Boy Who Came Back From Heaven

I finished a whole book. Wasn't easy. But I did.

Among other books I got last Christmas was "The boy who came back from heaven - A remarkable account of miracles, angels, and life beyond this world - a true story" by Kevin & Alex Malarkey.

I've long had an interest in "back from death" visions, partly from curiosity about the psychological component, partly because, well, maybe something of value can be gleaned even if it's not "real."

In this case, a car wreck causes six-year-old Alex to be "internally decapitated." The X-rays, shown in the book with other pix, are tough to look at, skull and backbone disconnected. He spent months in a coma, and only gradually got any restoration of movement and speech.

The labors of the medical personnel, the strain upon the family, and the community of support and prayer are powerful stuff. (I have a cousin whose baby had the organs-outside-the-body thing and had a similar experience in all three points; alas, she lasted only a couple of months after birth.)

Spoiler: Alex does not fully recover, physically, but he does have tremendous strength of will and positive spirit. Since he wasn't expected to live, or, if he did, to recover from traumatic brain injuries, you could say he "fully recovered" his personality.

Alex was the first child to go through the "Christopher Reeve" surgery that provided a prosthetic way for him to be able to breathe on his own again.

The author is Alex's father, Kevin, who was the driver in the accident. He struggles with his own guilt over a moment of carelessness. He writes about all the consequences of the accident, his guilt and doubt, marital difficulties, struggles with faith; these are hard realities frankly expressed.

That all is a wrenching, but fascinating story. But the medical story is just the basis for the main aspect of the book - Alex during and after his time comatose, seeing and talking to angels, describing his time in heaven with Jesus, even doing battle with the Devil.

Among the community of folks praying for Alex, in his room at the hospital, in churches, in a wider community via the web, others see angels and have insights, and there's "fortuitous coincidences."

I really don't know what to make of that. I don't want to dismiss the extra-natural material as either a youngster's wild imagination under duress, nor parental fraud (the unfortunate family name of Malarkey invites cynicism).

Angels at hand I can believe more readily than Alex's descriptions of the literal gates and walls of heaven. Allowing for some subjectivity of perception, I give it a maybe who knows. But the miraculous is not separate from the mundane - they are one story.

When doctors decide to try to fuse Alex's neck vertebrae, a visitor sees angels holding Alex's head, and miraculously his neck heals enough the doctors decide they don't need to do anything. In fact, throughout the ordeal, medical work amounts to maintenance, like keeping Alex breathing, and all the healing "just happens."

A minor layout complaint. There are snippets of testimony by Kevin's grandfather, by doctors and preachers and others, and things Alex himself has to say, "sidebar" items which are placed in a rather interruptive way.

As inspiration, I take more from the worldly struggles and praying community than I do from the supernatural parts. I'm one of those for whom angels and divine intervention are not outside my belief system, but such things always seem to happen to "somebody else." Amusing or ironic, or something, that the main selling point of the book is the least of it for me. Still, inspiring overall.