Many books written about “near death experiences” carry sensational claims on the back cover. But this book claims to tell its story with “disarming innocence and the plain-spoken boldness of a child.” Passing a turning en route to a family holiday, Sonja Burpo asks her four-year-old son, “do you remember the hospital, Colton?” “Yes, mommy, I remember,” he says. “That’s where the angels sang to me.” To his parents’ astonishment, Colton then describes what they were doing elsewhere as he lay in the operating theatre undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
The previous March, a family day out turned into a life-and-death hospital dash. Apparently suffering from a persistent stomach bug, Colton detriorated over several days, until he was wheeled into an operating theatre as his helpless parents looked on. For ninety minutes, Todd and Sonja prayed, raged, cried, and called friends and family to pray.
When Colton returned to the ward, his wound was still open. The ruptured appendix had spread so much poison, the doctors would need to perform a second operation to clean him up. Yet within weeks, Colton was back to his normal self. It was months before medical admitted they though Colton would die.
Second time around we get more detail of Colton’s trip to heave. Over time he describes meeting Jesus (who has special eyes), John the Baptist (who is nice!?) and his granddad, whom he never saw on earth. This could all be taken for childhood fantasy, except that many of the other details he gives agree with scriptural accounts. And the true tale emerges bit by bit over a couple of years, mixed with everyday childhood obsessions like food and superheroes. To Colton it is not strange to mix heaven and earth, God is present and real in both spheres.
This book is more than just an account of Colton’s visit to heaven. Assisted by Lyn Vincent (who also co-wrote Same Kind of different as me), Todd Burpo tells a family’s story full of real joy and pain. From the much anticipated vacation, through the agony of the parents in the hospital, and the slow trickle of revelations which left everyone astounded.
If you want theology, find another book. But if you want some come down to earth comfort in hard times, “Heaven is for Real” is just for you.