Excerpt for Die To Live: To the Edge of Heaven and Back by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


To the Edge of Heaven and Back


To the Edge of Heaven and Back

Copyright © 2018 Gordon Noice

Water Walk Publishing

3643 Diamond Head Rd.

Honolulu, HI 96816

Smashwords Edition

ISBN-13: 978-0-9991624-3-9

ISBN-10: 0-9991624-3-8

LCCN: 2018901760

All Rights Reserved

Cover design: Caligraphics





CHAPTER 1. The American Dream

CHAPTER 2. The American Nightmare

CHAPTER 3. From Snow to Sand

CHAPTER 4. Another Day in Paradise

AFTERWORD by Virginia Isbell



First and foremost, I give thanks and all glory to the most high God, Yaweh, Elohim; our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus / Yeshua HaMashiach, the Name above all names; the Holy Spirit aka Ruach HaKodesh: Every breath, every idea, every pen stroke, every moment, I dedicate to you.

To my wife, Iwalani: You are the one God chose for me to live, love, and laugh with.

To Auntie Rowena Sargent: Your input and memories served as an invaluable contribution to this story.

NUMBERS 6:24-26


The supernatural is challenging to describe in writing. It can be just as demanding to convey it in the spoken word. The majority of us learn most effectively with images– perhaps that is why the film and television industry has such a powerful impact on how and what we think.

The time and effort I put into writing this story was not difficult. I am not expressing false humility when I say that; I merely recorded the basic facts as told to me by Virginia and others. What made this process arduous is that Virginia had a difficult time articulating her Heavenly encounters. Her mother insisted that she never speak of these things so Virginia suppressed much of it. How was I to write about them?

The amazing answer arrived after asking God to help me apply this into book form. As I presented the sections to Virginia for review, she was shocked by the accuracy of how I described her near-death encounters. More than once, she wept and told me, “That’s exactly how it happened! How did you know?”

I didn’t. God did. He told me what to write. I remained in obedience to the guidance given to me by the Holy Spirit.

This book is based on real life events. The prologue is the result of my research of the catastrophe in southern Italy that brought Virginia’s father, Domenico, to America. Some names throughout the story were changed or fabricated.

Scientists may argue that there is no empirical evidence regarding near-death experiences. I would contend that the supernatural is far more real than what our limited five senses can detect. Quantum physics and life in the Spirit are finding more common ground every day. It is my prayer that in the very near future, the two will merge to help us understand what reality truly means.


28 December, 1908 5:20 a.m.

Tiriolo Catanzaro, Calabria Province, Italy

The bed was shaking. 16 year-old Domenico Renda was accustomed to the pranks of his siblings. This morning, however, felt different. For one, it was very early. Still dark out. Given the Christmas holiday, school would not resume for another few days. The shaking increased as Domenico heard glass breaking in the kitchen. The earthquake that had rattled Calabria a little over three years ago still brought nightmares and was more of a swaying motion; this morning, the house was starting to move violently up and down.

As he rolled out of bed, Domenico struggled to stay on his feet, as the house seemed to move in every direction at once. He heard a scream from his parent’s bedroom. Terror and adrenaline hit him simultaneously while he made his way to the front door of the house. A vase crashed to the floor, trying to block his escape. The small tea table at the entrance to the modest home was assaulting him while he opened the door, retreating from the onslaught. More screams could be heard in the village over the loud rumble of what would later be known as the most devastating earthquake in Europe’s history.

Domenico experienced the next moments in slow motion. Watching the home he was born in collapse, followed by his best friend’s house next door, then other houses started to fall like dominoes. The ground moved like sloshing liquid as the boy struggled for a firm footing. Four houses down, toward the center of town, a fire broke out and quickly began to engulf wood, straw, food, furniture, and the inhabitants of Tiriolo Catanzaro. It felt as though the earth mercilessly heaved for hours, when in reality it was over in thirty seconds. Then the real nightmare began.

With each subsequent aftershock, Domenico’s terror increased. His family was gone as were most of the people he had known all of his young life. What began as a light drizzle was now a steady rain. Domenico heard a cracking sound across the valley from his now leveled village and watched a massive swath of hillside melt into a landslide that took massive trees, boulders, and the odd farmhouse into the ravine. Looking around in every direction, all the young man could see was death and devastation.

After two days, the stench of decaying bodies was nauseating. The survivors had done all they could to rescue those trapped in the rubble. Dogs, cats, rats, and crows were picking at the corpses that were not yet buried, so great was the number lost. One couple, with whom Domenico was acquainted but did not know vey well, asked him where his family was. Domenico started to shake and the tears started to flow as he explained they were all lost. The husband and wife, whose two children were buried when their house collapsed, told him they were going to the main city of Reggio Calabria where they would take a ferry to Messina. Asking if he would care to join them, Domenico surveyed the crushed remains of all he knew. With a handful of Lire, an extra shirt and pair of pants, and his mandolin in a scarred leather case, the teenager walked out of the village between the grieving man and woman whose names he could not remember.

As the three travelers approached Reggio Calabria four days later, they faced a number of people leaving the city. Sad, dejected, looking at the ground as they left by the hundreds, the couple tried asking people what was happening to no avail. As they crested the hill overlooking the city, they could see it had been obliterated. A forty-foot tsunami had ravaged both Reggio Calabria and the port city of Messina across the straits. No solace would be found here. A dirty-uniformed carabinieri suggested they go to Messina, where King Victor Emmanuel III had arrived two days before and was ordering the execution of looters and the evacuation of refugees. Navy ships from France, Great Britain, and the United States were assisting in the relief. Because Domenico had relatives in the U.S., he found himself aboard the USS Celtic, an American supply ship ferrying survivors to Naples for relocation or emigration. Due to his small stature, most people assumed he was ten or eleven years of age and kept a protective eye on the traumatized boy. An official of the Province of Napoli assigned Domenico to the cargo ship Florida, which would take him and eight hundred fifty other southern Italians to Boston, Massachusetts to make a new home in a new land. Lost in a dense fog, the Florida collided with the luxury passenger liner Republic. Three people aboard the Florida were killed instantly. Within minutes, pandemonium broke out on the ship. Angelo Ruspini, captain of the Florida, used extreme measures to regain control of the desperate passengers, including firing gunshots into the air. Eventually the survivors were rescued at sea and brought into Boston Harbor where they would start a new life.

CHAPTER 1. The American Dream

1909 - 1939

Domenico was processed through Boston and given the standard WOP tag pinned to his jacket. At that time, WOP was not a derogatory term; it simply meant “Without Papers”. The boy had yet to contact either of his two brothers. With very little money and one change of clothes, Domenico was destined to a life on the streets. He noticed an older man playing a violin on the sidewalk with the instrument’s case open at his feet. This inspired the boy to walk a few blocks away, open up his case, and play the mandolin he brought on the journey. It wasn’t long before enough money had accumulated in the case to get a good meal and a new pair of shoes.

Domenico had two older brothers living there, who had migrated to the states years earlier. He wrote a brief letter in Italian, stating his intention to join them. His eldest brother instructed Domenico to take the train ride and wait for him at the Haymarket Station. After two days of sitting at the main entrance, Domenico knew his brother would not be coming for him. He opened up his mandolin case, tuned the strings, and began playing. A tall man in uniform approached him and asked, “Are you an American citizen?”

Domenico froze, not sure how to answer. He had already seen the scorn heaped upon immigrants in the city and was prepared for the worst.

“Do you want to be an American citizen?” the soldier inquired.

Domenico felt a sense of relief and excitement as he nodded silently.

“Come with me then.”

The teenager followed on the heels of the soldier as he swaggered to an office around the corner. The officer pushed papers in front of the young man to sign. Domenico handed the papers back to the officer who smiled wryly, saying, “Welcome to the United States Army, son.”

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