Don Piper (Hayden Christensen) is welcomed home from hospital by his family in the film 90 Minutes in Heaven. Photo by Quantrell Colbert

A better life on the road to Heaven

By 
  • September 5, 2015

Don Piper died instantly when an oncoming semi-trailer truck crashed into his car on his way home from a conference on Jan. 18, 1989. By the time paramedics were on the scene, they found his body crushed by the roof of his Ford Escort. He had no pulse and the paramedics were just waiting for the medical examiner to arrive to make it official.

A fellow pastor on his way back from the same conference saw the wreck and offered to pray over his body. Suddenly, the pastor heard Piper singing a worship song with him. That day, Piper said he went to Heaven and back.

In 2004, Piper, with Cecil Murphey, published a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven about what he saw in Heaven and his life after the accident. It sold more than six million copies and was on the New York Times best-seller list for more than five years. Now, the story hits the big screen on Sept. 11.

Although the word “Heaven” is in the title, the film is not really about Heaven. Piper said it’s a film about our life right now on Earth.

“It’s really a movie about now,” Piper told The Catholic Register. “It’s not just about then, but about trying to get people into Heaven... trying to help them understand that you can have a better life on the way to Heaven than the one you’re having.”

The Piper family experienced a spiritual darkness along the way to Piper’s recovery. Throughout the film, Piper — played by Canadian actor Hayden Christensen — struggles through the physical pain of healing his broken body and the emotional pain of watching his family pick up the pieces.

“Every day, I still ask myself the same question I asked while I was in that hospital bed: ‘Why did you let me see Heaven and then take it away from me?’ ” said Piper. “I believe it is so that I could be here with you today and tell you... God is still in the miracle business today.”

Piper said through God, he and his family were able to overcome tragedy and find a new normal after the pain and suffering.

Piper’s wife, Eva, is the real hero of the story. Played by Kate Bosworth, the film shows Eva’s struggles through the heartache and stress of taking care of the family while her husband recovers.

“I was really crying out to Him and I said, ‘Lord, what are we going to do? Is he gonna make it? What am I going to tell the kids,’ ” said Eva.

One of the most poignant moments in the film is when Eva is alone with Don in his hospital room. In a moment of helplessness, she prays over his bloody and weak form and recites verses from Jeremiah 29:11, “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”

“For us as a family, we all watched it together just the five of us... because we lived this ourselves and it was difficult to watch,” said Piper. “It gives us perspective because we all lived it individually those days.”

He and Eva both said that they waited seven years before they agreed to have the movie produced. They received many offers that wanted to dramatize the story for the big screen, but they were firm in staying true to what happened. No offers seemed right until they were approached by Rick Jackson, producer and founder of Giving Films.

Giving Films is a new film production company. Jackson had waited a long time to launch Giving Films and when he came across the film’s screenplay last fall, he knew this was the right film.

“What we’re trying to do is to have a faith-orientation to our movies and the second is we liked the true-story nature of the book,” said Jackson. “We’re not going to do anything that will violate what’s taught in the Bible, but we have some really heroic stories about people doing unbelievable things in the name of Christ.”

90 Minutes in Heaven will be released in theatres Sept. 11. See 90MinutesinHeaventhmovie.com.

Comments (3)

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