So I got to thinking about Heaven yesterday when my 4-year-old, Anna, and I went scouting through a cemetery. Again. (See “Floral Delivery” for a post about our previous cemetery trip.)
Anna and I sort of have a thing for cemeteries. We love looking at the gravestones and imagining the lives of the people while they walked the Earth.
I did this as a kid, too. Back then, I would take crayons and paper to the local cemetery and make rubbings of my favorite gravestones. Recreational opportunities in my hometown were slightly limited, so we made our own fun. Of course, my idea of fun was a little … off. Other girls my age liked playing hopscotch and jumprope; I high-tailed it for the graveyard when the backhoe showed up. Couldn’t wait to see what it looked like inside those six-foot-deep holes. I would create personalities for the deceased — especially those who died young or who died, say, in the 19th century. My favorite among the dead was Alice May Waterman. I discovered with one of my rubbings that she died in 1887 or thereabouts. Alice May’s gravestone was shaped like a tree trunk, and I envisioned her to be a long-haired brunette who looked something like Laura Ingalls.
I’m guessing my obsession with the dead had a lot to do with my extreme fear of dying — a peculiar fear for an otherwise well-adjusted 10-year-old. Even at a young age, I tended to think that life ended at the grave — even though my Sunday school teachers told me otherwise and even though I really wanted to believe there was something more.
Those ideas about death became more firmly planted as I grew older and became an atheist, or agnostic or … I don’t know what I was, honestly. Anyhow, I tended to view the grave as the final “resting place.”
I later became a follower of Christ (a story for another day) but even then, Heaven didn’t seem all that appealing, frankly. By my estimation, Heaven would consist of pale, angelic beings playing harps on clouds. An unseen God would boom over the Heavenly Loudspeaker in a deep Charlton Heston voice.
And then I met Michelle, my frassy* friend. She had this zest for the afterlife and God and Heaven. Still does. I was smitten with her. Still am. And I loved talking to her all things Jesus-y. Still do.
Well, one day, Michelle wrote me a letter telling me how much she appreciated our friendship and how she couldn’t wait to spend eternity with me in Heaven.
“We’re going to have bunks right next to each other,” she wrote. “I’ve already put in a request with God, and He said that would be just fine. Do you want the top bunk, or should I take it?”
And that is the moment when God blew the fairy dust off my cloud-covered Heaven.
Suddenly, Heaven was filled with bunk beds, and Caribou coffee, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, and prime rib (with horseradish on the side), and my pink camoflauge sleeping bag. Suddenly, I’m seeing myself taking walks on beaches, and having picnics in the parks, and sleeping in late on Saturday mornings. I don’t have a harp — but a choir of rockin’ angels is singing Toby Mac in my ear. Which is a huge relief. Because I’d be a horrible harpist.
The quote on the back cover of a book I have called “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn reads like this: “The next time you hear someone say, ‘We can’t begin to imagine what Heaven will be like,’ you’ll be able to tell them, “I can.”
All right, frassy friends. Your turn. My Heaven a bunk-filled paradise. What’s your like? I’m all ears.