A highlight of my career thus far has been working with author Rob A. Gentile to help him write his near-death experience book, “Quarks of Light, A Near-Death-Experience. What I saw when I opened my heart.“ He wrote the book himself, which was very important from the beginning but I acted as writing coach, sounding board, and conceptual editor. Rob showed remarkable work ethic given that he had a heavy travel schedule for his day-job and an adult special-needs daughter who needs a lot of care. He is also recovering from a heart transplant, but he got up every morning and wrote. It was simply something he had to do. Read the book to learn why.
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Watch the full interview with Rob A. Gentile, author of Quarks of Light
I had the opportunity to interview Rob about the magical read-aloud session we had when he flew to Utah during the editing process. In the second half of that chat, we talk about one of the themes that is resonating for people. Namely, suicide, social media and the dual message in his book: hope and a warning for our day. Click here to watch that second video: https://youtu.be/XXaUh43bUrs
The full transcript of the first interview:
Rhonda:. So, Rob, what a big day!
Rob: Incredible day.
Rhonda: So, I was thinking today we’ll get into a little back story about us working together. Do you remember the dream-crushing conversation that we had early on about writing your book, about writing any memoir or biography? I didn’t prep you for this question (tonight) I was just thinking about it just now. So, OK.
Rob: We’ve had many a dream-crushing conversation around and when we first started this project.
Rob, “No one is going to buy your book”
Rhonda: Now, to tell people out there a little bit (of background) maybe I’ll prep viewers, that this is a conversation I have with all clients working on family histories and memoirs.
And it goes something like this, “Rob, your story is amazing and it’s important, and it needs to be told. And, Rob, no one is going to buy your book.” And that’s just the reality with most memoirs and family histories that there’s not a lot of market for it. It’s a tough market.
And so we had to hold that in balance, the entire time you were working on it, knowing what–what did you keep saying about it being worth it?
Is it worth the effort to write a memoir?
Rob Gentile: Oh, it’s been so worth it because the whole journey, it’s not about thinking about the final product, that’s not what this is about. It’s about the journey and it’s about self-discovery.
The most beautiful part for me, because this was a near-death experience– a lot of tragedy, a lot of medical issues, my special needs daughter, all of these things were very difficult to relive. But at the same time, I found that to be very cathartic. I found that when I wrote these things, it’s like kind of getting poison out of the body. And I learned a lot about myself in the process. So it’s the journey. As difficult as it is, that’s the beauty of it.
And every time that I got scared or I was afraid to write it, besides you telling me, “I’m not doing it for you, so get back to work,” then, you know, I said to myself, well, I’m going to detach myself, detach the ego from the process. Just learn to enjoy the ride, let it come out of me. And that that helped me so many times throughout the process.
The paradox of holding passion and detachment in balance
Rhonda Lauritzen: Yeah, that’s an interesting paradox. This idea that we/you, we wanted it to be great, and worthy of the story. And so you have to hold the idea that maybe someone WILL read it. And also prepare yourself, that maybe no one will.
Rob Gentile: That’s exactly right. And you have to do it for yourself, just like exercise or anything else. You know, it’s got to be something that drives you, that you that you have to get out of you, that you have to express. You have to tell. But if you worry about am I going to make any money on this or is this thing going to go, I think that serves as a block.
Hitting Amazon’s bestseller lists today
Rhonda: Yeah. And what happened today?
Rob: Oh, my goodness gracious…today! Now, what I have to say, though, today was miraculous in its own right, but the back story is that it’s been a tremendous amount of work. This social media thing, you and I from the day we met, even in that Richard Paul Evans group, everybody said, oh, this is the exciting part, the marketing part. That’s the part that I have a lot of disdain for. I don’t like it. I’m not good at it. I’m not comfortable with it, you know. So I was I was really blessed to have a great team that I hired to help me do it, because, you know, I would I would write the blogs and provide the pictures who do those things. But this whole posting, all these crazy things, I’m not very good at. So, this has been going on. This has been building we’ve been building this momentum for about four or five months now. And it all culminated today just beautifully. I couldn’t even be more pleased. So out of out of the ten categories that Amazon allows you to put your put your book in in eight of them so far, the last time I checked with my publisher, we’ve reached number one in eight of those categories. It’s just like phenomenal to think about it. And then we have two more categories to go. But in in two of those categories, which are really difficult, it’s Christian faith living. But I’m right I’m right under Max Lucado and C.S. Lewis.
Rob: So, I don’t think I’m going to be able to knock those two guys off. But, you know, just to be able to get to that place is just been incredibly humbling and exciting and emotional and wonderful all at the same time. It’s been great.
Rhonda: I’ve been so touched to watch the outpouring on social media, all the support coming from everywhere for you in this story. People are so invested. There were thousands of people praying for you when you were going through the most difficult times. And they all are still pulling for you. And I could see that on social media.
Delicately writing about a special-needs daughter
Rob: Yeah, no question. But, you know, Rhonda, I think that that my daughter, Maria, being in the condition that she’s in and putting her out there and you and I talked about that early on, by the way, putting Maria out there in a way that someone didn’t think that I was using her as leverage in any way, but putting her out there in an authentic way, because I don’t want anyone to have pity on her because she’s this beautiful spiritual being that God speaks through all the time. And me and she’s been the reason, one of the reasons that drove me so hard to get the story out. So to put things out there.
Writing with authenticity
Rob: And it’s a lesson of authenticity, I think, for everyone, because, you know, when you’re authentic, when you’re authentic and you come from that authentic place, I think that people can see it. They can recognize it. And today, when we live in this fake world of social media, we don’t even know who’s real anymore. All this technology is creating people that don’t even exist. It’s important, I think, to be authentic more than anything now.
Rhonda: Yeah, and you just are. There’s no way you can be anything else. You are authentic to the core. And anyone who reads your story will see the raw, brave honesty when you were going through some of those moments that you’re we’re not especially proud of and not excited to share. And you shared it anyway.
Being brave enough to write the truth
Rob: Yeah. I remember, Rhonda, you and I having conversations about those moments, and if you remember, I wanted to chop some of those out because I was I was concerned that I work in a very conservative business. I’m in the steel industry. It’s a very conservative, mature industry. And, well, I didn’t know how people, my friends and colleagues were going to react to those things. And I still don’t. However, for those that I have shared the Facebook posts with and some of the social media content, I was delighted to see that they really connected with it.
You never know what others are going through
You never really know what’s behind someone in their life and their life experiences just by judging us so much so, so hard on other people, because these people, everyone has something they’re going through.
And I’m certainly not special that that I had a heart transplant and I have a special-needs child because there are people that have adversity and vicissitudes and things that they deal with. It put mine to shame. So but it’s it’s lovely to see people. I don’t think I’ve had anyone in—now we’re up to eighteen thousand reactions on Facebook and Instagram—people that are sharing posts. And nobody has come to me and said, hey, you’re using your daughter in a horrible way or this is garbage or so it’s been great.
Courage to write about spirituality
Rhonda: It also takes a lot of courage to talk about spirituality and God, I mean, you have to wonder, will people believe you? And I know you wondered that.
Rob: I did I did wonder that because and I didn’t want to come off as—and, by the way, before I get into that, you know, I’ve had a lot of I’ve been blessed with a lot of, like I call strangers and coincidences pastors and strangers on planes. And because how extensively I’ve traveled and these are all characters that have played a very important role in my life and understanding different belief systems like all of the different doctors that worked on me to help save me. There’s a chapter in the book, as you know, called All One. And I get into because I was raised in a very traditional Catholic family. My parents were Italian immigrants, and we had, much like most religions do, and very strict rules to follow. And this is what you believe in. Anyone who believes outside that, you know, doesn’t fit into your belief system.
But having gone through this journey and experiencing all these different belief systems and Sikhs and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Christians, and they’re all beautiful, magnificent people who have showed me that everyone has value and everybody’s belief system should be should be cherished because they’re on their own path. You know, as long as our moral compass is going in the right direction, you know, who are we to say what they should or shouldn’t believe?
Doctors and caregivers from many spiritual traditions
Rhonda: You know, we’ve talked about this and I’ve personally long believed that maybe God put some of those amazing doctors in your path. Of all the different backgrounds, Dr. Uriel, Dr. Jeevenenedum, Dr. Carson, Dr. Patel, your bosses from China, so many people of every background and religion in your path should really teach us that that message of unity and all one.
Rob: Yes. Yes. And I have to say that part of my writing process and I’d like to touch on this just a little bit, because what I did and this was something that I actually concealed for a while, because I you never know how people are going to take this. But honestly, for me, having had the near-death experience that I had and when I saw it was important to me every morning to go through a prayer and meditation routine.
Asking for the spirit to guide the creative process
And for me personally, I would pray to spirit the Holy Spirit to speak through me and not from me, so those words would be pure. And there were times when, as you know, Rhonda, I mean, I would come up with nothing. There were times when I would sit at my desk and come up with nothing. But I found that if you show up at the same time, in the same place every day and do the work, you know, some people called the muse, some people call it spirit. It doesn’t make any difference. But it’s kind of like if you want to go anywhere, you have to get in your car to drive there. So I would get in my car every morning, my little desk, I’d wake at four thirty and go through my prayer meditation routine. And then I would sit there with my pen. And sometimes you have to pray that, you know, there were tablets of pages that I just ripped up and threw away. And a lot of the times some of the material that I would send to you, of course, there might have been six pages. We may have kept a quarter of a page. But the point is, is that what came through me was real and authentic. And I believe that it was a spiritually driven. And those that part of that process has been a part of me now. But that will stay with me forever. Regardless of what I do. I can’t break that habit becomes a habit.
It’s not home anymore – on not wanting to be in this world
Rhonda: That was one of the really difficult things after you came back and didn’t—it’s not especially fun to be in this world after you’ve been in that place. And learning to—how =can you possibly continue to live in spirit when you are in this world? So do you want say anything about that?
Rob: Yeah, I, I think that’s a great question because, I talk about in the book, there’s a chapter in the book entitled, “It’s Not Home Anymore,” and a great deal of that chapter deals with grappling with the incongruence between the spiritual world and the temporal world.
And honestly, even knowing that I had to come back and take care of my daughter and be with my family and help support them, I didn’t want to be here. Having been to that place of love and light and where we’re all connected and there’s that unity and we seem to all work together in spirit, I didn’t want to be back into in this place. So there was a watershed moment in my in my journey when I was living in Chicago because I live in North Carolina for your viewers. And I had to go to Chicago to get my heart. And you have to stay near the hospital for a year after transplant, because if you if you reject and you die, then they can lose their transplant license. So in that year of living alone, I went through a period of depression where I would I would get up every morning and I would actually meditate and try to get back into that ethereal space. And of course, after about three months, I realized the folly of that, I couldn’t there’s no way I can grab it ascend.
Fat in the spirit
And so there was a Chinese pastor that my boss brought to see me. And he came to see me and we sat out on the porch one day and it was incredible, it’s a beautiful moment in the book and I told him that I actually broke down and I told him that I had all this guilt of getting a heart and all these people that have supported me. And I didn’t want to be here anymore and I didn’t know where I belonged.
And in his own Chinese way, he looked out at the street and he turned back to me and he said, “You know, the solution to your problem is very simple. You don’t know where you belong because you have grown fat in the spirit and from your spiritual journey.” And he said, To get thin again.You have to learn how to see the divine in everything here on Earth, and that’s how God will express through the divine the gifts of the spirit of faith and humility and loving nature and seeing the divine in other people. And that was a really big moment for me, because from that point on, I went for a long walk and I began to connect with nature and I began to see things for the first time and see the divine in everything, including my daughter and others around me. And that anchored me back into this place. And I realized that, you know
you can you can spend your days wanting to go somewhere else and praying to be taken to heaven or whatever your belief is. But you’re in this body. We’re spiritual beings living inside these fragile clay vessels. And we need to make the best of it here and allow spirit to express through us, by the way, we love others and treat others. So it was it was a great it was it’s a great part of the book.
Rhonda: A great part of the book. You saw the Divine and in this world after that. But you had long seen the Divine and Maria.
Rob: Yes. I did.
Rhonda: there’s some pretty poignant moments, we probably don’t have time to get into. People are just gonna have to read the book to see the powerful insights that came when you understood fully how perfect she was is.
Q&A from the chat
Rhonda: Well, we only have a couple more minutes. We only wanted to keep this short. You know, that we—you and I could talk for an hour—and we will have to keep clipping along. And I’m just wondering if there are any final thoughts you want to share. Maybe about getting a heart. That’s something we haven’t talked about yet, about any of the spiritual journey in having someone else’s heart live inside you and what that person was maybe trying to tell you, and what you learned. This is a big mouthful, so maybe also what you learned about some of the most troubling aspects of society today from that part of your journey?
Rob: OK, great. I’ll try to run through that very quickly.
Rhonda: You’ve got a couple of minutes. You don’t have to go too quickly.
(Note: one section of the interview was removed from the transcript because it contains a potential spoiler).
Rhonda: Let’s talk about the nature of the power of a single act and how the light spreads, because people who are watching this are probably working on their own stories They have an opportunity through their own stories to light a candle. And so talk about that for a moment about the light.
How the light spreads – power of a single act
Rob: Sure. So I had two near-death experiences. The second one was in Chicago when my body gave out again while waiting for a donor heart. I’m about one hundred and seventy four pounds. I had atrophied to about one hundred and thirty eight. And even with the experimental pump that was in my body, everything that they were doing for me, I kind of collapsed again right before my donor heart arrived. And I had a profound near-death experience. And when I went into the Ethereal and I was in that place and I saw how we were all connected through this web of lights that seemed to stretch into infinity and hang on the ceiling of the universe. I realized in that place when I was when I became part of this interactive web of lights that each spark of light or sort of light represented a life. And while I was in that place, I realized that if I hurt myself, I hurt everything connected to me. But if I loved that, the light would spread.
And I think that that example that the web in the ethereal is really but a reflection of how we’re all connected here in the temporal world on Earth. And that same rules apply. You know, if we hurt ourselves, we hurt everything connected to us. But if we love, not only does the light spread, but we illuminate the path for others. And that’s a very, very important that’s a very important thing.
And that ties in with the power of a single act. And how I saw that the actions that people took a lot of the doctors when I when I went and interviewed them, I should say, interview question them after I came back and was healthy again. And I asked them, you know, do you think it was God that saved my life? And they all said, yes, regardless of what whatever religious belief it was. But they said, but we had to take action. We had to do the deed. We had this we had to stand there and pump your chest for 20 minutes. You know, we had to operate on you.
On free will vs. doing the work
So this is where it’s complex. Where free will and power of a single act and all these things take place.
I heard a lecture, very quickly, I heard a lecture from my hero recently, Dr. Jeevenendum, who is the heart transplant surgeon, Indian man who is world-famous now. He’s transplanted over fifteen hundred people, including his wife. And I have had the pleasure of being invited to his lecture today, just honored him at the University of Chicago Medicine. And he follows one holy Indian man called Sibaba in India, and he went through how the five lessons the Sibaba taught him have influenced his life.
And the first lesson was, which I found very interesting, was that you control your actions, but God determines the outcome. And the second thing that he said, which really struck me, which is right in line with the power of a single act, is that he said hands that serve our holier than lips that pray.
So I talk about this in the book it’s kind of funny, the similarities there, because I talk about how our prayers sometimes hang in mid-air until we take action and do something about it. I think prayer is a wonderful thing, but if we don’t follow with action or the power of a single act, I’m not so sure really how much value they have in serving others.
It’s in doing the act, doing the deed when we serve others and get our own ego out of the way that we really spread the light.
Rhonda: That’s beautifully said. And. We probably could just end right there and probably should. I’ll say one more comment, and that is you got up every morning with your pen, with your computer, and you wrote and that was you doing the work to honor the directive that you’ve been given. You did it.
Rob: Yep. For three hours every morning, sick or healthy, Maria having seizures or not. I carved out that time 4:30 to 7:30. And it took three years, but the message arrived today, and I’m so delighted.
Rhonda Me too! We have a question in the chat. Do you want to take it? You want to take a question?
Rob: Absolutely. I’d love to.
Comparing other near-death experiences
Rhonda: Let’s read the question and said, “Could he comment on how his experience compares with what others have reported from their near-death experience?”
Rob: Huh, that’s a good question, I could answer it this way, so when I had my near-death experience, my wife cautioned me and Rhonda did too actually, when I met her in in Utah at the Richard Paul Evans writing conference. She said, whatever you do, don’t read any other near-death experience books. Don’t put anything in your head. And my wife had told me the same thing. So it was only after I wrote the final manuscript, the raw manuscript, that I began to read other people’s experiences. And I have to say a little bit of cheating here. So but my wife, because I thought I was going crazy, but my wife at the same time that I was writing the book, which over a three year period, she decided to start reading near-death experience books. And I would share some of my writings with her only after Rhonda and I got through them. So, I would share some of my writings with her and she would say, oh, my God, I can’t even believe that your experience matched this person’s. And I said, wow, I’m glad I’m not going crazy.
So each kind of step of the way, these different stages, I would share things with her and she would hold off until that was down on paper until she said, you know, what I read about this person may have had a very similar experience. So what I’ve come to understand really is that while all of us have a different near-death experience, that God shows up in very different ways to everybody, just like we all have special gifts that we’re supposed to express while we’re here. No different because we’re all important, we all matter and everyone has a gift. And so God shows shows us different, different ways of expression.
And I learned that there are similarities to some of the near-death experiences having been raised Catholic. When I came back from my second near-death experience, I was and I’ve told Rhonda about this, I was very upset that I didn’t see Jesus Christ. I didn’t see a spiritual being. I didn’t see God. I didn’t see any of those things.
God was expressed through concepts like: I am. I am omnipotent. I am your true identity. This is the source of power, things like that.
And then I was shown examples while I was in that place about judgment.
I got to see my beautiful special needs daughter, whole and perfect and radiant. Things like that. I was I was shown, but I did not hear things, as we hear things. There was no taste or smell or touch there. So some people said that they hear music, they smell flowers, all these different things. So I think that while there are similarities, we do have differences.
Rhonda: In your first near-death experience, you also had a person come to you. A lot of people have someone greet them on the other side. And that that was something that happened to you as well.
Rhonda: I’m looking at the questions here. There’s one more question. So I’ll read it aloud and we’ll see.
Visitations from people who have passed
“When my grandmother left her body, she came to me and awoke and woke me from sleep. I felt a coolness sweep across my body. How might you describe this from your experience. I accept it as it happened. But perhaps you might share your experience, share what what your experience might have been.”
Rhonda: So from what I understand from the question, when her grandmother came, left her body, she came and woke from her sleep. So, OK, she she was awakened from a sleep when her grandmother left her body. Interesting! So and she felt a physical sensation of coolness.
Rhonda: You didn’t go see anybody, or nobody necessarily noticed that you were gone or anything like that.
Rob: No. the only the only way that I can relate to that is before, right before my mother died, she saw her brother who had passed away. And I talk about this in the book, her brother, who had passed away a couple of weeks prior and my mother wasn’t able to talk for. She lost her speech for a year. And then all of a sudden, just a couple of weeks before she died, I was in her room with her.
And out of nowhere she starts staring at the wall. And she just perked up and looked at the wall and she said, “Oh, it’s my brother Ernest. He’s so happy.”
And it was the last thing that she said. She died a couple of weeks later. But I jumped up. I jumped up off the bed and I and I ran over to the wall thinking it was some kind of portal or something. And I started caressing the wall and saying, Mom, is he in here? Is who else is with him? What else do you see?
And that’s all she said.
So I can you know, I can certainly. I understand your feeling of that sensation because I believe it.
Watching the room after flatlining
Rhonda: Yeah, this speaks to something else that you experienced in the first near-death experience when you were seeing what was going on around you. I mean, being in the room and watching the doctor work on you and your wife praying. And I don’t know how many other people have that experience.
Rob: Some certainly do. Some do. Yes. Some actually are able to. That also happened to me on my second experience in Chicago where when I went into that Ethereal place, I could I could see myself lying in my in my bed in my green hospital gown. And I was green, all atrophied, shriveled up in the pump, pumping my heart. And then I can also see myself standing in that place in the middle of nowhere, looking perfectly whole and just kind of looking around like what? What is this? But yeah. And then I had that experience where I saw some of my nurses coming in and out of the room and had that profound moment of seeing their life life story flashed before me, which was incredible.
Rhonda: You want to take one more question and then we’ll wrap it up? Are you OK with one more?
Rhonda: All right.
Is the darkness real?
Question: “Can you comment on the subject of evil?
Rob: We are all perfect, but can you comment on what we what we here on Earth call good and what we call evil?” Well, that’s a tough question, I guess, are you asking me if evil is real? Because if that’s part of the question, yes, the darkness is real. I’m going to share, Rhonda, real quick if I have time.
Rhonda You do.
Rob: I’m going to share a very important part of my dark night of the Soul. There’s a chapter in the book entitled The Darkness. And part of that story was when I was living in Los Angeles and I was traveling a lot. I was I got on a plane from Los Angeles to fly up to Seattle, Washington, and there was a man that got on the plane and he came and sat down beside me. And this man had the most weathered faced more so than any Western star that I’ve ever seen. But his face was very weathered. And he had these deep, deep, deep lines in his face and reminded me of that novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
And he sat down beside me and I was shocked to see that once we got a flight, he pulled out a Bible. And he pulled his Bible out and he started highlighting some things and making some notes. And of course, I had to I had to ask him, are you are you a pastor or what about your life? And he he told me the most horrifying story that I think I’ve ever heard about how he succumbed to evil and the darkness and he went down that path. And he let darkness consume him.
So this whole this whole concept of evil, darkness, some people say Satan, some people, the dark one, whatever it is, I can tell you the darkness is real. It exists. And it’s something that we have to be very careful of staying away from. And it’s insidious. It sneaks up on us in a lot of different ways. And I talk about that in the book.
And I think that one of the ways it sneaks up on us is that when the vicissitudes of life come and they come to us all. And by the way, I have fallen prey to this with my daughter had a very difficult relationship with the creator at one point, blame God for everything, my daughter’s condition, my failures, everything else in life. And when we start to do that, then we begin to, we begin to look at different faces to hide those feelings and that fear. One thing leads to another. And before we know it, we’re stumbling around in the dark. We’ve lost our moral compass. We don’t know who we are anymore. And we can get involved in some crazy things.
Thank goodness I met this pastor on the plane before I got into any kind of dark worshiping because he stopped me cold because after hearing his experience, which I read about in the book, I was I was snapped out of it. But I hope that answers your question. I’m not sure that it does entirely, but.
Rhonda: I think that was an excellent answer, actually, and encourage people to read it because it is a difficult question about the darkness and we want to focus on the light, but recognize that there are opposites in this world.
Rob: Sure, absolutely.
Rhonda: Yeah, well, you’ve had a big day and just delighted that you took some time with us. The timing of this coming out during RootsTech seemed poignant so that we could share it with more people. I’m going to go ahead and share the replay of this.
Please purchase Quarks of Light, a near-death experience by Rob A. Gentile
I would make an ask now, if any of you have not purchased Rob’s book, Quarks of Light, please do so by clicking here. Not only will it change your life–I mean, it really will change your perspective and bring more light into your life–but it helps his book rankings and we’re looking for an international bestseller status in every purchase counts. So please go out and buy Rob’s book. You won’t be sorry.
Rob: Thank you for that, Rhonda. And I really appreciate the questions and everyone who joined.
Rhonda: It’s been lovely. Thank you all for coming. Really appreciate it. We’ll catch up soon, Rob.
OK, sounds good. Thank you.
Bye bye, everybody.
Rhonda Lauritzen is the founder and an author at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. Rhonda lives to hear and write about people’s lives. She believes that when you tell your story, it changes the ending., She and her husband Milan restored an 1890 Victorian in Ogden. She especially enjoys unplugging in nature. Check out her books: How to Storyboard, and Every Essential Element. Most recently she was the writing coach of bestselling author, Rob A. Gentile, who wrote Quarks of Light, A Near-Death Experience: What I Saw That Opened My Heart