To hell and back - my near death experience

By Kat Dunkle

My story needs to be told.

Those who know me and have had authority over me such as Pastor Dan Johnson (Westside Foursquare Church, Seattle), Pastors Harvey and Virginia Oxner (Life Flow Christian Center, Seattle), my dear friend Kathy Collard Miller (popular conference speaker and best selling author, Palm Springs, California), Pastor Jeffrey Cransberg (Palm Springs) and Pastor Jerry Riesse (Caleb Ministries, Romania) all have endorsed and encouraged me to step forward.

I remember the day over 30 years ago as if it were yesterday. An accident rendered a severe blow to my back and the membrane surrounding my jelly-like liver had exploded like a balloon, causing massive internal bleeding.

The considerable loss of blood made a heroic effort by the surgeon almost impossible. I had flat lined and by all medical accounts was clinically dead. The anesthesiologist had turned off the equipment and stood up to leave but the young surgeon would not give up and brought me back to life.

While these events were playing out in the cold sterile operating room, I was on a journey that would change my life forever.

For most of my 26 years I had not believed in God or an afterlife. This conviction was fortified when my husband Don and I endured the loss of our eight-year-old son Mark, who just a few months prior had been killed crossing a street near our home.

Just days after Mark died my father died suddenly from a heart attack and during this tumultuous time, we lost everything we owned due to bankruptcy. Indeed, if there was a God, I wanted no part of an entity that would kill little children or cause people to live the nightmare we were living.

So on this day as my body lay in the operating room clinically dead, my being travelled down what appeared to be a cave like-hallway. Suddenly, with violent resistance, I felt myself unable to breathe! I was fighting with all my might to force the muscles in my chest to take in air but it just didn’t happen and in total panic I started heaving and struggling for one life-giving gasp.

My lungs were bursting, then my body went through some sort of transition like being pulled through a wall. It seemed that I was about to fade away when a peaceful feeling caused me to stop struggling.

The realization came that there was no choice other than to give way and stop struggling, and when I did, peace overcame me, along with some apprehension, as I began to drift further down the tunnel.

I saw below me my husband Don and our two sons, Chris and Dusty, standing by what looked like a lamppost. They were crying, huddled together with their heads bowed down. They looked so sad and it was obvious they were grieving because I was dead. How could I just leave them? With no ability to communicate with them, my heart just broke. I wanted to reach out for them to let them know I was all right. Then peace fell over me and I knew without a doubt that they would be just fine.

Four people whose faces seemed very sombre stood side by side looking at me and it made me feel that somehow I was in serious trouble. Who were they? I didn’t know them but had a terrible feeling of impending doom as I went by them.

Continuing deeper down the darkened hallway a thought entered my mind: “There is no God.” Without warning a noise like none I’ve ever heard, a loud piercing, howling noise rang through my ears and there was a horrendous feeling of burning and tearing through the middle of my body, as though a huge rope was rolling through me like an out of control locomotive. Then it stopped and I knew without any doubt: “There is a God.”

All uncertainty in my heart was erased. It was like knowing there is a tree standing in front of you. You just know it!

The truth is I did not believe in God and had no faith in anything or anyone. All my life when questions came up about God, people would say, just have faith. Well, I didn’t just have faith and I didn’t know how to get it! Having tried every church possible and asking questions but never finding answers, it was just amazing to me that anyone could believe in God.

But now, in just an instant, I did know there was a God, I knew from deep within. This was a knowing because I knew! It was a knowing because it was just true! I was filled with the perfect peace of God, a peace that cannot be described. Peace that transcends all understanding! Just a beautiful peace like nothing I’d ever known.

There was no fear, pain, anxiety or emotions of any kind. Everything was overcome by a feeling of worship towards God and of really knowing Him. So I went from a total non-believer to a person who has no doubt.

I now did believe in God and just as I was being drawn to the wonder of this newfound Deity, came the earsplitting noise once again and the burning rope through my body and the thought: “There is no heaven.”

Again there was the horrendous noise and burning rope surging through me and once again it just stopped and I knew, without any doubt that there was a literal place called heaven.

I knew that this is a place where people spend eternity in union with God and experience this wonderful peace without any suffering or pain. A place filled with light, not just empty space or clouds, but an actual place.

There are many descriptions of heaven, and maybe I wasn’t actually there but certainly was close enough to feel the peace that awaits us there. There was a brilliant light held back by something like a door. I couldn’t go through the door but even being that close was more wonderful than anything I have ever experienced.

I believe I came close to the physical place of heaven but was not allowed through. I believe I got a glimpse of what it feels like, and also a glimpse of being close to God. And believe me it’s where you want to be.

Just as I was being drawn to the wonder of heaven, again came the earsplitting noise and the burning rope through my body and the thought came to me: “There is no hell.”

Instantly I started plummeting downward, falling into darkness, a horrible endless black space. Imagine standing in an elevator and all of a sudden the floor drops out and down you go, that terrible sensation of falling.

I was terrified in the darkness that surrounded me but very aware of the horrible pain burning and searing my entire body, agonizing pain beyond description that would never leave. There were the tortured screams of others but I could see nothing but the darkness. There was no fire, just this dreadful burning pain over every part of me and I knew that this was hell.

Hopelessness – knowing this was for eternity! There was no escape from the nightmare: I wouldn’t wake up; I wouldn’t hit bottom and die; I wouldn’t be rescued by anyone. I would fall and burn in this gruesome place forever and ever and ever, screaming out with all these other lost souls crying out in the darkness, totally helpless as we fell further into the pit of hell. Not even God entered into this place and the torture would go on forever and ever and ever.

There is no way to describe the terror that filled me, realizing that I actually sent myself to hell through my choice of not believing. I had chosen this. I had chosen not to believe in God.

Along with the terrible torment, I also felt total separation from God, who just seconds before I was so close to. I had gone from the whole peace of knowing God to falling into darkness, into the abyss and torture of a place reserved for those who disregard the creator of mankind. It had been my choice.

Many people cannot condone the thought of such a terrible place as hell. Many people will not believe in a God that sends people to hell. I’ve heard these comments from people my entire life. Yet the concepts of hell have withstood man’s wishes to diminish or reject the thought of such a place and hell still appears in the scriptures of most religions in the world.

I felt a separation, as if I had never existed. There is no lonelier place than separation from God. I saw no flames, just total darkness and the sensation of burning. I heard many people screaming but I saw no one. It was a dark “desolate” horrible place with no hope of escape.

Jesus was clear about hell. A place Jesus said most people would go. I felt the hopelessness of being lost in torment, separated from God for eternity. What a horrible price to pay for denial of something that is unpleasant to talk about. I did not see any angels or devils.

As I was falling, burning in this horrifying place, I cried out to God, begging Him to forgive me, now knowing He was God and that I believed. I pleaded that He would release me from this place, but it was useless, hopeless and my cries went unheard. It was too late; I had chosen to turn away from God and to be separated from His precious gift of salvation. This anguish, pain and horror I was going through would last for eternity.

Then the torture stopped. It just stopped! I felt myself being hurled through the long, dark tunnel once more and I felt the life-giving air fill my lungs. I also felt the will to live; it was like blood being poured back into my veins and a thrill that I was alive but along with that was a stronger desire to go back to the peace that was God and I cried out for Him to take me back.

Then came the strong communication: “Bring people to me.” That was the last thought as I awoke, hearing myself screaming, “Let me go, let me die!”

The lights of the operating room were like looking into the bright sun and the doctors, looking like phantom strangers, were ignoring my screams and working so feverishly. I could see tubes coming out from everywhere and voices.

I had died and was trying desperately to tell them about God, but they disregarded my pleas and continued working. I was in terrible pain and even more bewildered at what had just happened. As they wheeled me into recovery, there was Don and I told him that I had died and that I knew there was a God.

Certainly, this experience was nothing I deserved – no one deserves the forgiveness of God, but Jesus took all our sins to the cross and that’s the point of grace.

I never really understood the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. That if he hadn’t died for our sin, been the sacrifice that is required to erase our sinful nature, that God had no choice but to allow us to burn in hell. Because no matter how hard we might try, we will sin.

God’s grace had been extended to me. God had given me a gift dependent not on my level of faith or merit or effort, but solely on Christ’s generous and sufficient sacrifice on our behalf. I’m alive today and not burning in the agony of hell because of God’s grace and because I cried out that I did believe in Him. You can, too.

Kat Dunkle invites all comments and questions through her website:

Kat Dunkle

Wife and mother of 3 sons, Kat Dunkle founded the highly successful corporation, Customer Research, Inc., that services the automotive industry still today. Featured in Auto Dealer Magazine as “One Woman’s Vision In A Mans Industry”, Kat walked into auto dealerships and gave customers a voice in how the business should be conducted. Going on to become a motivational speaker she established criteria that allowed employees a voice in how process improvement causes companies to succeed. Beyond this Kat has been involved with Kairos prison ministry, children’s ministry, hospital, elder care, church council, deacon and youth groups. A graduate of CLASS (Christian Leaders, Authors & Speakers) has motivated her to come forward with a story that will change your life. She has been a guest speaker for Rest Ministries and written several short story compilations and magazine articles.Kat Dunkle invites all comments and questions through her website:

Kat Dunkle
Indio, California

3 comments, please add yours.

  1. Winson says:

    Well Kat, I really really believe what you had said. Once, during a sermon, there was this guy who also went thru hell and was alive again. He was a non-believer, got stung by a jelly fish, and died for 15 minutes. He was clinically dead. Well, reading our testimonial is exactly the same recap of what he had said. So, as a brother in Christ, I just wanna reconfirm that what you had encountered is not merely imagination but reality. God bless, your testimonial had convinced me again that God is good and His mercy endures forever. God bless.

  2. Solomon says:

    How can I get a copy of this or CD tape or ordinary tape?

  3. Kat Dunkle says:

    Kat’s book “Falling Into Darkness”, is now available through her website or through any bookstore….Amazon has it on sale right now.

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