Commanded by Angels to Preserve the Earth's Canopy

In honor of Earth Day, read how a near-death experience inspired a Michigan tree farmer to launch a reforestation project.

By David Milarch, Copemish, Michigan

As appeared in

Death was near, my body shutting down. I lay limp in my bed at home, barely aware of my wife, Kerry, and my mother at my side. All I felt was sadness. And regret. What a waste. I was an alcoholic, too often an embarrassment to Kerry and our two sons, Jared and Jake. I didn’t want my kids to see me like this.

Too late, that summer of ’92, I’d tried to get sober—cold turkey, here in my bed. But my liver and kidneys couldn’t take the sudden withdrawal. I could barely breathe, my lungs filling with fluid. A friend took me to the emergency room, where they gave me a blood transfusion, but the doctor’s face was grim.

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“We need to put you on dialysis,” the doctor said. “That will give you time to say good-bye to your family.” I’d come home a day ago. I was still alive. Barely.

Forty-one years. What had I accomplished? I was proud of the boys. Jared was 12 and Jake was 10, my helpers on our family tree farm. I’d tried to encourage them, told them to never give up on their dreams. But Kerry was really the one who’d seen to their upbringing.

The farm, 150 acres in northern Michigan, was my other passion. We grew shade trees: maples, locusts, birch. Did my life even matter?

Suddenly I felt a hard pulse in my chest, like a thud. I floated from the bed toward the ceiling. I looked down. My body lay in the bed lifeless. I looked awful, bloated, my skin yellow and gray. Like I’d washed up on a beach. Is this it? I thought. My time on earth over?

I felt a touch, gentle, yet firm, on my right arm. I turned to see a beautiful female in a radiant white gown. There was a fragrance, sweeter than any flower. I breathed it deep into my lungs. “We know you’re scared,” she said. “But we’re here to help.”

“Who are you?” I said.

“We’re here to help you,” she repeated. To my left there was another female, nearly identical to the first, holding my other arm. Angels? I wondered to myself. What could they want from me?

We left the confines of the house and entered a tunnel of light. The walls were a brilliant white, except for the glow of a thin pink and blue helix running through it. Then we shot off, like we were on the tip of a missile. It scared the starch out of me. But it was only for a few seconds.

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I stepped out onto a vista. Below me a white, sandy beach leading to a vast body of water. In the distance a gleaming metropolis, lit by a prism of light, like a sunrise. I felt a comfort I’d never dreamed possible.

Love. Unconditional love. It seemed to flow all around me, like waves caressing me. My sadness, my sense of failure left me. I wanted to stay here forever.

Dozens of light beings, radiant, glowing personages walked toward me on top of the water. They didn’t have wings. They wore white gowns but the light, shimmering around each of them, was golden.

In the midst of them was another angel, a towering presence. He looked to be at least ten feet tall. He was clearly leading the others. Under a dark blue cape he wore a translucent gown of lighter blue.

I heard a booming sound, like thunder. It was the lead angel. “You can’t stay. You must go back.”

“But...” I started.

“You have work to do,” he said. Work? What kind of work? I didn’t want to leave. But before I could get another word out I was back hurtling through the white tunnel with the first two angels to my bedroom. I lowered back into my body, and then they were gone.