Cardiologist Dr. Daniele De Girolami of Minooka clearly recalls that day in June 2011 when a patient looked him in the eye and said, “Dr. D., you are going to hell.”
There was no vision, no voice, no sudden light, De Girolami said.
Only a switch that flipped into fear.
De Girolami said he learned the truth about hell that day. Hell, he said, is not the “lake of fire and brimstone” imagery he had grown up hearing, or a “De Girolami, you lied here on Sept 23; you’re going to hell,” technicality.
It was, he said, the sudden realization he would spend an eternity separated from the love of a God that had created him.
“That scared the living snot out of me,” De Girolami said.
To the casual outsider, De Girolami had no reason to be unhappy. He made “gobs and gobs of money,” lived in a $2 million home, wore Armani suits, ate the best food and took expensive vacations.
“God had gifted me and provided me with every material thing that is humanly possible. I was living in the top one percent of human beings on the planet and I was miserable,” De Girolami said. “I was always searching for the grass that was greener. I was unfaithful. I was not diligent with my children. I was into alcohol, lying, cheating, pornography. You name it, I did it. I was engrossed in me, me, me.”
De Girolami dismissed his patient, told God, “I don’t know how to be saved,” and then went home to inform his fiancée, Sonja, that he was a born-again Christian and that he needed to attend church; he didn’t care where.
“I hadn’t been to church since my teens,” De Girolami said.
He picked a church close to home; his fiancée didn’t care for it. She preferred another, River Valley Christian Fellowship in Bourbonnais. So off to church they went.
De Girolami recalled sitting inside the church with several hundred other people, listening to the pastor’s message and then staggering on trembling limbs down the aisle to the altar in response to the invitation, “Does anyone want to give his life to Christ?”
“I knelt down and started crying; I felt like I was crying though the pores of my skin, as if my entire body was weeping,” De Girolami said. “As the pastor and the other church members prayed over me, I felt this huge weight just lift off me. And then I felt peace.”
The weight, De Girolami said, was that of guilt and sin. De Girolami subsequently was baptized and married at River Valley Christian Fellowship, where he continues his membership. He studied scripture. He currently is working on his master’s degree in Christian apologetic through Biola University in California.
He had “walking the dogs at 5 a.m.” conversations with God, begging for clarity and direction. And God, De Girolami said, made things “crystal clear” to him, even as it “blew his mind” that the God of the universe wanted to converse with him.
“He told me about love, about loving me and others and that I would never make disciples unless I loved others. People will see that in your eyes,” De Girolami said. “It’s not about, ‘De Girolami is enlightened’ because De Girolami is crap. It’s Christ that gave me eyesight. It’s Christ that loved me. It’s Christ that died on the cross. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. But he pursued me and that’s the truth. We do nothing for him; he does everything for us. He is the source. He has the power. He has the love.”
De Girolami said he sought out his ex-wife and apologized for hurting her. He repaired broken relationships with his children. He now honors his present wife, Sonja De Girolami. He shares Christ with his patients. He gives to his church. He gives to AMVETS. He gives to The Salvation Army. He helps support children in need.
“It’s all about giving now,” De Girolami said. “It’s not about me anymore. It’s about a love that is so encompassing that it’s a joy to please Christ in every single way possible.”