June 22, 2018
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Photographer’s book tells about second chance at life

By Debra Bell, Of The Weekly Staff

One thing Brewer photographer Thomas Morelli never expected on February 23, 1978 was to experience “Two Minutes at the Gate.”

And by gate, he doesn’t mean garden gate. Instead Morelli believes he spent two minutes at heaven’s gate. And he came back to tell the tale of his near death experience.

At age 19, he played lead guitar for the band Sunrise and had a wife and two-year-old son named Scott. On that February night, despite a plea from his father to cancel the Belfast gig at Jed’s because of the dangerous weather, Morelli and Brent, the band’s drummer navigated to Belfast on icy roads. Morelli’s 1974 Datsun B-210 was full of equipment and the young men were ready to play. The gig would net Morelli $75, money needed to care for his son Scott.

What happened next forever changed his life.

That’s because a drunk driver coming back from Jed’s crossed the center line in Stockton Springs hitting the Datsun head on.

According to Morelli, that was the night he died. What brought him back to life was love for his young son Scott.

Now, 34 years later, he has written a book about his near death experience which was released as a digital download through Amazon on August 15.

On the anniversary of the accident, Morelli posted a status update on his facebook page about that night complete with a photo of the wrecked Datsun. He had been thinking about writing about his experience, but wanted to test the waters first. The response was more than he expected.

“I didn’t talk a lot about it,” Morelli said. “But the urging continued and I started writing a bit here and there. It’s now turned out to be a love story to my son. I felt as though I was given a choice. I [didn’t] want him to grow up without a father so I chose to go back out of love for him.”

That love story is now titled “Two Minutes at the Gate: The Story of the Day I Died, What I Saw and What I Heard.”

The book details the events leading up to the accident, his experiences at heaven’s gate, and his subsequent recovery and entry into a career that has left him a well-known photographer.

Whether or not people believe that his experience was actually a chance to experience “the other side” doesn’t matter to Morelli. The nearly six month process has prompted others to take heart in his story. He believes it was a divine experience.

“I am hoping someone will read this and have an ‘aha’ moment,” Morelli said. “I hope that someone out there will read this and either be inspired, has hope, connects with it, and just makes somebody feel inspired or better about their situation.”

His second wife, Karen, and his sister have served as editors and sounding boards throughout the project.

“My family is supportive,” he said. “I think that they’re probably nervous in that this is very personal and they don’t want me to embarrass myself. But I’m 55, with all the other things I’ve done — TV, radio and the band — how much more can I embarrass myself? I died once, so what the heck is embarrassing myself one more time?”

Morelli’s son, Scott, is very interested in the story as well, he said. Scott remembered bits and pieces, but never knew the story in depth. Now, he can read about his father’s experience.

Morelli hope the book will provide insight into his experience, he hopes it will serve as a chance for others to know that they are not alone.

“I am going to enjoy the gift of life that I was given,” Morelli said. “Personally, I believe that life is better lived with hope and with that uplifting feeling that there is something bigger than what we are here. I think it would be sad if that was all there is. From what I saw and experienced I don’t think that’s all there is”

“Two Minutes at the Gate” is available as a digital download on Amazon.com for Kindle, or e-readers with the Kindle app. The price is $9.99.

Excerpt from the Introduction of the book:

Welcome, thanks for reading my book. I am NOT a professional author (that will show.) I AM a real person who experienced what was a life changing event. I want this telling of my experience to be interesting, and I hope an inspiration or even hopeful, especially if you or a loved one is facing some serious challenges to health. This is not some “pie-in-the-sky” religious treatise. I know what happened to me was real.

It wasn’t until nearly 35 years after my experience that I decided to write about it. I thought people would think I was strange. I am old enough now to realize – I don’t care what people think. That’s no longer important. The truth is what’s important. This book is about what happened to me, and what I remember from that night. It’s up to you to decide whether you interpret it all the same way I have.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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