“Life has never been the same.” That is what my wife’s paternal grandmother, Evelyn, said after she visited heaven.

My wife and I treasure her short but powerful testimony, which she wrote in her autobiography:

I was standing on the most velvety-like grass surrounded by the most beautiful flawless flowers. Beyond them, about thirty feet away, I saw a picnic bench with three people having a great visit. It was my two brothers, Ted and Sig, and my sister-in-law Audrey. They all looked so young and full of life. I wanted to run to them but struggled; something held me back. Later, I realized it was the prayers being said for me.

Just how did Evelyn get to heaven in the first place? And more importantly, how did she return? On a lovely July morning, as Evelyn weeded her garden, she fell over a wire cage that surrounded a flowering peony bush. The fall caused some light stomach pains, but she ignored them, finished her garden work, and went back inside for lunch. However, the pain persisted until it became unbearable. Her husband, Murray, felt something was seriously wrong and rushed her to the hospital. After she was admitted, the doctors discovered her spleen had ruptured; she was bleeding to death internally.

Sometime in the frantic hustle of surgery, as fourteen units of blood were being transfused into her body, her soul left her body and entered the World of Truth. She recalled later that “things on earth lost their lustre when compared to the beauty there.” She knew she was in the presence of God but could not understand why he wanted to take her home. She asked, “Lord, are you taking me home? I’ve never done anything for you; I feel terrible I haven’t done more for Jesus!”

This exclamation shows what a righteous woman Evelyn was. By that point in her life, at the age of seventy-nine, she had served Jesus with great devotion. For years, she and her husband ran one of the largest Christian summer camps in Manitoba, Canada. Each summer, with humbleness and sincerity, they shared the gospel and delicious food with hundreds of people at their camp, all for free.

Yet when face to face with God, she complained that she hadn’t done enough for him or his Son. God did not keep her there; he sent her back for another fourteen years of life on earth. She still had work to do.

Evelyn’s near-death experience hits close to home for my wife and me, but her experience is not unique. In fact, the phenomenon of near-death experiences is quite common. I’ve read countless near-death-experience stories from Jews, Christians, pagans, and atheists. Each experience gives us a small glimpse into the spiritual hereafter, the World of Truth—the ultimate reality.

Instead of summarizing these testimonies (an impossible task), I will present a few interesting samples from the Talmud and compare them with some fascinating journeys reported by modern ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel.