coma for 47 days, but there are obstacles that you face in your family.
Jim: And I hope you can feel the glimmer and then the waves of hope that Lindsey and her family experienced. As we heard last time, about 10 years ago, Lindsey gave birth to her fifth child, Baby Caroline and then she began blessing uncontrollably and nearly bled to death. Doctors put her into a medically induced coma, but when they tried to revive her, she almost died several times.
After 47 days, Lindsey woke up and had absolutely no memory of what happened to her. But she’s a journalist and that instinct kicked in and she was able to piece together this amazing story by interviewing her own family and friends during that long recovery process.
John: Uh-hm, yeah, the … the heart with which Lindsey expresses this story and the … the uh … descriptors she uses, makes this really memorable and you’ll want to share this. Please do tell a friend of family member about today’s program. Now Lindsey has written about the experience in the book, The Long Awakening and uh … we’ll hear part two of her story. We ran out of time yesterday–
John: –Jim and we just continued going and recorded that and that’s what we have for our listeners today.
Jim: Well, let me add that if you didn’t hear last time, go to the “Focus on the Family” website and download it or you can get an app or an Android download and listen to it that way. Frankly, that’s often the way I listen to the “Focus” program.”
Jim: But it’s available. Just go get it. And uh … I think the conversation will really inspire you and bless you.
John: Hm. Well, let’s go ahead and pick up now the second part of the conversation with Lindsey O’Connor on “Focus on the Family.”
Jim: What do you feel like that you learned spiritually, your relationship with God? There’s many ways you could come out of this experience, upset, angry, bitter, curious. I mean, there’s all kinds of ways to come out of a 47-day coma, where your husband twice gave authorization to end your life and pulled it back and God answered. And doctors even called you a miracle–
Jim: –that your life is a miracle the days that you have today. Does it change your perspective on breathing, on living, on seeing your kids grow?
Lindsey: Well, it does, because you get a glimpse how brief life is. And it makes you question when you go through suffering and my suffering was a two-month coma and 107 days in a hospital and a totally altered life afterwards.
Everybody has suffering of different nature. And it can take you to your knees about what you believe, about God, what you believe about what your place in the world is. And so, I struggled. Initially I had to put the story together by talking to people for so long and trying to figure out what happened. But as I began to get well, I really thought about those things. And there was a question that I had that I didn’t tell anybody. And I didn’t even voice it to God and that was, well, actually, there were two. One was, people would come up to me and call me a miracle. And I would say, “Yes, okay.” And a lot of people when they would see me, they would cry, because they knew that it was like coming back from the dead.
Jim: They had prayed for you.
Lindsey: They had prayed for me. They’d watched what had happened. Tim sent out e-mail updates for the entire time so people were living this in real time as it happened. And so, afterwards when they’d see me, they felt like that God had heard their individual prayers and I believe He did.
And I had written on a piece of paper a list of things, “What I learned about living by almost dying.” And they were: never take life for granted. Every day is a gift, the sacredness of having life that, you know, all these wonderful things that I totally believed. But when I got done with that list, I thought, they’re all true, but some of them, they feel like platitudes. And platitudes, you know, they’re rooted in truth, but it was unsettling to me because I was still struggling. I was struggling spiritually. I was absolutely struggling with my body, with trying to recover and …
Jim: Describe if I can … just let me ask you. Describe your physical … it was hard to walk. It was hard to lift … your physical experience. Describe that for us.
Lindsey: I came home on oxygen, on a walker, and could not do anything. I couldn’t lift my toes half an inch, because I’d been completely deconditioned by being unmoving in a bed for that long. And it took a long time. And in fact one thing that I want to encourage people that might be listening that are dealing with loved ones that have been so terribly ill, is I think as a culture, we want to rush the healing both in body. We see somebody. We think, oh, they look okay.
Lindsey: But they may not be okay. And I call it “hidden disabilities.” So, not only was I completely devastated physically, but the healing was so long and also internally and perhaps in spirit and in your thinking.
I developed PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome about a year and a half later. And I thought, well I dodged that bullet at the beginning, but I didn’t. There was trauma, you know, imbedded within me and it was like my body had been through a war. And I struggled emotionally and like I said, spiritually at that time and it took a while to recover. So, I just want to say, don’t rush the recovery with people. And that goes back to spiritually, too. We want the nice bow on the end. We want to look at what we go through and to say “Oh, well, you know, praise Jesus. We had no trouble, you know.”
Lindsey: “Everything looks beautiful and wonderful and it’s not.” I was really real about the difficulty that I had, the doubts that I had and the pain and suffering that we went through. But I came out of it on the other side and my family did with a sure belief in what we believe to be true about God, His nature, how He cares for us and the fact that He still can do miracles and does, indeed, do miracles.
And I get asked sometimes, well, what about the fact that God said no to my prayer? I had no idea why God says no to some desperate, desperate prayers and why God said yes to mine? Because I am absolutely nobody special. My family, while incredibly special to me, we’re not someone special. And there are no answers until we get to heaven, why we sometimes get a yes and sometimes get a no.
Jim: Well that’s–
Lindsey: –all I can do is say, “Thank you, God,” for the rest of my life–
Lindsey: –because You gave me a yes. And I want to love as well as I can for the rest of my life and try and live worthy and do good.
Jim: Well, and I think that fragmentation of your life and allowing time for the Lord to heal is critical. I think we do push, because we want perfection. We want to be whole. You know, it’s that Scripture where Paul writes about suffering leading to perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. Let me ask you directly. This ordeal, how did that, “if then” statement work out for you that Paul wrote about? You suffered. You persevered. Do you feel like your character is stronger?
Lindsey: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: Is there greater hope in you now?
Lindsey: Tremendously. I’ve seen the kind of love that my family is able to show and the depth and the strength of community and love and the importance of what that does in getting someone through. But also, God’s sovereignty and His love and how He can work in your life and the strength, above and beyond what you can even imagine, the peace that passes all understanding. That’s what we realized and what I felt. And I remember one of the things that I struggled with was “God, where were You? Everybody else felt Your presence?” And when I was able to get real and ask that question, I realized, you know, I’d been wanting a big fireworks thing about God, both during then in the hospital and afterwards. And I felt like the Lord showed me, I was in the peace in Room 4372. And I was in the presence and the praise and in the community and in the love. And then afterwards it’s really changed my life, to see God work in that kind of way.
Jim: Lindsey in our culture, man, everybody is looking for some place to find their identity. How did this situation, how did that help shape your identity?
Lindsey: Through struggles, like so much of life does. At the beginning, because I didn’t know my story, I woke up and I was, “Who am I?” I don’t know what happened and …
Jim: And you meant that literally.
Lindsey: I meant that literally, coming back into an awakening in real life, but also where was I? And who am I now? When I first woke up, Tim was so desperate to communicate with me because he hadn’t, you know, spoken to me in two months. I hadn’t spoken to him in two months. He brought in a computer to have me type my responses and I could not remember how to type. And I had been a journalist, an author, a speaker.
Jim: Typing was your–
Lindsey: Typing was–
Lindsey: –my thing. Words were and are my … that’s what I do. And I remember thinking, I will never be able to do that again. And so, if I can’t, then who am I? And so, it was this merge of … I began to figure things out when I woke up, but for a long time after that, I did not know who I was, what I was supposed to do, how I was supposed to handle this or focus my life. And I also was trying to figure out what to do with my life. Who am I? It’s that age-old question, one of the biggest questions that we have of who am I and why am I here?
Jim: Was there a moment that you remember that? Or was it more of an unveiling over time? Because I’m thinkin’ of 20-somethings, some teenagers, they’re askin’ that question, too. They didn’t go through a coma, but they’re saying, who am I?
Lindsey: Because there’s expectation I think, I struggle with that and I think a lot of people do. We have a certain expectation of ourselves of what we think that our talents, gifts, experience and hopes … what it should lead and look like in our daily life. And sometimes we feel expectations from other people.
So, when I came out of this story, I felt both tremendously expectations that I had of what I was supposed to do with my story. Was I supposed to start some foundation? Or what was I gonna do big for God, because what had happened to me and to my family? And I struggled with that. And then I also felt expectations that both other people and with myself.
And it took a while. I remember I was rocking Caroline and she was probably about a year and a half old and this book called The Life of Meaning was on my nightstand that I remember looking at that and going I’ve got to figure out what I believe about this meaning issue and what about my identity? Who am I? I am a woman who loves God with her whole heart. And I am a woman in possession of a miracle, even if I struggle with that. And I’m also a storyteller.
And I felt like that couldn’t be a part of what I was supposed to do and what I had permission to do in my life, because I thought I had to do something big and something huge. And I remember that I had a file folder with some reporting notes of a story that I was gonna go do. And at that moment I felt like God gave me permission to be who I was. And what I came out of that was, that we have to know who you are and be that.
Jim: Lindsey, we’ve been talking about your story and your husband, Tim is sitting in the sound booth, just a few feet away. We talked so much about his role and the role of the family. If you’re willing for the next few minutes, I’d love to bring Tim in and talk to the both of you about this experience and get his perspective.
Lindsey: I’d love it.
Jim: Can we do it?
Jim: Let’s do it. Tim, come on in. (Sounds of footsteps) Tim, let me welcome you to “Focus on the Family.”
Tim: Thank you.
Jim: You’ve been sitting in the control booth back there, hearing your wife. And I know that over the years you’ve obviously heard Lindsey share this. What intrigues me in many ways about your story together– and this isn’t just Lindsey’s story, although you bore the brunt, but it’s your family’s story, as well–and you’re her husband. And in this culture today, the divorce rate in this situation is quite high. What would you say to that dad who might be teetering, that husband who’s teetering on those thoughts: is it worth it?
Tim: I would say, it’s definitely worth it and it’s definitely important to call upon the strength of the Lord, because that strength is there for us. And that was instrumental in my getting through this whole ordeal, was I had an influence of God that helped me rise to this occasion and help me deal with all of the struggles, all the challenges.
Tim: And just put out of your mind any sort of doubt other than focus on the end of getting through this, because this comes to everybody. Everybody has challenges of some degree or another in their life. And you just have to make up your mind that you are going to go through it and get to the other side.
Jim: If, as a couple, let me ask you this question. I get this question as a boy going through the stuff that I went through, which was an alcoholic father, a stepfather who abandoned us after my mom’s funeral. And then a foster-care experience that was horrible. And they say, where did you find the strength to get through that? It’s the toughest question to answer ’cause it’s like you said. It’s like it wasn’t you. It was just God’s favor in you. It was His hand in you. It was–
Jim: –His encouragement and–
Tim: And —
Tim: –I felt that. I’m an accountant and I was thrust into the middle of … she had like five different doctors at any one time. And I’m trying to make them explain to me, you know, what are the issues that she is challenged with, so that I can understand and comprehend exactly what is wrong with her.
Jim: Well, being an accountant, you were probably looking for a lot of detail.
Tim: (Laughing) Exactly. I think I that was not the normal family experience that the medical community was accustomed to.
Jim: Right, you were probably irritating, I think (Laughter) a little bit.
Jim: But it’s a good thing.
Tim: It helped me understand what the challenges were, rather than just sitting in a dark room, you know, having somebody come … “Well, is she better or is she worse now?” It helped me comprehend the matters at hand.
Jim: So, being active in the situation, don’t go numb.
Jim: Don’t retreat. Tim, it’s interesting. In a book I wrote called The Good Dad, I discovered there’s an SRY gene in men. It’s “fight or flight.” I think we underestimate that in man. In women it’s bonding. It’s what that gene does. It’s the bonding factor. But for men, it’s “fight or flight.” So often when we face adversity, when we face difficulty, we’re either gonna fight. We’re gonna get emotional about it or we’re gonna run and hide.
Jim: That’s what we do as men. We’re like little boys sometimes and we’ll go cover up and we’ll go numb. And I’m so glad you didn’t in this situation. My hat’s off to you and praise God that you demonstrated what a man should do in this situation. Thank you for that example.
Tim: Well, I rose to the occasion, but let me be the first to say that we had a body around us. Our church was there in the trenches, in the hospital halls, in my house doing housecleaning, helping me watch my kids …
Tim: –because I spent most of my time at the hospital. And if I wasn’t at the hospital, I spent a little bit of time at work. But it’s their story, too. And it was the picture of the body of Christ acting in unison.
Jim: Well, that’s beautiful. I mean, it worked well obviously. Man, choking up again. I love your story, because there’s so much in it, not just your trauma, Lindsey, where you fell into a coma for 47 days and coming out of that and what the Lord did in your heart and spirit, but your whole family?
Lindsey: You know what, Jim, it’s a love story.
Jim: It is!
Lindsey: Our family, this story that happened to us and the people close to us, it’s a love story because God reached down and loved me in a miraculous way. And my husband … people that look at this and have read my book and know us personally, have seen a love story between my husband and I and then the love story with our baby. Because I really struggled to bond with her.
Lindsey: II couldn’t care for her for the whole first six months. I hadn’t even seen her till she was 2-months-old.
Lindsey: But it’s just a love story.
Jim: Caroline is how old now?
Jim: And where is your relationship with her? How do you feel?
Lindsey: (Laughter) She is the most amazing child. She keeps us young and she’s funny and she really understands our story, the connection that she and I have. In fact, when she was really little, she would touch my trach scar; before she could even speak she did. And I feel like there was just a picture of grace, this scar that I have, my testimony. And Caroline gets that she had a real part of this. And one day recently she was doing something and I said, “What did I ever do to deserve you to have you in my life?” And she goes, “You had me and almost died.” (Laughter) So, she’s … it really …
Jim: You paid your dues.
Lindsey: Yeah. (Laughing)
Lindsey: But there’s a depth that we share the three of us especially, since the three of us [are] at home now.
Jim: Oh, that is great. What a wonderful place to say thank You, Lord. Thank You Lord, for what You did. It’s hard to see it in the moment, isn’t it? I think–
Jim: –it might be a picture of what we’re gonna see in heaven, that when the fear of death is gone, when we transition and go through it and we’re in His presence, I’m just curious if we’re gonna go, “Wow! Thank You, Lord. Thank You that You took us through difficulty. Thank You that You were there. Thank You that You sustained us when we were mad at You.”
Lindsey: If we didn’t go through difficulty, we wouldn’t have a need for God in our life.
Jim: Yeah, there’d be no contrast.
Jim: We wouldn’t understand it. Think of that.
Lindsey: One thing … what you just said, there was that one particular moment when I could not squeeze their hands and I thought I was dying. I can remember thinking, I am actually crossing over from this life I’ve always known to the next life. And I was shocked in the moment that I wasn’t afraid. There were plenty of times afterwards when I was still in medical crisis after I’d woken up, that I was afraid because there’s nothing unspiritual about fear. It’s part of our life.
But in that particular moment, when I thought it was the end and I realized there’s a thin thread between this life and the next life and the presence of God and I wasn’t afraid
Jim: Oh, I mean, that is beautiful in itself. You mentioned one of your children, they were 9. Which child was that when all this happened?
Jim: Allison …’cause I was 9 when my mom died. And you know, she didn’t come back, but I can relate to Allison’s fears, you know, just what that day was like. We didn’t have the vigil call, so we didn’t run to the hospital. She was just gone. And to cope with that and to try to (Emotion) figure out, okay, God, what are You doin’?” That’s the emotion for me, getting to the other side and saying, “I get it, Lord.”
Jim: Thank you. I get it. And for my four siblings all accepted the Lord. That’swhat it was for. Thank you for your story.
Lindsey: Thank you for having us here.
Jim: And thank you, Tim for bein’ the husband you should be. Way to go.
John: Hasn’t this been a remarkable program on “Focus on the Family.” We’ve featured Lindsey O’Connor and then her husband, Tim joined us for this day and a remarkable story and so many different insights, Jim.
Jim: Ah, John, it was and that last comment by Lindsey, I mean, it really touched my heart, um … because what she described there is the final moment that’s ultimately gonna come to each of us. That’s what caught me, is what will that be like for me? What I think to be my final moment, our last thought, our last breath. You know what? We need to think about that. Now we need to ask that question, where will I be in that moment?
Jim: Will I be afraid? Will I have any regret for what I’ve done or the way I’ve acted? Or will I be ready to step from this life into eternity and into the loving arms of Jesus? Those are good questions to be thinkin’ about, at least from time to time.
Jim: If you don’t know how to answer that question or any of those questions or you don’t have a sense of peace about what the end of life means for you, let me encourage you to contact us here at Focus on the Family. We want to play a role in introducing you to confidence in the way of Jesus Christ, that you can know what that will be like. And we’d like to pray with you and introduce you to the great hope that we have in Christ and really, to embrace His promises for eternal life.
Plus, we have lots of follow-up tools and resources to build you into a more confident place that you can believe and trust the word of Jesus and the Scripture for what happens after this life. I hope you’ll do it.
John: Yeah, Jim, we’ve had tens of thousands get in touch with us, talk with us, read some of the materials and some to a life-saving, life-altering faith in Christ. Over the years, it’s been a wonderful privilege to talk with folks about spiritual things. And we’re just a phone call away, 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459. You can also find resources as Jim noted, including the complimentary booklet, “Coming Home: An Invitation to Join God’s Family.” It’s right there at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio .
Jim: A lot of people contact “Focus on the Family” for help. That’s what we’re talkin’ about. Maybe they want to get a copy of the broadcast or a book we’ve mentioned. Or they have a question about parenting or marriage or something to do with their faith journey. One of the greatest resources, really two things that we do here, John, that really should speak to all of us: one is the counseling area, where people can call.
Jim: And we handle about 74,000 calls a year to really help people and to steer them if necessary, into counseling at a local level. And then, benevolent resources, those can’t afford the resources to provide a donation to cover the cost, we do give them away. And that’s about 300,000 families a year–
Jim: –that are helped in that way. So, I hope that means something to you who are supporting Focus on the Family, that you are providing the fuel to be able to provide tools to help strengthen these families. And that’s a good thing. We can’t continue this without your help though. I mean, it costs money to do books and CDs and all the things that we do.
Jim: So, let me invite you to participate with us. Join us in this ministry on behalf of the Lord, to touch a family who is desperate.
John: They have a deep, deep need. They’re really not sure who to turn to in their community. That’s how God has enable Focus on the Family to make a difference. We’re here and we’re a trusted resource. And so, please know that your gift of any amount today will support ministry efforts and we really appreciate your partnering with us in that way.
Donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459. And when you make a gift today of any amount, as our way of saying thank you for your generosity, we’ll send along a copy–a complimentary copy–of Lindsey O’Connor’s book, The Long Awakening. As you heard, she’s very good with words and paints a vivid picture of her journey. This book reads almost like a novel. You’ll find yourself just turning page after page. And I’m sure you’ll have an opportunity to pass it along to somebody else, so they’ll be encouraged, as well. So, please get a copy today.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening in. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We have a great discussion lined up with education expert, Cynthia Tobias about parenting during the middle-school years. That’s next time, as we once again, turn our hearts toward home.