Don Piper’s car was hit by a truck in 1989, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Piper wrote about what happened next in 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life (Revell, 2004), which spent almost of five years on the New York Times Best Sellers list, has sold over 6 million copies, and paved the way for such later bestsellers as Heaven Is for Real. This year Revell, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of 90 Minutes in Heaven with a special new edition. Piper spoke with PW about how the book came to be and what has happened since.
What made you decide to write 90 Minutes in Heaven a decade ago?
I wrote the book originally as self-defense. Maybe 18 to 24 months after the accident a friend said, “You look good.” I said, “Compared to what? If you’d seen what I’ve seen, you’d know that this isn’t looking good.” Then I told him about heaven. He responded with “I knew you’d seen something!” But I literally didn’t have the words to talk about it. Another friend wanted to know why I hadn’t said anything about my experience. My wife was just happy to have an explanation of why I was acting the way I did. I thought about heaven all the time.
What question do you hear the most as you speak around the country about your experiences?
People always ask me whether their loved ones miss them. And I always say, “No, they expect you.” There is no time in heaven, so 25 years is nothing. The people already there are expecting their loved ones to arrive.
Do people always believe your story of being in heaven for 90 minutes before returning to this world?
Many people say that they just can’t believe the story, and I say, “I understand completely. All I know is that I was driving on a bridge, got hit, died, went to heaven, and came back.” It’s remarkably complicated and remarkably simple at the same time.
Any interesting stories you’ve heard along the way?
One time a trauma nurse came through a book signing line. She said the story was amazing and it was because I was killed instantly I didn’t bleed out, which is how most trauma victims die. She also said that some of her best friends are Christian doctors, and they have no problem believing my story. They see things they can’t explain all the time.
What does the anniversary edition of 90 Minutes include?
It will include a personal update on what I’ve been doing, stories from people I’ve heard from over the years, an 8-page photo spread, and a publisher’s note from Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group.
What are you working on now?
I’m developing a book tentatively titled The People I Met at the Gate, but I don’t have a publisher yet. The people I met there actually helped me get to heaven in the first place because of their influence on my life. The book will help answer the questions about who will greet us when we get to heaven, and [it will] encourage people to do things here on earth to help everyone else get there. Whole bunches of people were waiting at heaven’s gate for me. They were expecting me.