Don Piper thought the overcast skies, steady rain and 35 degrees temperature were foreshadowing something.
But the intrepid 38-year-old was bound to go to his church in Alvin that Wednesday morning despite the foreboding sensation.
He approached the 1930s Trinity River Bridge, a narrow two-lane bridge that is now retired to a one-lane bridge, one way.
Piper was almost across the bridge when a car pulled out from a boat launch at the end of the bridge.
A speeding 18-wheeler swerved to avoid hitting the car and ran head-on with Piper. The time was 11:45 a.m., and his life would never be the same.
“I was dead. Blood came out of my ears, nose and mouth. I had serious brain damage. It dried almost immediately, and my heart stopped,” Piper said.
He added that he had enormous gaping wounds.
First responders covered him with a tarp.
“People were praying for me,” he said.
“The 18-wheeler literally ran over me. It hit two other cars, but no one was hurt in them,” he said.
“I was killed instantly, according to state police and the EMTs there,” he added.
Then Piper was greeted at the gates of Heaven, he said.
“The first person I saw was my grandfather. I was with him when I died. He was a carpenter. He was a rough hewn, educated man,” Piper said.
The pain of the 18-wheeler collision was not like the pain he felt when his grandfather died.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said.
His grandfather helped Piper realize where he was.
“There were lots of people I knew,” he said. He listed friends in high school and his speech teacher, Ms. Jaynes.
“Of course, I lost them. They died,” he said.
“None of them expected to die when they died. They all helped me get to heaven,” he said.
Piper said he was dead for 90 minutes. At least he was in heaven for 90 minutes.
“In heaven there is no time,” he said.
But then he heard this man praying over his body, “and I started singing with him,” Piper said.
He said he didn’t want to leave heaven, but he had no choice.
“I think I was saved so I could tell people in person heaven is real,” he said.
“And I believe you can go there,” he added.
“Thirty years later, here I am after I struggled in the hospital for nearly three years and went through rehabilitation to use my arms,” he said.
Piper wrote a book titled, “90 Minutes in Heaven” about the experience.
And two more books later, he realized he needed to write another book about the people he met in heaven.
Just released, the book is titled “People I Met at the Gates of Heaven – Who is Going to be There Because of You?”
All of his books can be found on Amazon.com.
“I never planned to write this book. I decided to talk about them,” he said.
Now Piper will speak at Faith United Church in Woodsboro, 405 Woods Ave., on Sunday, Oct. 27.
His books will be on sale.
Three times are available that day to see him: 10:30 a.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The 69-year-old author was born in Massachusetts. His dad was in the Army, so they moved a lot.
He has lived in Pasadena now for 32 years, and is pastor at Murphy Road Baptist Church.
“I’ve been speaking on tour for more than 15 years in all 50 states and other countries,” he said.
“I believe we are here to help get everyone else to heaven,” he said.
He said he will talk about four things when he addresses people in Woodsboro:
•God answers prayers because a lot of people prayed for Piper and it worked.
•Miracles – there is no other explanation for what happened to Piper.
•Finding a “new normal” after tragedy and loss (for example, divorce, bankruptcy and more).
•“Heaven is real. I believe Jesus is the way. For He said, ‘I am the way.’”
Tim Delaney is the Refugio editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-526-2397, or at refugio@mySouTex.com.