Goette recounts near death experience
DIFFERENT NOW — Russ Goette and his fiancée Patti Carlson have a little different outlook visiting the graves of his parents since Goette suffered a heart attack and subsequent surreal experience three years ago. (Star Eagle photo by Deb Bently)
By DEB BENTLY
Although the date on his birth certificate indicates he is 55, Russ Goette of Ellendale feels he is telling the absolute truth when he says, “I recently celebrated my third birthday.”
And as unlikely as his statement may sound, his fiancée Patti Carlson will back him up 100 percent.
“Russ started a new life three years ago,” she says.
Carlson would know: she was there when his first life ended without warning on the afternoon of Saturday, September 8, 2012. Napping in a chair near her, he suddenly made a gurgling sound, met her eyes, reached out toward her as if unable to speak, and then lapsed into unconsciousness. Carlson knew a heart attack when she saw it, so she dialed 911, requested paramedics, then worked CPR on his unresponsive frame for 15 to 20 minutes until first responders arrived and restarted his heart.
“They had to use the defibrillator twice,” Carlson recalls. “But they got a beat going, and then they took him to the hospital.”For the next seven days she barely left Goette’s side.
“I don’t know how many gray hairs I got,” says Carlson, who worked to protect her fiancée’s best interests while he was unconscious. Both what she had learned of him throughout their relationship and the reactions he was showing to questions from her and from his adult children kept her convinced that Goette was “still in there.”
However, considering he had gone 24 minutes without a heartbeat and had spent seven days in intensive care without coming awake, Goette’s doctors were beginning to fear the worst.
“They wanted me to start the process for getting him into long-term care,” recalls Carlson. “They didn’t think Russ would ever be himself again, but I was sure they were wrong.”
Her steadfastness was rewarded on a Sunday afternoon when she stepped into his room to find him freed of ventilation tubes and sitting up in bed.
“He was all smiles,” she remembers. “The first thing I asked him was, ‘Do you know who I am?’”
Goette also vividly remembers waking up in the hospital. And he admits that at that moment he knew much more than his fiancee’s name…but he was planning to keep it to himself.
“I was scared to death they’d think I was crazy,” he says. “I thought they’d lock me up and never let me go.”
It was not merely being awake, it turns out, that placed such a big smile on Goette’s face. For him, there had been no eight-day nightmare…in fact, quite the opposite. As he woke up in the hospital that Sunday afternoon, the memory which made him look so happy was that of having spoken with his grandparents, the first of whom had died more than 30 years before.
“My soul was out of my body before my last breath was taken,” he says. “I never felt any pain. Suddenly, I was just floating in a vast, dark space.”
Goette describes seeing a distant point of light, moving toward it, and then finding himself in an indescribably perfect meadow.
“There’s no way to explain how beautiful it was,” he says. “There were colors there that I’ve never seen on Earth.”
Goette says that from the moment his experience began, he felt serenely peaceful. Though everything that surrounded him seemed beyond comprehension, he felt safe and protected.
“It was bright there,” he says, “but I never saw a sun.”
Goette remembers not only that the grass was a magnificent shade of green, but also that it was perfectly manicured, every blade the exact same length.
“When I walked on it, my footsteps didn’t leave any impression,” he says, “so that it was still perfect.”
He noticed a few trees nearby, and a river in the distance.
“The trees were completely symmetrical,” he says. “For every branch on one side, there was a branch across from it. If there were 100 leaves on the left, there were also 100 leaves on the right.”
Just as with the greens of the grass and trees, the sky was a shade of blue which Goette remembers as vivid and stunning.
“There’s just nothing here that compares to it,” he says. “I look at it as the colors there being untainted by sin.”
Goette spent a few moments appreciating the trees, and would probably have approached the river next, but says he was distracted by what appeared to be a fog; the mist began to shape itself into silhouettes, and the next thing he knew, he was being approached by a line of beloved family members. Among them were his father, some of his uncles, his great-grandparents, and his grandparents.
“I immediately knew them,” he says. “But I can’t say I recognized them.”
Goette remembers all of his relatives appeared to be young and in their prime. Though they had walked slowly and been in pain when they died, they were young and healthy, now.
“Sometime in his life, my father’s nose had been broken,” recalls Goette. “But when I saw him there, his nose was straight, and he looked handsome and happy.”
The group of family members approached rapidly.
“Grandma Goette was out in front,” he remembers. “She was walking toward me with her arms open, like she wanted to give me a hug, but she was also telling me something I didn’t want to hear.
“‘You’ve got to go back. You’ve got to turn around.’”
Goette continued to approach his grandmother, he remembers, with his arms wide open, intending to meet and return the hug she seemed about to give him. But his words were not as welcoming as his gesture.
“In my head,” he says, “I had already decided I wanted to be there forever. I couldn’t see any reason why I would leave.”
Goette’s grandfather, however, was not taking no for an answer.
“He pulled back on my grandmother’s arm,” he describes, “as if he didn’t want her to hug me. Then he said, ‘Let me tell you, we’re not going to discuss this. You’re going to turn around and go back right now.’”
With those words, Goette says he was turning, almost as if he had no further choice in the matter.
“As I turned, I knew I was leaving Heaven. I saw a man I didn’t know. He looked right at me and he said, ‘Tell Patti and Aaron I’m okay.’ That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up in the hospital. I had no idea it had been more than a week. I didn’t even know what had happened to put me there.
“But I thought if I told anyone what I had seen, they’d run all sorts of psychological tests, and I might never get out.”
Despite his resolution and concern, though, Goette says “I knew with every ounce of my being that it was real,” and it didn’t take him long to share his story with a chaplain whom he felt he could trust.
“He said this sort of thing happens more often than a person might think, and that I should tell as many people as I wanted.”
He shared his story with Carlson, who, unlike her fiancée, has read a great deal about “near death experiences,” journeys reportedly taken by people’s conscious selves while their bodies are not only unconscious, but legally dead.
“I’ve read books and books about them,” says Carlson, who once worked as a medical receptionist and had also heard accounts from doctors and nurses.
There are indeed many published accounts of near death experiences, including the 2010 book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and, with more than 6 million copies in print, 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Books like these had informed Carlson that, regardless of the age they were when they died, people in Heaven generally appear to be about 30 years old. Knowing this, she acquired pictures of two deceased family members taken when they were relatively young.
“He recognized my father right away,” she says. “I’m not surprised that Dad would want to get a message to us,” she comments, meaning herself and her son, Aaron. “He was always very close to both of us.”
Goette has many more details of his account which he is willing to share. In fact, in a way, he sees it as his mission, and takes as many opportunities as he can to do so. He has told his story to church groups and recently to an NRHEG High School class which was examining the topic of the paranormal.
“How many people get a chance like this?” he asks. “To see Heaven and then come back and tell others?”
He explains that this sense of having been given a second life is why he refers to himself as having recently turned three.
“I found out that Heaven is like a big party, where you get to go and be with everyone you care about in a place where there is never trouble or fear. I see it as my job to try and make sure people know they’re invited.”
Carlson also believes profoundly that Goette’s experience is genuine.
“There are a lot of consistencies between what happened to him and what is described in all the literature,” she says.
She also notes how her fiancee’s health rebounded completely from circumstances that could have been devastating.
“It’s pretty surreal,” she observes. “But the consistencies between his story and the others that are out there are phenomenal. I have no trouble believing it’s true, every word of it.”