Tim was only six. But he had a mighty serious heart problem. It was at a time when the surgery Tim needed was not done in Alberta.
I was a journalist in another major city and was assigned to write Tim's story. We talked by telephone – they lived on a farm – and I heard of how loved this wee boy was by his mother and father.
When Tim was born, his father bought him a suitcase. He explained the unusual present to his wife by saying it was for Tim when he travelled. Tim's heart trouble came to the point where his Alberta physicians told his parents the only thing that would help Tim was an operation at the Mayo Clinic. The paper raised the funds and the date for Tim's operation was set.
I sent a teddy bear to him. I know. Journalists are not supposed to get personally involved in stories. But with Tim it was impossible to obey that rule.
They had to catch their plane at the Calgary airport. I went to meet them and wish them well. Tim was as dear as I thought he would be.
The afternoon before the operation, his mother called from Rochester saying Tim wanted to talk to me. His voice was tired and he said he was afraid.
Tim died during the operation. Tears were shed by all who knew him and his family.
Several weeks later, alone at home, the sorrow I felt finally erupted and I sobbed. Suddenly a vision flooded my mind and it was of Tim standing in a beautiful green field with his arm around a black lab. His words were urgent, telling me, "I'm all right. Don't cry. I'm all right."
I was startled when some weeks later Tim's mother called me to talk about their unrelenting remorse and added that Tim's dog, a black lab, had died.
I've never told anyone about this. And know that this was a time in my life when I practised no religious faith.
So what prompts my telling this now?
Lonnie Thompson. He is a 65-year-old glaciologist who drills ice cores in glaciers in the tallest mountain ranges. Fame came to him in Al Gore's documentary film An Inconvenient Truth.
Outlining global warming, Gore describes the impact of this horrific warming on the earth and our lives, plus what countries and individuals can do to push the brake pedal down on this man-made disaster. Thompson's work in the changing core provides proof of what Gore is saying.
Climbing up 6,000 metres at a time took a toll on Thompson's health though. His heart started to have major problems. He tried medication. But he bled internally and had a defibrillator implanted. Infection set in and Thompson nearly died.
It was while telling Montreal journalist Francine Pelletier on CBC's Sunday Morning about his study of glaciers that the scientist took a spiritual side trip. It happened during one his medical problems, problems so great that physicians told his wife Ellen Mosley to prepare for his funeral.
Thompson was under sedation and felt himself jump into space. He saw bright sparks and assumed he was one of those sparks. Then he landed on lush green grass. There were beautiful purple flowers and a clear flowing stream.
Suddenly he was back in the hospital. But then he jumped again and landed in the same spot. But this time a figure garbed in a white gown looked at him, saying, "Lonnie, it is not your time. You have another purpose."
Thompson is quick to point out to Pelletier that he is not a religious person.
But what he did realize, aside from the exhilaration and lack of pain, is that whatever one calls the plane he went to was connected to earth, that there is a continuous life force.
"So if we destroy earth, we destroy heaven," he told her.
This scientist considers the new heart he has been given as a second chance. He told Misti Crane of the Columbus Dispatch, "I've made it through lightning, crevasses, glaciers and yet somehow managed to navigate through all of that so many years. Maybe there is a bigger purpose. It's one of my objectives to figure that out."
Many a neuroscientist will jump in at this point to negate Thompson's extraordinary spiritual experience, dismissing it as a chemical reaction of some sort. They would no doubt say the same thing about my visit from Tim.
One wonders what they will say when they are welcomed into heaven.
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)