Hell Is for Real, Too
A Middle-Aged Accountant?s Astounding Story of His Trip to Hell and Back
The world knows the amazing story of little Colton Burpo, who nearly died during an emergency appendectomy, and then, while in a coma, went to heaven. His father, Todd Burpo, went on to write Heaven Is for Real, which has sold over one million copies- deservedly so. Only a cynic would believe that an evangelical pastor with outstanding medical bills and a child who had heard 52,000 Bible stories might be tempted to do the following:
But this is Skip Shmuley's story, not the Burpos'. Skip is a middle-aged husband who faced death during a vasectomy gone terribly wrong. At first, he rose skyward . . .
All the world knows the amazing story of little Colton Burpo, who nearly died during an emergency appendectomy and then, while in a coma on the operating table, went to heaven. His father’s book Heaven Is for Real has sold over a million copies and deservedly so. Only a cynic would believe that an evangelical pastor whose son had heard fifty-two thousand Bible stories from him over the years would then, after realizing the family owed thousands in medical bills, do the following: (1) prompt the young lad with leading questions; (2) elicit a story about Jesus, angels, and a God who is “really really big”; (3) write a book with a professional author; and (4) make big bucks off of it.
Heaven . . . and hell forbid that would ever happen.
It is only the nonbelievers and jaded agnostics who doubt good men of the book and cloth like Pastor Ted “Meth and Men” Haggard; Reverend Jimmy “Come Blow Gabriel’s Trumpet” Swaggart; Reverend Jim “Shake Your Booty” Bakker; Reverend Eddie “Drop Your Pants, Lad, and Let Me See Your Key to Heaven” Long; and, of course, Terry “Burn, Baby, Burn” Jones. These men are so honest and decent that God himself has ensured they live the lavish lifestyles they so richly deserve. As it is written in Celestines 1:27:
Thus saith the Lord, he who spreadeth the word of the good book needeth only followeth three of the ten commandments for it is yea my belief that .300 gets you into heaven or the Hall of Fame.
But this is my story, not the Burpos’—and it is as real to me as the story Todd claims Colton told him. And I would swear with my hand on the Holy Bible and say, “If I’m lying send me straight to hell”—but as you will see, I’ve already been there.
Final Four weekend calls up memories of classic basketball games, drinking beer, eating chips, and spending hours in a sports bar watching games with friends. But the Final Four weekend of 2010 was a big deal for other reasons.
It was a Friday afternoon. April 2010. Like a lot of guys, I scheduled my vasectomy to coincide with the NCAA Tournament. My wife and I had decided after Little Timmy that we’d had enough. Personally, I was feeling financially strapped, with eight kids between two different wives and one paternity suit still being adjudicated by Maury; plus, the current wife had been foaling out a kid every few years, so we agreed that spring 2010 was the perfect time to get the old tubes tied. The plan was foolproof. Get snipped on a Friday, lie in bed Saturday through Monday night, embedded in ice, and back to work at my accounting firm on Tuesday. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend three days. Watching basketball and staring at my swollen testicles. The idea was once this was done, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and half the NBA, I’d never have to worry again about wearing a condom.
The vasectomy procedure is outpatient. First they have you come in and pleasure yourself so they can get a “preoperation sperm count” to compare with your numbers after your tubes are tied. They even give you magazines to help along the way. (I chose Car and Driver to start and then finished with Guns and Ammo.)
It’s always a bit awkward when you hand the specimen cup to the nurse, so for laughs, I gave her a half-eaten Dannon yogurt left over from lunch. One taste and she knew it wasn’t real.
After that it was onto the operating table. They covered me with a sheet and asked if I wanted to be mildly sedated or knocked out. Being a bit of a chicken, I asked for the full knockout. They put the mask over me and within minutes I was out. Or was I? It seemed I was trapped in a half-conscious nightmare. I could hear the “snip snip” of the doctor’s Dura Shears and the comments of the nurse over the size of my organ. She was really not impressed. I could feel the tugging as they tied me up. And then I was wheeled into the recovery room.
That’s when the problems started.
Maybe it’s due to health care reform; maybe it’s because my urologist is an illegal immigrant running a clinic in his basement. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that within minutes my balls began to swell up like Miss Iowa four years after she wins the crown. I could feel my fever spiking and soon I heard one of the nurses saying, “We’re losing him . . . eh.” Turns out they’re illegal immigrants from Canada.
At this point my chest went into spasm and I could actually feel myself leaving my body. As I looked down I could see the doctor and two nurses working on me. They were desperately trying to jump-start my heart with a pair of jumper cables. I could feel nothing: either I was dead or my body is just used to nipple clamps.
Then I could hear crying and screaming. My wife had burst into the room. She was hysterical that she hadn’t been there to see me die. It had always been her wish. There wasn’t a night in the past ten years that didn’t go by where I would say, “How can I make you happy?” and she would reply, “Overinsure and then die in front of me.” We have a typical marriage.
The real world began receding faster than Prince William’s hairline. I was pulling away from my wife faster than I do after sex. Then, suddenly, I saw a tunnel and a light, a brilliant, all-encompassing, warm light. I could see Jesus, with his arm around Muhammad, and Moses and Buddha and Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard, Zeus, the Great Pumpkin, and that Wiccan priestess who works at the Starbucks near my house. Then Jesus spoke.
In Spanish. (Apparently he’s a big fan of Rosetta Stone.)
Jesus looked at me and smiled—I never felt more safe. He was amazing: six foot three, buff, perfect nose, blond hair and blue eyes, just like everyone who lived in the Middle East a couple millennia ago. He raised his hand to give me a blessing. And then he yelled, “Have fun in hell!!!”
The hysterical laughter that erupted from Muhammad, Moses, L. Ron, and the other guys was a sure sign that this was how they spent their days, taunting people with a bait and switch.
As I watched them return to their poker game, the clouds crumbled beneath me. The laughter got fainter and fainter as they vanished from sight and I realized I was hurtling down the Highway to Hell. . . .
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