Outside San Diego on a sunny October day, Martha’s SUV crashed into boulders lining the side of the road and spun out of control. Her body was thrown from the car – despite wearing a seat belt – and crushed when her SUV rolled over her.
She was pronounced legally dead three times: on the road, in flight to the hospital, and on the operating table. The Fragrance of Angels is her memoir about where her spirit went upon death and how her choice in Heaven to return and fight for survival changed her life.
When I was presented with the opportunity to interview Martha, I couldn’t turn it down. I’ve always been fascinated with Near Death Experiences (NDEs), having known a few people who have been beyond and back. For the curious, Martha’s memoir will tell you in detail what her experience was like, down to – well – the fragrance of angels! But her memoir is more than an NDE disclosure. It’s an inspirational book about love and perseverance.
The Fragrance of Angels documents her recovery and struggle to talk and walk again, her love for her sons, her unwavering determination to rise above life’s challenges, and a greater understanding of what our purpose on this earth is.
Martha is Christian, but this isn’t a book for one religion, one denomination. Her message is inclusive and speaks to a universal freedom of worship that I found refreshing and inspirational. Even if you don’t believe in organized religion or God, you will enjoy her amazing story and message. It is a book that is desperately needed in our difficult times.
Chris: Your story is inspirational on a number of levels. What do you hope is the one thing readers take away from The Fragrance of Angels?
Martha: Be kind – we are to share love with all of God’s people and creatures! I was shown that “love” is the most important commodity we have to offer. Love is the only Eternal possession. When we die, the only things we take with us are the love we’ve shared, memories, and our integrity of course. Everything else stays here. We might as well be kind, because during our life review we must “feel” how we made others feel. When you hurt someone, wow. I mean you completely “feel” how the other person felt in their soul, and this hurt can be unbearable. However the good thing is, if you made someone feel loved, what a glorious thing that is to experience!
Simply put, to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Also, studies of people who have had NDEs report a lessening or disappearance of any fear of death. I whole-heartedly have a sense of a consciousness after the death of “the body.” I have no fear of death; because I know where I’ll be is thousands or a million times more spectacular than here.
Chris: This next question is for my dad, an environmental engineer who fancies himself a physicist. You mention a few times in your memoir that our world is energy. You say, “I saw, while in Heaven, that everything is energy. I had watched as particles throughout a meadow came together and re-formed into a waterfall,” and “Every living being on earth is made up of essentially the same energy, particles, and spirit matter.” Were you aware that the recent findings in physics are that matter does not exist, that everything is made up of energy? What are your thoughts on that?
Martha: No, prior to my Taste of Eternity I had very little concept of matter, energy, or science for that matter. During my initial review on “the cliff” and then as I saw the particles/energy all came alive in “the valley of death,” I realized that all things are intertwined and living in unity. Before this, to me, the earth was plants, animals, and humans. Don’t get me wrong, I did see that matter moved – such as viewing cells under a microscope, when each individual particle moves and wiggles around, but I would never have thought it would extend to life on the larger scale. But hey… at one point in history the earth was flat, right? (LOL) It’s really only in recent years that people have begun to believe that thoughts can affect our lives in a real sense. Athletes have visualized their peek performance for years with great results.
Chris: Your NDE feels rooted in Christian beliefs, even though you didn’t believe in angels previously. Do you think your religion influenced how Heaven presented itself to you?
Martha: Yes, Perhaps. I can only assume that Heaven would be different for people of other faiths or generations. I must imagine that what I was taught was part of my being, who I am, so why wouldn’t it affect what I saw or at least affect my descriptions of what I saw? My words are so inadequate in description of Heaven. However, Near-Death Experiences have been reported for much of human history. There are writings on experiences, as well as descriptions of God, and stories of Angels in completely different cultures, countries, times, spiritualities, and religions. They are described in early Greek and Roman literature, ancient Buddhism, medieval religious literature, ancient Celtic traditions, oral folklore and Native American tribal beliefs. People who have had NDEs, like me, often attain a new degree of consciousness, and they seem to have a greater appreciation of the interconnectedness of all living things. I am looking to be one with myself, and one with God. Prior to this, I did not believe in Angels because I couldn’t fathom them. Now no one will ever get me to believe they don’t exist. To me they are real and watching over us.
Chris: You wrote that the music you heard during your experience was specific for you and that another soul, like one of your sons, may have different music. Along those lines, do you think someone of another religion might have a slightly different experience based on their beliefs?
Martha: Yes, but studies show that many Experients (people who were pronounced dead before/during their NDEs) report incidences such as tunnel sensations, life-reviews, beautiful landscapes, blissful rural and angelic scenes, bright lights of energy, a feeling that the light/energy is God, or a power source of total knowledge. That is exactly what I saw and felt. There are recorded stories from different societies, religious beliefs, etc. that are similar in some areas. I imagine that, just like in life here on earth, we are accustomed to specific things that comfort us, the sounds and smells that make me feel comforted differ from everyone else. The God I know is great and a master of creation, so why couldn’t he present a customized welcome to Heaven specific for each soul entering?
Chris: My mom died when I was in college. For some reason whenever I smell sage in the wild, I know she’s there. Do you still smell your guardian angel occasionally?
Martha: First, let me say I am sorry you lost your mom so early in life. I would suggest that she is still a very active part of it, both in your memory and in her watching/guiding over you while showing up in the scent of wild sage. What a yummy delight that must be. Unfortunately, I do not get the pleasure of scent of my Angel. I wish I could and will always remember the night she filled my bedroom with her magnificent floral aroma. Now I simply spray my perfume and know she is there. My family and I have a funny way of knowing when our mom comes around. She loved hummingbirds, and sometimes hummers will show up and sort of hover when one of us needs it. We half-jokingly say “Oh, there’s mom showing up to help.” It’s always comforting.
Chris: Your memoir is about strength and perseverance, but most importantly it’s about love. You write, “The overwhelming purity of Love that surrounded me. I only wish I could find one fraction of this here on Earth.” I believe this message is so important for our country at the moment. Do you have any thoughts on how your message from your NDE can help our divided land?
Martha: I could only wish so. I wish our world was more open to finding our commonality — which is to say, we’re all part of the human family. In death, the only thing we can take with us is the love we’ve given and received. What if we shared a kindness with which we work together to overcome differences, than worldwide peace would be more simply found. It seems like a really hard time, with people split apart at opposite extremes at times, but these things pass… then what? I can’t help but think, what if we listen more to each other? Agree to disagree in a more peaceful way? Share some of that love that, as I’ve said, ALL we take with us. I think it’s really important to prep ourselves in this way for healing our society, souls, and friendships, because the day will come when we have to feel how we hurt other?
Chris: Where did your power to overcome your situation and make a full recovery originate? Was it your faith and NDE? Or was it your personality and past experiences that made the difference?
Martha: Wow, what a great question! This may be the best one I’ve ever been asked. Without faith I wouldn’t have been able to do any of what I’ve accomplished. I do believe my life experience prepared me in many ways. I feel that everything in life prepares us for the next step. I believe, even more now, that there are no accidents. I think of life as a trickle-down effect. For example a waterfall: each droplet cascades downward into a pond of shimmering water that provides a fuller life – a bigger pond or pool of water. I see my life in the same way; each step or action prepares me for the next step.
The fact that I was an athlete helped me put in the hard work to be able to walk and talk again. If you don’t put in the hard work in practice, then you don’t get to play in the game. I feel that NDEs are God’s way of sharing an insight, provided those that have experienced one are willing to share it. Sharing my story has not always been the easiest, unfortunately some people judge harshly. I learned that we (people) are not the judge. That the ultimate judge is God, in whatever shape or form we give him. No matter how much of a stud I was, I would not have been able to accomplish what I have without God’s loving guidance.
Chris: What inspired you the most on your trip to India? The Golden Temple, the Bodhi tree, Sarnath where Buddha gave his first lecture?
Martha: Another great question. I would have to say the Bodhi tree. I found, with almost every spiritual place I visited in India, that the city, village, and area surrounding it was encircled by evil. It was surreal, uncomfortable… a type of mass confusion of energies. This was the most significant in the energy of the marketplace and streets outside the garden entrance to the Bodhi tree. Inside and outside was, by far, the most extreme difference. What I’m saying is that the peaceful clam of serenity within the property was so overwhelmingly wonderful. This would take a chapter of a book to fully give you the essence of it. While the negativity of the streets was enough to make me stay up all night praying for safety and peace.
Chris: I have a number of moms who read Novel2Screen. Your role as a mom was paramount to your decision to return and fight through the challenges on Earth. What is your best parenting advice?
Martha: Always tell your children you love them! Be their parent first, not their friend, but let them know they will forever be embraced by you regardless of their choices. Parents are here to guide and help build the character of their children. Build the character first and there will always be time enough to be their friend as well, throughout their adult lives. Live, Laugh, and Love them.
Chris: What is next for you?
Martha: Presently I’m excited about the birth of my first grandchild, a little girl, my first princess, she fills my heart already and she won’t even arrive for another five months.
Chris: Congratulations! She’ll be a whole other type of angel in your life! Any future books we can look forward to?
Martha: I have been considering a follow-up book on the specific time frame, challenges, and growth that people who have had an NDE seem to follow, based on statistical research. The time frames can actually be mapped out in years. Or perhaps your last question has given me a new idea for a book. Year by year, step by step, that’s the only way I can live my life right now.
Get your copy of The Fragrance of Angels here and discover the positivity and hope Martha returned from beyond to share with everyone.
Read more interviews with authors, screenwriters, and actors on Novel2Screen here and follow Chris on Twitter @ACCooksonWriter and Rebecca @DownWorldNovel