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Kevin Malarkey’s life changed in an instant when he pulled in front of a car on his way home from church one Sunday morning in 2004, but he could never have envisioned the direction his life would take.
He shared the story of his son, Alex, with a large crowd which gathered Thursday evening at the Kenton High School gym for the National Day of Prayer services.
He recalled the family had moved to Logan County from Columbus just 42 days earlier and he was not yet familiar with the roads in the area. His wife didn’t go with Kevin and Alex to services that day since she had given birth to a son three days prior.
After church, Kevin said, he turned into the path of a car driven by a mother with two children passengers.
“I never saw the car,” he recalled. “I just remember feeling ‘Oh, my’ and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the side of the road.”
When he regained consciousness, the first thing he asked those caring for him was “where is Alex?”
His son was still in the car and had taken the full brunt of the crash. First responders attempted to keep Kevin from seeing his son, but he was determined to look into the car.
“He looked normal,” said Kevin, “except he hung his head more than it should be.”
That was because his skull had been detached from his spinal cord, his father soon learned. Alex wasn’t breathing.
“At this point, I am pretty sure I just killed my son,” said Kevin.
He was taken by Med-Flight to Columbus’ Children’s Hospital.
The emergency flight was almost canceled, said Kevin, because the medical crew thought Alex was past recovery. When the family arrived at the hospital, said Kevin, doctors told Kevin and his wife there was no hope for their son.
“No one ever had made it in the hospital with this,” he said. “His vertebrae was pulled apart at the skull. He was an absolute mess.”
When the couple arrived at the hospital, there were people joining hands and praying for Alex. That expanded to thousands of hospital visits over the coming weeks, said Kevin.
“People came from all over the state to pray for Alex,” said Kevin. “We had one rule, if you got in the room, you had to pray.”
Slowly, Alex recovered from the accident and as the day approached, Kevin worried about how he would tell the six-year-old boy he was responsible for his injuries. The first time Alex spoke to his father after several days in a coma, he asked, “Are you my Daddy? My Daddy was carried out of the car by five angels. An angel named John held his head and four other angels helped set him on the side of the road.”
Alex also confessed he felt guilt for causing his father to crash the car. Confused, Kevin asked his young son why he felt he was responsible.
“After the accident, the devil was in the front seat and he said to me, ‘You just killed your dad,’” answered Alex.
It wasn’t the last story Alex would share of his experience while he was in a coma. He told the family of traveling through a tunnel, where “awful” harp music was being played. He shared stories of angels who looked like professional wrestlers with wings and his visit with Jesus.
“I didn’t believe him,” said Kevin.
The stories became more and more convincing as Alex recalled what happened in the operating room, which he said he watched from above. Those in the room confirmed Alex’s account of the operation, said Kevin.
He described in detail the throne of God, which is shared in the book of Revelations exactly as Alex said, Kevin told the hushed crowd.
“My son has never read Revelations,” said Kevin.
As it became clearer to Kevin his son had visited heaven in person and recalled it in detail, he set the story to words in a book called “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.’ It is now published in 17 languages and read by people throughout the world.
Kevin speaks to groups about his Alex, who is a quadriplegic and uses a ventilator to breath. But, said Kevin, those are only earthly problems.
He said he once asked a nine-year-old Alex, who is now 14, if he wished he had the life he had before the accident. He was startled at his son’s answer.
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” he responded. “Before the Lord made earth, He knew I would be this way for a short time. It’s not that big a deal.”
“There is a heaven and we all need to live like it,” Kevin told the crowd. “You can praise your way through any problem … Heaven is being in the presence of God. People ask me what the wallpaper is like in heaven. No one asks me what it was like to be in His presence. I asked Alex if he could walk when he was in heaven and he said he didn’t know … ‘When you are in heaven, you don’t look at yourself,’ he said. I suggest we go through life on this earth without looking at ourselves.”
An offering was taken at the gathering to help Shine FM, a local contemporary Christian station, which is expected to begin broadcasting later this month.
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer