Nadia McCaffrey wondered why she was allowed to come back not once, not twice, but three times.
I am 74 years old. I have glimpsed the afterlife three times in my life. First at age seven. Then at 17. And again at 54. For many years, I’ve wondered why I was allowed to live. Read my story and then you decide: Why did I come back?
Auvergne, France, 1952
I was at my grandparents’ estate outside Vichy. Their house was at the top of a hill, surrounded by wheat fields and stone walls dating back to the fourth century. My favorite pastime was picking wildflowers. I could wander for hours, lost in my own little world, the stalks so tall that they’d brush my shoulders.
One summer day, I was collecting sweet pea blossoms for my grandmother. I scaled a small wall, touched down on the other side… and found myself face-to-face with a coiled viper. I froze. The snake watched me, as if curious, then raised its body and struck. I screamed as white-hot pain shot through my leg. Blood ran down my ankle from two puncture wounds. I tried making it up the hill to my grandmother. But my legs were heavy. So heavy. I toppled into the grass. Grandmother came running.
“Un serpent m’a mordu,” I said, dazed. A snake bit me.
Grandmother applied her apron as a tourniquet and sucked the venom out from the bite. Then she carried me inside and help was called. It was too late. Grandmother, the farmhouse and everything had slipped away.
I left my body and watched from above as doctors worked to save me. My leg was brownish-gray, swollen. The doctors discussed amputation. That didn’t bother me. Wherever I was, it was safe. My body was suddenly uninteresting. I had no desire to return to it.
I noticed a glow out of the corner of my eye. I watched as it grew bigger and bigger, more dazzling than the sun. The light shimmered and materialized into something. A woman! Her arms stretched toward me. She wore a gauzy white gown with a cord knotted at her waist, her head and shoulders draped in flowing blue fabric. A green snake wove itself around her feet. Her right foot had a teardrop of blood. The woman gazed at me, compassionate, loving and regal.
I had the overwhelming urge to rest in her arms. Instead, she shook her head. I was not to come closer.
“Je suis ta petite maman du ciel,” she said. I am your Little Mother of the Sky.
What she said next was so full of metaphors, symbols and prophecies that I could make sense of only some of it:
“In the middle of a garden, you will see a rose, more colorful and beautiful than all others. When the time comes, you will open yourself to others and share this message of love. To speak to me is prayer, and to pray is to love.”
She told me I had to return to Earth. “You have a lot to learn, a lot to accomplish,” she said. “My love will always be with you. I will always be with you.”
The glow faded. My eyes fluttered open. I was in my grandparents’ bedroom. I had been in a coma for 10 days. Doctors said I was in too bad of shape to be moved to the hospital. To their surprise, I recovered. A true miracle, everyone said. I prayed for my Little Mother of the Sky to return. She never did.
Auvergne, France, 1962
I told Grandmother what had happened to me. She told me to keep it a secret. No one would understand, she said. Yet something had changed in me. When I passed someone on the street, I instinctively knew how they would die or if they would soon welcome a baby. I knew if people were lying. It was as if my intuitive senses had multiplied overnight. Over the next few years, it all weighed heavily on me. I never let friends get too close. I felt distant from my parents, to whom I could no longer relate. I knew what awaited me in the hereafter. So why stay somewhere filled with dishonesty and imperfection? I grew more reckless and rebellious, longing to return to that peaceful place. When I turned 17, I decided I was tired of waiting. If the Little Mother didn’t come to me, I’d go to her.
After school one day, I went to my grandparents’ farmhouse and swallowed any pill I could find—from 15 bottles in all. I lost consciousness. The world faded away.
I floated above my body once again. This time, it was on a hospital table. Doctors and nurses rushed around, trying to revive me. I found the scene uninteresting. I had to find the Little Mother of the Sky. But before I could, I was sucked through a tunnel toward a brilliant light. At the end of it, I found myself alone. Out of place. As if I weren’t supposed to be there. A man spoke. His voice boomed around me like light bouncing off the surface of a diamond:
“You can’t stay. You have not even begun to do your work yet. You have to go back.”
I wanted to argue but for some reason was incapable of doing so. I had to obey. So I floated above my body once more. It was now covered with a sheet. A nurse sobbed beside it. I hovered over myself and reentered my body, the pain excruciating. The nurse drew back the sheet, shocked. I was alive.
I later found out a school friend had stopped by my grandmother’s house on a whim to return a book and found me passed out. My heart had stopped, and I’d been pronounced dead.
Cupertino, California, 1999
I knew that I had to fulfill my purpose, whatever that was. I finished school. I met my husband, an American who was working in France. We moved to California and had a child, Patrick.
After what I’d been through, I found myself drawn to helping those who were suffering or near death—I knew how to listen, how to be a comfort during their time of transition. I started volunteering regularly. One morning in 1999, I was set to volunteer at a nursing home in Cupertino but woke up feeling a bit feverish. With no one to cover my shift, I went in anyway. I sat in a green velvet chair at the foot of my favorite patient’s bed. I’d planned on reading her a book. All of a sudden, I grew hot and sluggish. I was sweating profusely—soon the chair was soaked. As if I were melting into it!
Pain wrapped around my sides. I glanced at my hands—they were glowing. My entire body was shimmering! Was it happening again? Was I going back? I was both overjoyed to return to that place—how I’d yearned for it!—and reluctant to leave. I squeezed my eyes shut. I felt myself wrenched away from the chair, from my body, transported. This time, I knew I had a choice: I could stay in the peaceful place I’d visited before or return to my life and continue with my mission. Pictures began to flash before my eyes. Only it wasn’t my life that was in review—it was the Earth’s. Its past, present and future. The slideshow stopped, and I saw a fork in the road. The world, I understood, was on the brink of big change. The images started up again, showing the future if history took one path. Soldiers in crisis, families losing their homes. I saw myself looking out a plane window onto a desert with a reddish sky, overcome with a sense of loss. I felt the emotions of the world’s pain, frustration and anger. I was observing it but part of it too. I decided that I had to go back. I had to do something about it.
“Nadia? Nadia?” a voice said. My eyes snapped open. I was back. Another volunteer was calling my name. I was rushed to the hospital. Scans showed my kidneys were covered in tiny pustules, an infection that causes severe damage and scars. I stayed in the hospital for weeks. When the doctors took scans again, the infection was gone—leaving no marks or scars. I was released without a clear explanation. I still don’t know. How was I healed?
Five years later, Patrick, my son, enlisted in the Army National Guard after 9/11 and was killed in Iraq. I flew to the Middle East after his death. As the plane touched down, I saw the same desert and reddish sky I’d seen when I was close to death. I finally understood. I’d been shown how I was part of Earth’s future. I was part of the pain. But I could also be part of the remedy.
I dedicated myself to helping soldiers with PTSD, serving as an advocate for homeless veterans and opening my home to them for several years. I still don’t know why I was granted these previews—not once, not twice, but three times. Maybe it’s like what the Little Mother of the Sky told me, all those years ago.
“When the time will come, you will open yourself to others and share this message of love.”
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