The latest collection in the worldwide best-selling book series Chicken Soup for the Soul, Miracles and the Unexplainable, features the story of Adel author Richard Bennett, who came close to death on a number of occasions after a horrific automobile accident nearly 22 years ago.
Richard says he had what could be described as two Near Death Experiences, during which his deceased grandfather Harvey Lee Bennett appeared to him and bluntly advised him it wasn’t his time to leave this world.
Richard wrote about those experiences and his account of survival in his section “My Miracles and Me” in the Chicken Soup book.
“Everybody says I’m a miracle, so I thought it was high time to write about my story,” Richard said. “I want to spread the word that there is hope.” He believes that he might have survived his brushes with death and endured the painful aftermath so that he can share that positive message.
On Nov. 25, 2000, Richard was a 17-year-old senior on Thanksgiving break from high school. He and some friends were heading home after getting some pizza at the Valdosta Mall and hanging out in Adel. Richard lost control of his 1997 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that he was driving on Antioch Road. The car struck the side of a bridge. Richard’s air bag deployed, knocking him unconscious and permanently blinding him.
Richard wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the car after it flipped. He landed in a wooded area, with vines lessening the impact on his body.
Richard’s grandfather, whom he called “Papa,” had passed away years earlier when Richard was in eighth grade. Papa was “right in front” of him and told him that God wasn’t finished with him yet. “He was exactly as I remembered him, wearing his overalls,” Richard recalled. “He was very, very blunt. He used to work at Adel Ice Co. He was a farmer, a jack of all trades, and a handyman.”
Richard attempted to describe what it was like being where his Papa was: “It was like, ‘I’m here, and boom! I’m there.’ There was no sense of travel. It was instantaneous. It was overwhelming. You could definitely tell it was not earthly.
“There are no words that can describe the colors. It was purity. … That’s a good word, but it doesn’t even come close. I believe there is something beyond this world.”
Richard remembered “returning” to his grievously hurt body, the searchers finding him, and his urging them to let his mother, Danette Johnson, know that he was going to be OK. He then passed out again. He had to be airlifted to the hospital. His prognosis was very grim. His mother stayed by his side for the next couple of months as he faced numerous setbacks.
While Richard was hospitalized at Phoebe Putney in Albany, a breathing tube placed in his airway slipped. No one noticed, and he went for almost 10 minutes without oxygen. Miraculously again, he didn’t suffer any brain damage.
He next had a high fever resulting from an adverse reaction to an antibiotic and had to be put in an ice bath.
Richard was eventually taken to Children’s Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, where the doctors kept him in a medically induced coma. Surgeries were done to rebuild Richard’s facial structure; a titanium plate was installed, and the bridge of his nose was repaired. Richard also underwent several eye surgeries. His jaw was wired shut, and he lost a lot of weight from being placed on a liquid diet for a time.
While being turned in his bed, Richard’s trach slipped, and he started to suffocate. His Papa again appeared to him and told him to “get back ‘cause you’re worrying that nurse something bad.” Richard said he returned to his body and shook the nurse Kim’s arm to alert her. He said it was another miracle that he again didn’t suffer any brain damage due to the lack of oxygen.
By the next spring, Richard had recovered enough to attend his senior prom with a girl who was also in the traffic accident. He said he thanks God that no one else was critically injured during the wreck.
Richard had enough credits to graduate from high school. He received both a networking and a programming degree from Wiregrass Technical College in 2009. He enjoys cruising, reading by Freedom Scientific JAWS (a computer screen reader program for Microsoft Windows that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable Braille display), cooking, devotionals, and listening to sports, such as wrestling, football, and baseball. “I can see light and dark,” Richard said. “Occasionally, I can see some colors and shapes.”
Richard works in website design, table top games for blind and visually impaired people in particular. He is an administrator for the Knights of the Braille Facebook group. Knights of the Braille runs accessible Dungeons and Dragons games for blind and visually impaired people. The group also has a website, www.knightsofthebraille.com.
Richard has a podcast, too, on which he presents inspirational messages each week day, www.620lifepodcast.com. The name and theme are based upon Ephesians 6:20, which states, “For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Richard is available to give his testimony at area churches and other organizations. If you would like for him to speak to your group, his number is (229) 507-5639.
The book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and the Unexplainable, is available in book stores and on Amazon.com and other online services. (We saw copies the other day at Walmart of Adel.)
Richard’s section “My Miracles and Me” gives the story in his own words, and those of his Papa, who sent him home, twice.