A direct lightning strike burned Columbian dentist Dr. Gloria Polo so severely that her doctors gave her no chance of survival. For several days she lay unconscious on a life-support system. While in this comatose state she had an experience of life after death. After her miraculous healing, she gave the following testimony of God’s mercy, the unrepeatability of our life on earth, the existence of heaven, purgatory, hell, and the world of evil spirits.
On May 5, 1995, around 4:30 in the afternoon, on the grounds of the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, Columbia, God intervened in my life in an extraordinary way. It was raining hard. My husband, my twenty-three-year-old nephew (who was also a dentist), and I were heading for the School of Dentistry to pick up a few books from the library. My nephew and I were sharing an umbrella. My husband who was wearing a raincoat walked behind us. Just as we approached an avenue of trees and were about to skip over a puddle, we were struck by a lightning bolt. My nephew was killed on the spot. The bolt charred his insides but left the outside of his body untouched. Attempts to resuscitate him proved in vain. In my case, the bolt entered me through the arm and seared my body in a horrifying way, both inside and out. My ribs, stomach, liver, abdomen, and legs were charred. My kidneys were seriously burned, as were my lungs and ovaries, for I had been using a copper intrauterine device, and, as we know, copper is an excellent electrical conductor.
From a medical point of view, I should have died instantly from the cardiac arrest and the terrible burns inflicted on my internal organs. After three minutes of cardiac arrest, theoxygen-starved brain suffers irreversible damage that makes a return to normal life impossible. But thanks to God’s special intervention, it turned out otherwise. I am alive! God worked a miracle: he preserved my life. The marvelous intervention is at once a clear sign of His great goodness and boundless mercy and a call to conversion addressed to each and every one of us.
Immediately after the accident, the doctors at the hospital in Bogotá sought to convince my sister (she was also a physician there) that there was no use connecting me to an artificial breathing device. But despite their advice, she insisted I be kept alive. For several days I remained in a coma on a life support system. During this time, the doctors observed extraordinary things taking place in my body. Inexplicably, my charred kidneys, lungs, and liver began to regenerate and function again. Earlier, the doctors had given me no chance of survival. But for God all things are possible. It is thanks only to His intervention that all the seared organs of my body were wondrously healed. The total regeneration of my burned skin was another great miracle. After they removed the charred layer of skin, my body became one great living wound. It hurt indescribably. Every breath I took caused me terrible burning pain both inside and out. Only the washing of my legs was accompanied by no sensation. The limbs looked like two charred stumps. They were completely black, and I felt absolutely nothing. After a month, the doctors came in to tell me: “Gloria, see what a great and incredible miracle God has worked for you. All your internal organs and almost all of your skin have regenerated. True, the epidermis is still very thin and open in places, but there is good reason to hope that it will all soon be covered with protective skin. But we are worried about your legs. There is nothing we can do about them. Unfortunately, we will have to amputate them.”
Before the accident, I had been an athletic woman. I adored aerobics. On hearing that my legs would have to be amputated, I said to myself, “I have to get away from here as soon as possible and save my legs.” But since I could not even stand on them, there was no question of my getting away. Only then did I realize what treasures legs were. I had never thanked God for the gift of my limbs. Quite the opposite: in the past I used to starve myself silly and spend fortunes on diets and other cures just so as to have a shapely figure and attractive, slim legs. Now, in hospital, looking at my wasted legs, thin as rakes, all charred and blackened and pierced with holes, I began to thank God I still had them. I did not care what they looked like. With great trust I turned to God, saying: “Dear God, I beg you with all my heart, allow me to keep these legs, deformed as they are. Let me keep them so I can at least get up and move around. Let me keep them, I beg you, even as they are, and I will always be grateful to you.” And then suddenly, after this prayer, I began to feel sensation returning to my legs. That was Friday. Between then and Sunday those black stumps of mine, which had looked like a glass of dark lemonade with bubbles on the surface, began to turn red and then lighter in color. At the same time, I felt the circulation returning. On Monday, when the doctors returned to carry out a final examination before amputation, they were surprised to find me standing firmly on my legs. They examined me and could not believe their eyes. Despite the great pain I still felt, I was glad to see myself moving again. And so the miracle happened. Within a few days my legs were as functional as they had been before the accident. The senior doctor said to me, “In my thirty-eight years of medical practice, I have never seen a greater miracle.”
Before the lightning strike I was a very proud and vain woman. To draw attention to myself and be attractive to men, I would show off my womanly charms. I did this very ostentatiously. I would accentuate the roundness of my figure, wore open blouses and low-cut dresses, and move my hips extravagantly. But then, lo and behold, the lightning seared the very parts of me that I was proudest of! Examination showed that my ovaries had also been charred. It seemed certain I would never be able to bear children again. But in His great mercy, God caused my reproductive organs to regenerate as well. A year and a half after the accident, I felt an itching where my breasts had been. I also noticed that there was a little more skin-cover over my ribs. The skin stretched and pulled away. This hurt me terribly. And suddenly I developed a new pair of breasts. An extraordinary thing entirely beyond explanation! Later I became pregnant. And so God restored to me the capability of motherhood, for with these new breasts I was able to nurse a wonderful, healthy baby daughter — Maria José — to whom I gave birth without a hitch. God granted me a new life and by His extraordinary intervention called me to conversion.
At eternity’s gates
God allowed me to remember everything I experienced while my seared, comatose body lay hooked up to the life support system. I saw myself lying motionless on the gurney. I saw the doctors giving me electric shocks to pull me out of cardiac arrest. On finding myself outside of my body, I became aware of an indescribably beautiful reality to which I had no access.I saw my nephew who had been killed in the same lightning strike enter that reality. Then I met all the deceased people with whom I had once had contact in life — all my dead great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and other loved ones. What a momentous meeting it was! I understood what a great lie the claims of reincarnation were. Alas, I had bought into that lie and talked fancifully about it with others. I felt ashamed of myself. Suddenly, I felt encompassed by an astounding light. I cannot describe the sense of the peace, love, and joy which accompanied that mysterious light. I understood it to be a sign of God the Father who embraces all in His love, for He loves every human being unconditionally. In that mysterious light I saw the utter wretchedness of my sinful life in all its naked truth. A great sadness and sorrow for my sins overwhelmed me. God forces no one to accept His love. We decide for ourselves whether to accept God and live by His commandments or to reject His love and live in sin; that is, in subjection to the power of Satan. It became clear to me that I had no one but myself to blame for my sins. On the “other side,” you see every detail of your earthly life. Everything is brought out into the open. I was shown all the people who had prayed for me, all the priests and nuns who had tried to put me on the right path. I had always had nothing but contempt for them and spoken ill of them. I used to call nuns “penguins” and “unfulfilled old witches.” I criticized priests, badmouthed them, gossiped about them, and frequently circulated false rumors about them. During the subsequent “examination” I underwent in the beyond, God pointed out to me that such conduct was a serious sin. Ever since I can remember we had always spoken ill of priests at home. Starting with my father, everyone in our family used to say that priests did nothing but chase after women and money. As little children we used to repeat these calumnies. In a sad but severe tone, God said to me: “Who are you to pass such judgments as if you were God, censuring my priests and blackening their name? They are men of blood and flesh. And when it comes to the holiness of the priest, the community of the faithful, his parishioners, should be helping him. The community ought to support its priests through its prayers, by surrounding them with its love and respect. And when a priest succumbs to sin, do not cast stones of condemnation, but pray for his conversion and see the fault in the community, which neither gives him the required support, nor prays for him — at least to the degree required.”
God showed me that every time I criticized and cast aspersions on the priests, demons thronged around and clung to me. Moreover, I saw what great evil I had done in spreading the baseless rumor that a certain priest was homosexual. The rumor spread like wildfire throughout the community. You cannot imagine what great damage I wrought by circulating this calumny. I came to understand that the community of the faithful is also responsible for the holiness of its priests.
How the devil hates priests! He hates the Catholic Church and her priests, for as long as they exist, the words of consecration and absolution will be said. We must understand that although the priest is a sinful man like ourselves, yet it was in his heart that Christ laid the gift of priesthood. Through the priest’s words the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Through his words Jesus forgives our sins. Only from the priest can we receive the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, the miracle of forgiveness, the wiping away of all sins, and the sundering of bonds by which Satan binds us to himself. That is why the devil hates priests most of all and seeks to lead them into sin, for by the power of their holy orders, they rescue many souls from Satan’s grasp. Even priests who are great sinners have the power to absolve sins and validly administer the other sacraments. Thus, we have the duty to pray for our priests, that God may protect, sanctify, and guide them.
The recollection of the evil I had wrought by my smears and slanderous comments caused me great shame and sorrow. I understood that the sins we commit affect not only us, but also those who surround us. They are like rotten fruits, which spoil the good fruits around them. The fruits of sin inflict great suffering on the sinner even now on earth; but after death the suffering will be incalculably worse. Then we will see all their consequences as they affect others and ourselves. On seeing the fruits of my sins, I understood that by committing them I wrought terrible harm not only on myself, but also on my husband, children, family, and friends. A mother who hates someone or constantly spreads malicious rumors, or a father addicted to alcohol, who constantly comes home drunk — such parents inflict terrible spiritual wounds on their children. Only a sincere conversion, seeking the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist, and the power of prayer can destroy the consequences of sin.
The consequences of sin
The sins that caused me the greatest and most unbearable pain were my disbelief in God and vanity, for my god was bodily beauty. I was horrified to learn that this was the center of my life. I painfully realized the great harm I had done to myself by ceasing to pray and believe in the almighty power of God’s grace and in the power of the Holy Mass. I remember how delighted I was to hear a Catholic priest once tell us at university that there was no devil or hell. I had wanted to hear this for a long time!At once I thought: if there is no devil and hell does not exist, then we will all go to heaven. So there was no reason to fear sinning. Since everyone would be saved and go to heaven, I could do everything I felt like doing. After that, I left the Church altogether and, in the end, ceased to believe in God. Moreover, in my discussions I used to curse the Church and call it stupid and backward. I began telling everybody that the devil and hell did not exist; that they were the invention of the clergy. At university I also tried to convince friends that there was no God and that we were merely the products of evolution.
When I found myself outside of my body, I saw my whole life and myself in the light of naked truth. I saw all the sins I had committed since my last valid confession to a Catholic priest. I was seized by an appalling fear, for there appeared to me dark, human-like shapes with a terrifying hate-filled look on their faces. They were slowly approaching me. I could see at once that these were demons and that they really existed! You can imagine my fear and terror. It was sheer horror! The devil’s most insidious lie is the one that tells souls that he does not exist and that sin brings them happiness. This is his strategy. When we believe there are no evil spirits or sin, Satan can do whatever he pleases with us. In this situation, our intellect, knowledge, and university titles are utterly useless. I was terrified. I saw the monstrous consequences of my sins. They were dragging me down, to the “father of lies.” We pay for each sin we commit not only by the loss of an untroubled conscience and inner freedom, but even more so by experiencing our terrible enslavement to the powers of evil. When we become regular, faithful customers at Satan’s “supermarket” and shop nowhere else, he ends up collecting his “full payment.” When we sell ourselves to sin, we become his property. My only help in that terrible situation was to cry out to God for His help and appeal to His mercy. I came to realize that Jesus Christ, by shedding His blood on the cross, had paid the highest price for all our sins and thus won the final victory over Satan, sin, and death. Only He is our salvation and our Savior.
I found myself in a noisome place of terrifying darkness, seething with great throngs of souls — monstrously misshapen figures languishing in great suffering. In this way, Jesus brought home to me the degree to which sin destroys and deforms our spiritual life — our humanity. I realized that the terrible stench pervading the place came from me as well. I understood that my sins were not somewhere beyond me, but within me, and that they were the source of that unbearable stench, darkness, and suffering. All around me there thronged countless numbers of people suffering silently on account of their sins. I realized what an appalling reality sin was, since it carried with it such dreadful consequences. And yet many people joke about sin, hell, and demons! They do not realize what they are doing. I understood that the souls in purgatory are protected from every influence of sin, that they are already God’s saints and have nothing in common with demons. Still, they must bear the consequences of their sins and grow in maturity before they can enter heaven. My God! All those poor souls, weeping and suffering silently! If they had known what awaited them in purgatory, they would surely have changed their lives on earth. What additional pain must they bear? The pain of all those whom they caused to suffer on earth by their sins. The pain of those they hurt becomes their pain as well! It is this that inflicts the greatest suffering upon them. What the poor souls in purgatory most need from us on earth is that we change our lives, reconcile ourselves with God, pray, receive the holy sacraments, carry out acts of love, visit the sick, and have Holy Masses said for the dead, and participate in them. The souls in purgatory can no longer do anything for themselves. Nothing. Absolutely nothing! But God comes to their aid through the immeasurable graces of the Sacrifice of the Mass. That is why we should help the poor souls in purgatory, have Masses said for them, pray for them, and offer up our sufferings for them.
While wandering through purgatory, I suddenly saw a mountain peak engulfed in light, though darkness still shrouded the foothills. You can imagine my joy when I saw my mother on that mountain. Mantled in white light, she was deep in prayer in an attitude of adoration. My mother had died many years ago. Through these images I learned that purgatory consists of various levels and degrees of suffering. The mantle of light enveloping my mother signified all the Holy Masses she had attended. Alas, I was unable to reach her and be with her. Next, I stumbled upon a stinking bog. Many groaning souls were mired in it. Here was another lesson that Jesus taught me. The souls mired in this stinking bog were those who on earth had engaged in sinful unions, sexual perversions, pornography, pre-marital sex, marital infidelity, and other sins of impurity. I understood then that the only sexual union that is blessed by God is that which occurs within the sacrament of marriage, for He Himself is present in this intimate act and sanctifies it with His love. Sex outside of the sacrament of marriage is merely the gratification of selfish lust, which destroys love and leads to the hell of egoism. This is why these souls languished here in this noisome bog, which they had prepared for themselves on earth by committing sins of impurity. Suddenly, I recognized my father among the souls mired in this bog. In an anguish of pain, I cried out aloud: “Dad, what are you doing here?” He answered me in a tearful voice: “Gloria, it is because of the sin of adultery! Thanks to my dear wife, your mother, who prayed for my conversion for thirty-eight years and led an exemplary life, I have been saved from hell. I can only tell you that the greatest anguish here is the yearning for God, who is Love, who suffers greatly because of our sins. We want to suffer here to purify ourselves of our sins and mature in love, since only the pure of heart are able to go to heaven.” My father converted eight years before his death. With deep remorse he prayed for God’s forgiveness, but he had not yet atoned for the consequences of the sins he had committed during his lifetime. True, he had expressed contrition, confessed his sins, and received absolution for them, but the consequences of his sins still remained unatoned for. That is why he was in purgatory, where he suffered greatly. Penance and satisfaction for the sins we have committed are something we often forget. When we visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and adore Him, we receive the gift of satisfaction for the results of our sins. The Eucharist and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are the only direct way to heaven. Let us remember that! It is very important for us.
At the gates of hell
Suddenly I found myself standing over a frightful chasm, which I cannot describe in human words. Not a glimmer of hope shone there. That “pit” of hatred sucked me irresistibly into itself. I froze in mortal fear. One step forward would send me plummeting into everlasting perdition. The faint ray of sorrow that I felt for my sins so infuriated the demons inhabiting this abyss of evil that they hurled themselves savagely upon me. Their hatred seared and inflicted the most terrible sufferings upon me. There are no words to describe the horror that overwhelmed me, but then St. Michael the Archangel seized me in his strong arms and wrested me from the brink of that abysm of evil.
By allowing me to undergo this experience, Jesus wanted to teach me that all those years of conscious and deliberate commission of all kinds of sin had led me to such a state of spiritual decay that I was on the brink of total hardness of heart, that is, the destruction of my humanity, after which the soul closes herself off from the gift of divine mercy. Jesus’ lesson was clear: if sin totally desensitizes a person to God’s love, that person becomes selfishness incarnate who can only hate. In effect, that person becomes like the evil spirits. He will despise God and others and, upon death, reject with loathing the mercy of God and be damned forever in hell. (To be continued)
English text based on a reworking of the original Spanish text