SO Jannelle!: Karen Henson Jones journeys back to lifeBy Jannelle So
‘What would you do if God gave you a second chance?’
This is the question Filipino American author Karen Henson Jones posts in her memoir, “Heart of Miracles,” chronicling her near-death experience and her struggles as she journeyed back to life.
Karen has a heart condition called Long QT Syndrome, a type of Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome. She suffered a complicated cardiac arrest at the age of 30, while working a high-powered job in London.
In her book, she describes her challenges and triumphs, from leaving London to move back with her parents in America where she can be better taken care of; her search for life’s meaning in India; witnessing love in Italy; to rekindling her spirituality in the Holy Land. All this with the threat of pain and complications of her illness, including the possibility of sudden death, looming over her head.
“The worse bout of pain and lowest points came after the third set of surgery. A laser burned the inside of my veins to remove the mass, and the pain was surreal. I also had a very swollen face for quite some time after the surgery and it was not clear if I might remain that way forever. At this point, I had also accumulated a lot of fatigue, It entered my mind that maybe I had been repeatedly escaping death and that it might be OK just to leave already,” she described. “But I knew the book was coming out and I thought that would be a rather morbid ending and I would miss out on experiencing the fulfillment of this work.”
Karen devoted a total of five years and eight months to writing the book, working on it “in spurts,” from April 2009 and finishing in December 2014.
The book is an engaging read, not to mention its inspiring message. I started on take-off from Los Angeles Airport en route to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, immersed in it for four hours. I couldn’t put the book down. I was reading it while standing by the conveyor belt, waiting for my suitcase. It kept me wanting to keep turning the pages, to see how Karen’s story ends. I’m happy to know I’m not the only one who felt this way.
“One night, at a book reading, a woman approached me after my talk. She had bought the book a few days previous and she said that it literally just jumped out at her. She had brought her copy of the book with her and had highlighted a lot of passages and took notes. That made me feel really good, that someone was really connecting to the material in a positive way,” Karen shared.
By the time I got to my hotel, I had reached the final chapter of the book, which also happens to be Karen’s favorite: “The final dreamscape brings it all together and puts the question back onto the reader: Hasn’t anything miraculous ever happened to you before? How was that possible? Was it God?”
Karen said her motivation for writing the book was “definitely a Higher Power.” One of the earlier chapters is entitled “Jesus, I Trust in You.” Even though she recalled at that time, she wasn’t really practicing any religion. What she held on to was yoga, or its primal form called ‘kundalini.’
“I do believe in God, a life force that beats the heart and vibrates life into any organic material on the planet,” said Karen. “I also believe in Jesus as a teacher and a miracle worker. This does not conflict with Buddhism as they believe that many advanced teachers have come to the planet to Enlighten the social systems here.”
These are just some of the points Karen raises in her book. Reading it I found myself thinking, questioning, absorbing, understanding some of her thoughts, all the while laughing with her, feeling bad and yet feeling hopeful for her. What I didn’t feel, however, is bitterness. Her narratives are open and honest. Readers will be able to determine frustration, anguish, confusion; but never anger or harshness.
“Would you change your old life? Would you love the same things you used to love, want the same things you used to want? Would you believe in the same things you never believed in before?”
These questions she asks in her book are the same questions we can reflect in this Easter season. After all, for all of us in the Christian world, His rising from the dead signals a rebirth, a new hope, and a new life.
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