Friday, August 19, 2011
A New Heaven
The concept of Heaven is one that evolves constantly within us and around us. As a child I remember imagining Heaven the way many children probably do. It was like Care-a-Lot, the world that the Care Bears live in, where the ground is covered in clouds and there are rainbow slides everywhere. The occupants are able to view what is happening on earth and intercede where they are needed. Of course in my childhood imaginings the occupants were humans with wings, people who had become angels and now watched, guided and helped us.
As I got older I began to think maybe my previously held concept of Heaven was boring. Though I might like to slide along rainbows and float on clouds sometimes, I wasn't sure if such activities could entertain me for eternity. My idea of Heaven started to evolve into a world that looked more like earth without the turmoil. After all, life on earth is beautiful, even if there is pain. An eternity that looked like life on earth without the sorrow or hurt seems appealing. I thought that maybe everyone's Heaven is different. Maybe Heaven is a place where you can fulfill your life's dreams.
My Heaven for many years had me working at Charly's/The Wright Place. That idea might seem strange to some -- Why would anyone want to work in Heaven? -- but my Heaven still has stores and restaurants and most of the business that earth has. And I enjoy working. But in Heaven, my feet never get tired. No one ever gets drunk or argues. My friends have more free time to hang out with me, because they don't have to work if that's not part of their Heaven. No one needs money, because in Heaven there's no place for the corruption that wealth can bring. The time goes by quickly and my shifts are only as long as I want them to be, then I can go home to Ben, who only has to work as long as he wants to also. We can vacation anytime we want. We can visit his family in Arizona and South Carolina frequently. Arizona and South Carolina exist not as political entities, but as destinations, beautiful places.
Some might ask why I'm not a practicing lawyer in Heaven, but the answer should be obvious: There is no conflict there, and no need for an adverserial business like legal practice.
Some people say there are no more tears in Heaven, but in my Heaven I can finally cry with abandon, and it feels good because they are tears of love and joy.
My view of Heaven continues to be simple and a bit childlike. I suppose to imagine a world where there is peace requires us to think like children. I look at a drawing made for Gabriel by his young cousin Mackenzie, and I envy her Heaven. The older we get and the more complex our lives become, the further from Heaven we seem to remove ourselves. My Heaven is limited by my world view, distinctly American though it is probably a culture of its own influenced by the many cultures of this world and perhaps the cultures of other planets. There are animals in my Heaven, pets that I long to see again as much as I long to see some of my human friends and family.
Imagining Heaven is always speculative. Though there are accounts of people who claim to have temporarily visited Heaven, if we accept their accounts as truth they are still only telling of Heaven from their perspective. Heaven may take an eternity to explore. I have always looked forward to Heaven.
Then Gabriel happened. Heaven somehow felt more real and within reach. Life got harder, but the desire to reach Heaven got stronger. There was something beyond just Heaven to look forward to. Someone.
I have always believed that we'd see our loved ones again in Heaven and I have lost many people that I hope to see again, but none of them have pulled me towards Heaven the way my children do. When we lost Baby Cude I knew that my baby would be waiting for me in Heaven. Baby Cude is such a mystery. I do not know if Baby Cude is a boy or a girl, though I suspect a boy. I do not know what he or she looks like, if he has blonde hair like Gabriel, or brown hair like his parents. I do not know if he or she has been given a name in Heaven, or if he is known as Baby Cude their too. I know that I am excited to learn.
Gabriel, though, I held in my arms and have already seen face-to-face. I imagine that in Heaven he looks just like he did here. He toddles around, just 19.5 inches tall, wearing the navy blue pants and baby blue onsie that he sports in everyone's favorite pictures. Sometimes he still wears a bandage around his head, and he moves with a sense of importance, as I imagine he has important work that he does in Heaven. Sometimes I imagine him carrying a small file folder under his arm, filled with notes about his important cases that he's been assigned to on Earth. But no matter how important he is to others or how vital his work is, when I get there he will never be too busy or too important for his Mommy. I imagine him crawling into my lap and leaning on my chest, kissing his face and telling him how much I love him. Sometimes, when I go to work in Heaven, I get to bring him with me, and he rides in a sling close to me and we chat with our friends who all love him too. My arms are never too tired to hold him and my back never aches from rocking him. When he can't be with me, Baby Cude is. My arms never have to be empty again.
I dream of Heaven often and I know that my dreams, even if they are close to the truth, are just a glimpse of how spectacular Heaven must really be. Catholics believe that somewhere between Heaven and Earth there is a state of Purgatory, a time for introspection and a chance to cleanse the soul in preparation for Heaven. Purgatory is a gift and because of Purgatory, someone like me may see Heaven someday though I am not worthy as I am. My sister Monica believes that our Earthly life is Purgatory, and indeed the Church teaches that some of our earthly struggles may be a form of Purgatory and have redemptive value. I think of them as credit for time served. My concept of Heaven is informed by my lawyer's brain. In any case, whatever Purgatory is, I know that the hardest part is knowing that Baby Cude and Gabriel are within reach though not attainable yet.
I look for Heaven in the world around me and find it in the beauty of the California landscape, in Gideon's face, in my sister Victoria, in music, in Mass, in my husband's arms. Heaven is not always so easy to see but if we look for it, it will be there. I continue to reach my arms towards Heaven.