A Utah man who lost his wife and youngest son in a fatal car crash connected with the other side while trapped beside them in the car. His near-death experience, and healing visions, gave him the strength he needed to survive.
Twenty-fives years after his tragic loss, Jeffery C. Olsen, 58, still works full time as a creative director and now lives in Orem, Utah, with his second wife, Tonya, and three children: his eldest son and two adopted sons.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Jeffery talked about his near-death experience and multiple visions in which he bid a goodbye to his deceased wife and shed tears of joy while embracing his baby son in a heavenly realm. In one such precious moment, God taught him a profound lesson on choice, leading him by hand to a path of hope, pure love, and no judgment.
“That was an incredible regret,” he said. “It was like I need those three seconds back. Because I was driving, I felt very responsible for this accident, which actually took the lives of half of the family.
“‘Choose joy,’ these are the two words that God whispered in my ear. So choose joy, even in tragedy, and be kind. I was told, ‘You can be mad at God your whole life … or you can be guilty and beat yourself up your whole life because you were driving the car.’ [But] it was God’s will. And I said ‘Your will be done.’
“I made the choice, and that was the catalyst for me to begin to heal.”
Jeffery met his his first wife, Tamara, at Utah State University. He played college football; she was studying to be a teacher. After graduation, Jeffery went into advertising and marketing while Tamara taught in high school. The couple had two sons, Spencer and Griffin. In 1997, when Spencer was 7 and Griffin was 14 months old, the family were torn apart by an accident that took two of their lives.
“I literally couldn’t speak of it for almost 10 years, it was so heartbreaking,” Jeffery said. “We had celebrated Easter with Tamara’s family down in southern Utah, and we were driving back from that visit … I was driving the car, Tamara was next to me, everyone had their seatbelts on.”
Jeffery heard reports of crosswinds and a large truck that was driving erratically on the interstate. Yet, exhausted, he nodded off for a brief second, he believes. He swerved to the right, overcorrected to the left, and lost control of the car. “I had been going about 75 miles per hour. I blacked out for most of the crash, but when the car came to a stop, I was completely conscious,” he recalled.
Spencer was crying in the back seat, so Jeffery knew his eldest son was conscious, but as he struggled to orient himself, he found he couldn’t move; both his legs were crushed and shattered, his back was broken, his lungs were collapsing, his right arm was almost severed, and his seatbelt had ruptured his intestines.
He recalls broken glass and the smell of gasoline.
“I was in very, very rough shape. I was not aware of that, I just knew my son was crying,” he said. “I wanted to get to him, but that’s when the brutal reality hit that no one else was crying. I was aware; I knew at the scene of the accident that my wife and my little son, Griffin, had passed.”
‘I Made the Choice to Come Back’
Severely injured and trapped behind the wheel, Jeffery had his first out-of-body experience.
He explained: “It was in that darkest moment that I felt light; light came and surrounded me, light came like a blanket and wrapped around me, and the light felt comforting. It felt as if I was rising above the accident scene.
“Suddenly, I could breathe. I was not in pain, and I kept thinking, ‘How can I possibly be okay? What’s happening?’ Suddenly, Tamara was in the light with me. She was right near me. She was emphatic, and she was beautiful. She wasn’t injured … she was even more radiant and more gorgeous.
“She said to me, ‘Jeff, you can’t come, you’ve got to go back.’”
“I learned a lot about choice in that scenario, because I was looking at the woman I loved more than life,” Jeffery said. “I knew she had passed, but I also knew I had a little boy in the back seat of that car that was going to be okay, and I needed to come back and take care of him. I said the most profound goodbye I’ll ever say, and I made the choice to come back.”
In the meantime, paramedics had arrived at the scene of the crash. Spencer was injured but walked away from the vehicle. Jeffery was airlifted to the nearest level-one trauma center, where he oscillated between the pain of his physical body and the peace of his vision.
“I was moving about the hospital, seeing the doctors and the patients and the nurses, and the families of the patients. I was acutely aware of all of them, but … I was encountering them in a very different way. I knew that there was a oneness. There was a connection,” he said. “I knew everything about them. I knew their love, their pain, their joy, their struggles, their motivations. There was this immediate profound connection, and it was coupled with pure love. There was no judgment.
“I would see them. I would feel the essence of who they are. It didn’t matter if it was a heroin addict or saintly grandmother. They were beautiful. They were divine. And it probably wasn’t until I came upon a body that I didn’t feel anything from, which was strange given this oneness, the connection I was feeling to everyone else.
“And that’s when I realized, ‘That’s my body. That’s me, perhaps I’m dead.’ But I knew I had to get back in it. I just thought, ‘I’m going back in.’ I was back in the body with all the guilt, grief, regret, pain, trauma, and physical ailments. It was very heavy. It was difficult to be back in the body, very difficult.”
A couple of months after the accident, one of Jeffery’s physicians, Dr. Jeff O’Driscoll, and an anonymous trauma nurse approached his bedside with an incredible insight. They had no idea that their patient had had a vision of his wife, but they had seen her, too. It was the nurse who first noticed Tamara’s spirit in the operating room and ran to fetch the doctor.
“As he tells the story, he saw her soul standing above my body as the doctors worked on me. When they shared that, I burst into tears,” Jeffery said. “Dr. O’Driscoll said, ‘I saw your wife’s soul and she communicated with me … she simply shared her gratitude for everything we were doing to save your life.’”
Jeffery experienced unspeakable power in what these two healthy and well clinicians—who “weren’t having a near-death experience”—shared with him. O’Driscoll’s support played a major role in the widower’s recovery, and the pair remain friends to this day.
But Jeffery’s visions were not over.
‘I Was in the Arms of the Divine’
Toward the end of his five-month hospital stay, he was off all medications in the rehabilitation wing and was sleeping peacefully for the first time since the accident. He felt again the same light that had heralded Tamara’s visit.
“I began to rise above the hospital bed, but in this experience, the light dispersed and I found myself in the most beautiful place,” Jeffery recalled. “People say ‘heaven’ or ‘the other side’ … the only word that comes close to what I was experiencing is ‘home.’
“I actually began to run … I was out of the body, it was my soul, but the experience felt so physical. There was a corridor off to my left, and I just knew intuitively I’m to go this way. I noticed that there was a crib at the end of the corridor … I raced to this crib, looked, and there was my little boy, Griffin, sleeping peacefully.”
Jeffery picked up his baby boy, feeling the weight, the heat, and the breath of him. As he did so, he felt an “intense, overwhelming” presence behind him and knew it was God.
“I was crying in the joy of holding my boy, but they turned to tears of guilt … because I crashed the car. As I held my child, I thought, ‘I hope I can be forgiven,’ and with that thought, it’s like these divine arms just wrapped around me and my little boy. I was told there’s nothing to forgive,” Jeffery said. “I was in the arms of the Divine.
“I was being held by a divine being but it tells the whole universe was looking at me and looking at us. I knew that every single one of us was loved that much, that we were that precious in the eyes of God.
“‘God said: ‘You can give your son back, you can hand him over, you can trust him and pass him to me.’”
Jeffery kissed his child and handed him over to God, waking up moments later in his hospital bed. He says this vision saw him through his lengthy recovery. He underwent 18 surgeries over several months before being discharged from hospital. He had a left leg amputation above the knee, and his intestines reattached. He used a wheelchair until he was fitted with a prosthetic limb.
“I don’t run around really well, but I’m up and I’m walking and moving,” he said, expressing gratitude. “I’m very fortunate.”
Forgiving himself was perhaps the hardest stage in Jeffery’s recovery journey. On the most painful days, it was all he could do to take it one breath at a time. When he met and connected with a woman through work, the guilt intensified. Jeffery visited Tamara’s graveside, and it was there that he made another profound connection with his late wife.
Jeffery recalls Tamara’s words: “You’re a pretty good dad, but you’re a lousy mother, and my little boy deserves a mom … I know the heart of this woman.”
He married Tonya, and together the couple adopted two boys, Zach and Aiden. A family man once more, Jeffery began thinking about sharing his story.
“I never had any intention of writing a book,” he said. “There was this whole new barrier: ‘Gosh, am I the guy that would collect a royalty check from writing a book based on the catastrophe that took half my family when I was driving the car?’ When I finally decided to write a book, the motivation was: if other people can heal based on my experience … then that’s my purpose.”
Jeffery’s surviving son, Spencer, now 30, also found healing through telling the story.
“Spencer had a faith crisis,” Jeffery said. “He said, ‘I prayed every night, I begged God, I beat my knuckles bloody on that door you call prayer, and I got nothing. I was just begging to see my mom once … if there’s a greater power, it doesn’t care about me.’”
Yet father and son collaborated on a children’s book, ‘Where Are You?‘ and Spencer eventually made the decision to “be God’s love.”
Jeffery refrains from giving advice to others, even though many have reached out. He simply promises that healing will happen. He also engages with skeptics, hoping that everyone can glean a lesson from his story.
“I do talk to a lot of nonbelievers who say, ‘Well, your brain was just losing oxygen and that was your near-death experience,’” Jeffery said. “I don’t have the answers, but I say, ‘Well, let’s pretend that there is no afterlife, no greater power. I’m okay with that once you still want to live your life, cherish while you’re here in a legacy of love, of doing the right thing for the right reason, assisting people around you, and being loved.’”
Everything has shifted for the widower, author, husband, and father since his near-death experience.
“Now I know life is not a test, it’s a gift. Every single moment is sacred,” he said. “Faith in God is crucial, or faith in a greater power. I was a believer before the accident … a near-death experience expanded my faith.”