Laurel Duran broke her neck in a car crash on Breakneck Hill Road during a torrential downpour in 1986.
That irony is not lost on Duran.
“You can’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor,” Duran said about the road in Southborough, Mass.
Most people might miss the humor in finding themselves at the bottom of a seven-car pile-up. But most people don’t leave their bodies, spend time in heaven and return to talk about it.
She will recount her illuminating experiences at LightningSeed Foundation next Wednesday.
Duran, who’s also a speaker, spiritual astrologer and self-healing teacher, recently returned to Fort Myers Beach after being away for three decades. She graduated from Cypress Lake High School, attended Edison Community College and graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville.
She left Florida for western Massachusetts. She lived there for more than a decade, marrying and working as a social worker, massage therapist and health club owner.
Duran will never forget the day her life exploded.
“I remember gripping the steering wheel and asking God to help me get through this day,” she said from her Fort Myers home.
“I was two months sober from alcoholism. I was about to be divorced the week of the car crash and the health club I owned was failing,” Duran said.
She asked God to help her. Suddenly everything stopped.
Duran didn’t feel her neck snap, she said, because her consciousness left her body and went to heaven. From her new vantage point, she saw her mangled car and banged-up life.
But all her feelings of guilt, anxiety and loss vanished, she said.
“What I experienced was a complete union with God — complete, unconditional love,” she said. “All of the burdens I had on Earth dissolved into nothing.”
Then she had to make a decision.
“I had a choice to stay on the other side and move through the tunnel of light, or I could finish the life of Laurel Duran: paralyzed, divorced, broke, two months sober and no car,” she said.
She chose to return to Earth.
“The reason I was so overjoyed was because of the love,” she said. “I knew as long as I could depend on the love of heaven I could face anything. Physical death is just a bookmark in the long life of the soul.”
She found herself back in her car with a burned-out cigarette in her lap.
“I don’t know how long I was out,” she said. “By the time I was back into my physical body, the EMTs were just trying to reach me.”
Doctors diagnosed Duran with permanent quadriplegia. She had no movement or sensation from the neck down.
Duran learned firsthand during her healing about the power of prayer and God’s love, she said. She meditated, got massages, focused on humor and positive visualizations and released buried emotions.
Duran accepted her condition but prayed for movement, she said. Slowly her body began to respond.
Seven weeks after her car crash, she was walking. Two months later, she was slowly paddling across a lake in a canoe. She was running by the first anniversary of her fateful crash.
Now she runs four miles a day.
“People prayed for me,” she said. “It works. Heaven sees tubes of light. Prayers are heard in heaven.”
The experience prompted Duran to pen “The Blue Cord” nine years ago and to travel and speak about it.
Shelly Lucas, president and founder of LightningSeed, a non-profit center dedicated to exploring alternative approaches to wellness, hopes to share many stories like Duran’s.
“It’s just as important to hear self-healing stories or alternative ways of healing as it is to hear about new drugs that come out,” Lucas said. “We all need to look at different resources.”
People who’ve overcome physical challenges can offer others hope, she said. “People like Laurel have really walked the walk, literally, and continue to be inspired by it and spread that inspiration.”
The mind-body connection is a powerful force, Lucas said.
No one has to persuade Carol Anderssen. She left a career as a real estate agent to become a massage therapist and Reiki master. She also practices shamanic work with American Indians and volunteers at area hospitals.
Anderssen appreciates Duran’s transformative experience and believes in looking to heaven for guidance.
“I live this all the time,” she said. “Basically I walk with God all the time.”
She’s seen similar transformations in her work with cancer patients whose diseases have faded into remission.
“You know if you’ve had one of these experiences you are changed,” Anderssen said.
Duran’s life certainly has taken a turn for the better since her car accident almost 20 years ago.
“Everything that happens during our life on Earth is purposeful,” she said. “It’s not random.”