The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

April 8, 2013

Retired teacher describes 'journey to heaven' in new book

JOPLIN, Mo. — Time may heal all wounds, but memories linger on, especially when you have a near-death experience that includes a trip to heaven and back.

Calvin Cassady, a retired teacher, gives his personal account of such a spiritual journey, as well as a life of spiritual fulfillment that followed, in his new book, "Bridging the Gap."

Cassady will sign copies of the book, published by Inspiring Voices and selling for $14.99, at 2 p.m. Sunday in the parish hall of St. Philip's Episcopal Church, 706 Byers Ave.

The Carl Junction author has attended the Joplin church for four decades and has spent more than 15 years in charge of Christian education and youth events. He was well-qualified in the church educational role, having taught 30 years at Webb City Middle School and, most recently, at McAuley Catholic High School.

The book, which is available in paperback as well as through most online book distributors, was a long time in coming. It is based on a fiery 1971 auto crash that Cassady (then 19) was in near Branson and the out-of-body experience he describes while being transported to the hospital.

However, it deals even more with his life of Christian fulfillment that followed. As Cassady has said, it celebrates the ordinary and illustrates the extraordinary results that occur in living a life for Christ.

The first question that may come to mind is why, after all these years, has he just now decided to tell the story?

Even though the crash took place 42 years ago, Cassady, a Joplin High School graduate, didn't start to put the book together until 2010. He wasn't sure how people might react to his "crossing over" and coming-back-from-death account, even though others have written on similar experiences.

He was spurred to write the book after hearing two talks a week apart on sharing life experiences and being a witness for Christ as part of one's mission in life as a Christian.

Cassady said he wrote down many of the details of the accident and his heavenly journey when he was young but struggled with what people might think until a few years ago.

"When I mentioned the journey to heaven experience to adults in the early 1970s, I got those doubters," he said. "It took me 40 years to get up enough courage to say if you don't believe it, I don't care."

Cassady was in the back seat of a car with two other teenage friends headed to Silver Dollar City near Branson when the accident occurred. The driver took a curve too fast and the car went out of control and crashed.

All survived the ordeal but Cassady went through a life-changing experience as he was being transported to the hospital in an ambulance.

"I had lost so much blood that on my way to the hospital my heart stopped beating," he said. "I had to be resuscitated and they got my heart going again. It was during this time that my spiritual out-of-body experience took place."

Cassady said what happened to him is what most people would describe as a miracle.

"Miracles surround us every day," he said. "They are everywhere. When you go through something like I went through, they stand out a little more."

During his out-of-body experience, Cassady said he felt himself moving or floating along with no concept of time or space. Even though the accident occurred in the summer, he said he felt cold in a dreary and dark environment.

As he continued to advance, the lighter it became, he said, until he arrived at his destination where it was just bright. That is where he describes speaking with God as more of an internal than external thing.

"It was very real and I knew completely without a doubt what was happening," he said. "I went from almost worried and anxious to where all this melted away. I was just surrounded by this heavenly image."

Cassady said he began to realize that he had a mission and that through sort of a bargain with God, he decided to stay around on earth, where he could be of more service.

"The thing I remember about coming back to earth is that it was just sudden," he said. "It was so comfortable where I was and then upon returning, it was like a heartbeat. I did not go back through the cold and dark that might be associated with death but I did have the feeling that sin was surrounding me everywhere as I returned."

Cassady said his biggest objective in coming back was to seek fulfillment, which is a phrase he said he would use if putting a tag name on the book.

"I came back to seek a fulfilled life, a Christ-like life, while doing things for God," he said. "I want to impress on people to make their lives count and to live each day."

The title of the book grew from the latter idea with Cassady hoping to help people bridge the gap between spirituality and present-day life, with faith being the bridge.

As a result of the accident and his journey to heaven, Cassady said he developed a new lease on life, getting more involved in church and a lot more involved in people's lives, especially the lives of children, by telling his story and encouraging them.

Anyone needing more information or to schedule Cassady for a speaking engagement may call him at 417-438-6220 or email him at vccassady@att.net.

Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@cableone.net.

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