On Oct. 19, 1997, Landon Whitley was in the backseat of his parent’s Pontiac Sunfire, riding home from church with mom and dad when a tragic accident happen.
“I didn’t see what he was yelling at. I didn’t see the ambulance coming, but I remember him yelling. That was the last thing I heard from him,” Julie Kemp, Landon’s mom recalled, according to Fox News.
The “he” she is referring to was her husband Andy, and the ambulance she speaks of broadsided their car in an intersection.
Crossing a Mint-Hill intersection, the family was T-boned by an ambulance (not in emergency mode). Landon lost his father in the accident and he, himself, was medically dead and revived on three occasions – once at the scene, once on the way to Carolinas Medical Center, and one time at the hospital.
Whitley was 8 years old at the time. He says he vividly remembers going to heaven each time. Seeing “streets of gold” as well as Jesus, angels, his father, and even two family members he never knew about.
They eventually found Landon, but he wasn’t breathing. Resuscitation efforts began immediately, then he was life-flighted from the scene. He died two more times that day. Each time, he was brought back to life, but he wasn’t out of the woods. “They told me that if he lived, which did not look good, but that if he lived, that he would be like an 8-year-old baby,” Julie recalled. “He would not know how to walk or talk or to eat because of all the brain damage. I was so desperate that that was okay. I would take that just to have him. He was all that I had.”
As her son fought for his life, Julie had to lay her husband to rest. At his funeral, she admits that she felt abandoned by God. “I was very disappointed, heartbroken. And when I’m sitting at the funeral I’m fussing at God. I don’t understand why this happened,” she said. “I don’t understand why He didn’t send angels to protect us. But in the very next breath, I’m praying as hard to Him as I’ve ever prayed in my life for Landon to live.”
Although Landon suffered massive head trauma during the accident and was left in a coma, hooked up to all kinds of machines to keep him alive, after two weeks, the boy opened his eyes — an answer to Julie’s prayers. To everyone’s shock, he didn’t have any brain damage. In the midst of celebrations that her boy was finally awake, however, Julie realized she had to tell him that he had lost his dad. “He had scars on his face. And his head was just full of hurt. And I didn’t want to hurt him anymore,” Julie remembered. “So I asked Landon, I said, ‘Landon, do you know where your dad is at?’ And, he told me, ‘Yes, I know where he’s at. I saw him in heaven.’”
That’s not all Landon saw in heaven, either. He saw family friends who had passed before and siblings he never knew he had. “He looked over to me and he says, ‘Oh mom, by the way, I forgot to tell you. I saw your other two kids.’ And I just looked at him because I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. But I had two miscarriages before Landon was born. And he saw them in heaven,” Julie said. “We had never shared that with Landon. He did not know that we had lost two children before him.”
“My mom had two miscarriages before me that I had never known about, never heard about,” Whitley said. “I was able to see them.”
Whitely has 23 metal plates in his head, his nose is reconstructed out of the back of his skull and he can’t see out of his left eye – but today, he lives a mostly normal life.
His mother, Julie Kemp, recently wrote a book detailing the years of grieving for their family and also talks about her son’s heavenly experience.
Her injuries were broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a concussion. She was sitting in the passenger side of the car when the family was T-boned on the driver’s side – where Landon and his father sat. While her scars are not as bad as her son’s, she says her emotional scars are very real – and her book is part of the grieving and recovery process.
“These days I can thank God for giving me the strength to get through it,” Kemp said. “I didn’t see the strength when I was going through it – I saw the challenges and the hurt.”
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