One of the biggest questions we all wonder at some point in our lives is “What happens after we die?” Some are convinced that we progress into some sort of afterlife, while others believe nothing lies on the other side but darkness. Diverse and polarizing as the theories may be, one woman thought she’d found a definitive answer.

She’d been hopelessly late to work and stuck in a traffic jam that blocked a highly traveled highway. To prove to her boss why she was late, she snapped a quick picture of the car wreck that was in the middle of the road. That was when she suddenly noticed something that she considered proof of the afterlife…

On a sunny spring day in 2017, Anisa Gannon (left) was stuck in unbearable traffic. Late to work, she sat gridlocked on Gainesville, Georgia’s Route 347, unaware at first of the horrific scene blocking the highway in front of her.

Anisa Gannon / Facebook

The cause of the traffic? Hannah Simmons, just 23 years old, had lost control of her Subaru Legacy while driving down the highway. Unable to right herself, she careened into another car—but that wasn’t the worst of it.

Hannah Simmons / Facebook

Riding shotgun in Hannah’s car was her 28-year-old friend and new mother, Lauren Buteau. In the back seat rode Hannah’s own nine-month-old daughter, A’lannah. Tragically, none of the three survived the crash.

Lauren Buteau / Facebook; Hannah Simmons / Facebook

But Anisa didn’t know about any of that at first. All she knew was that she was late to work. To prove to her boss that her tardiness was out of her control, she snapped a photo of the accident. A helicopter captured the aftermath, too.

Fox 5 Atlanta

Later in the day, Anisa showed the photograph she’d taken to her aunt, Tara Noble (left). When she looked at the photo, though, she saw far more than a car accident. All she could say was, “Oh, my gosh.”

Tara Gannon Noble / Facebook

Anisa’s photograph captured emergency crews at work; it depicted the glare of police cruiser sirens and the bright red paint of the firetruck. But those weren’t the details that stood out to Tara…

Anisa Gannon / TODAY

What Tara clung to was the beam of light that descended from the sky right to the center of the tragedy. Inside the beam, two shining, shimmering orbs seemed to float skyward. She was floored. “It’s a pathway to heaven,” she said.

Anisa Gannon / TODAY

Of course, there was a simple explanation for these orbs and the beam of light: they were a result of lens flare or a glare from a windshield—a trick of the light like that in the image below. Even Tara agreed those were the likely explanations. But, she said, that didn’t matter.

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Tara told TODAY. “Especially the two ‘lights’ inside that bigger light… It’s indescribable, basically.” To Tara, the photo looked like souls ascending to heaven. It was, if nothing else, symbolic. This gave Tara an idea.

The photograph had given Tara a little bit of comfort in that it reaffirmed her own faith and feelings about the afterlife. She wanted to share that feeling with the family Hannah left behind. So she tracked them down…

Tara Gannon Noble / Facebook

First, Tara gave the picture to Judy Simmons, Hannah’s mother and A’lannah’s grandmother (left). Naturally, she’d taken the loss hard, but the photograph still had a profound effect on her.

Judy Simmons / Facebookl; Hannah Simmons / Facebook

Distressed and out of sorts, Judy found great relief in the photograph. That picture was taken for a reason, to give me sanity” she said. “Hannah was also my best friend, and she’s looking down from heaven now.”

Judy Simmons / Facebook

But Hannah and A’lannah weren’t the only victims of the tragic accident. Lauren Buteau’s family also suffered the loss of a key member. “I was in pretty bad shape,” Lauren’s aunt, Jodi Carter, recalled. But then, she, too, received the photo.

Lauren Buteau / Facebook

On the night of the accident, Jodi’s son sent her the picture in a text message as she left the hospital. “I opened the photo and my mouth hung wide open,” she said. “It took my breath away.”

The car accident turned Jodi’s life inside-out. With her niece gone, Jodi became the guardian to Aniyah, Lauren’s five-year-old daughter. Still, the photograph offered immense comfort. “Now I know where [Lauren] is,” she said.

Lauren Buteau / Facebook

Jodi further explained what the photo did for her. “I’m at peace with this [tragedy],” she said, “because I know they’re in a better place than we are now… I see God taking them up to heaven. Their spirits, their orbs are up there. No other explanation.”

Hannah Simmons / Facebook

Still, touching as the photo has been to the families, it’s been a bittersweet contributor to the healing process. While the families may have seen it as Lauren and Hannah on their ways to heaven, it also reminded them of what they’d lost.

TODAY

“They grew up together as family,” Hannah’s cousin, Paige Wilson (pictured here with Hannah), said of the two women. “Hannah and Lauren always called each other sisters, they were so close.”

Hannah Simmons / Facebook

In the end, though, Paige felt positively about the photo and the effect it might have on the world as a whole. “If it is able to change even one person’s faith for the better, something’s been done right,” she said.

Paige Wilson / Facebook

Tara, Anisa’s aunt who interpreted the beam of light as something more than a trick of the camera lens, echoed a similar sentiment. “It brought the families peace, whether it’s a glare or not,” she said. And in some of the darkest times of their lives, that right there was priceless for these families.

Isn’t it incredible that a single photograph taken taken by a young girl late to work could have such a profound effect on two families? For them, it very well was proof that heaven exists!

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