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A Heavenly Encounter Heals the Loss of a Daughter by Tom Zinn

Mark Virkler's picture

It had been a full year and a half since my daughter Katelyn Marie perished in a car accident while rushing home one evening to beat curfew. The pain of that moment, of the whole experience was my Great Sadness (see The Shack by Wm. Paul Young) bearing down on me daily and especially at night. Evenings were most difficult because the plague of "what ifs" would cover me from tip to toe, mulling me over in his clammy hands never letting go and squeezing every ounce of joy from my soul.

 Our relationship had been severely damaged by a divorce when she was only 13. Holding me responsible for "breaking up the family" she'd distanced herself from me, the man she'd called Daddy from birth, replacing him with another she called Dad instead. Memories of her as a child accompanied me everywhere, showing like a never-ending movie in both my conscious and sub-conscious minds were images of Katie, flying with her arms, alternating one up and one down, anytime she'd ride with me on the tractor, or jetski or motorcycle or alone, ....always flying.

As the music of worship played one particular Sunday morning I found myself connecting with heaven in a way that I’d not before. Closing my eyes was opening them on the other side. Everything was the most pleasant color of blue, things were almost radiating blue.....deep sky blue.  Immediately I saw her. Kate was standing in front of me, singing the song we were singing. Her hair was the most beautiful brown, curls everywhere and the simplest golden crown on her head. I noticed them only after seeing the long white gown she was wearing...her she sang, light gently pulsed up through her wings.

With her arms, she was doing what I hadn’t seen her do in so many years, alternating one up and one down while she sang. She seemed somber, not overjoyed, just peaceful and very content. I suppose having had to go before all those she loved may have been hard for her. Maybe she missed all of us, I don’t know. But then she began to speak to me.

First she said, “Thank you, Daddy.”

I knew exactly why she said that immediately. She’d not ever just thanked me for being a really good Daddy to her all those years she was with me. Kids often don’t realize what parents do for them until their own come along and they see how much parents have to give to kids, then they realize they have maybe not just thanked their parents. She wanted me to know she was thankful.

Then she said, “Just love them.”

I knew she was referring to her siblings, Megan, Monica and Kyle, none of whom were speaking to me or spending time with me as they hadn’t for many years. She could see past all of that and knew that God’s very essence is Love, and that Love is what  they needed and what I needed to find peace. God’s message through Christ is salvation and forgiveness. The first step towards loving, often, is forgiveness. So I found myself letting go of the hurt and loving them regardless. Real love doesn’t love because the recipient loves back, but rather, the opposite. Real love loves both first and last. “I love you.” Has a period at the end. I knew I hadn’t loved my kids like that, holding them responsible for so much hurt I’d experienced over the years.

I then heard another voice, gentle, a man’s voice, “I took her to protect her.”

God was letting me know that Kate was in a dangerous place when she died. Maybe she was with people who could hurt her. Maybe something was going to happen and He didn’t want her to suffer through it but rather took her to keep her from that emotional or physical circumstance. Maybe it was something else. But as a father, I knew what he meant. Fathers do anything to protect their kids. I had seen the day of the accident a vision of Jesus being right there after Kate’s car folded around a large tree on Burke Lake Road in Northern Virginia. “Katie, Katie...” He said, “I’m right here, Honey, I’m here!” She wasn’t alone when she died, He was right there with her and showed me that. This was another great comfort to me.

“Be happy, Daddy.”

This was the last thing she said to me in the vision. I couldn’t help but remember what she’d said after our last Daddy Daughter date before her parting. As she walked away, with tears in her eyes she said, “Daddy, it’s not right that I am so sad after every time I see you! It’s not fair!” She had hurt so deeply knowing that I had lost everything, including them, in the divorce. We had all been very happy (me and the kids) until the divorce, and then they were forced to decide who they were to live with, although that decision had already been made by their mother and I as part of the agreement.

They decided that they would all stay with her instead of our decision to have two with me and two with their mom primarily. These are always tough decisions but kids shouldn’t have to make them. They had been forced to make that decision and it had hurt them deeply. They then associated that hurt with me. It was something that I had to live with too, having lost all four of them, she knew I was sad, and it made her sad. So, Kate was telling me to find out how to be happy, and hearing from her was a huge first step. Waves of emotion undulated over me and tears flowed freely while we continued to sing.

As she continued flying her arms to the music, light flowing up through her wings, I slowly panned back and saw that she was on a very large balcony, with hundreds of other people all worshipping with her, all winged in hews of blue, and then I looked to my left, and saw I was above a huge, auditorium of sorts, but there were millions of people, all worshipping. I was able to see the edge of the stage where a light so brilliant, of white-white light was pouring out into the congregation. It was so bright it was like sound emanating from the unseen throne. 

I remember being so thankful that I was able to see her in that moment, where she was, who she was with and Who she was singing to. I only saw His radiance but everyone there could probably see Him with glorified eyes that I look forward to having when it’s my time to soar with my daughter Katie.

Tom Zinn

Panamá City, Panamá

November 20, 2013

I also want to share a song that a dear friend wrote very soon after Kate's passing.

Katelyn’s Song               

An angel born -- so beautiful

A darkened road in winter's cold

Grief split the night that He came near

And whispered low in beauty's ear,

        "Come walk with me, my child."


         "Come walk with me on streets of gold

          Be not afraid, your hand I'll hold.

          The tears they weep will dry with time

          I'll comfort those you leave behind."


The stars gave way to a lamb so sweet

As she was laid at God's own feet.

He picked her up and drew her near

And whispered low in beauty's ear,

        "Come talk with me, my child."


         "Come talk with me at your heart's door

          Just close your eyes and hurt no more.

          The tears they weep will dry with time

          I'll comfort those you leave behind."


The air was clear, the sky was black

The night they gave their angel back.

They knew that there had been no fear

As he whispered low in beauty's ear,

          "Come fly with me, my child."


          "Come fly with me on Heaven's breath,

           And see what happens through your death.

           The tears they weep will dry with time

           I'll comfort those you leave behind."

           "Come Home with me, my child."


If you would like to read more stories of healing heavenly encounters as well as a theological discussion of why such experiences are biblical and acceptable please see the book, When Heaven Touches Earth.

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