When you picture heaven, what do you see? Golden gates? Rainbows? Angels?
After January 16, 2013, I envision it looks like this:
In the few short weeks since my Dad has passed away, my boys and I have had several conversations of Heaven and Jesus. My boys are 5 and 2. They were so fortunate that they really knew their Papa. He lived close, worked in town, and came by to spend time with them. So I know they feel that void of his absence.
I am learning that kids won’t sit down and have a conversation about the topic of death and dying. Often times they raise a question and don’t even expect an answer. It’s sad to hear, “Why is Papa in Heaven?” and then perplexing to have that followed up with, “Can I have some ice cream?” We caught the boys playing ‘hospital and heaven’ with their animals- the animal would get a boo-boo, go to the hospital, and then go to heaven. At first it made us angry because we don’t want them to associate hospitals with dying, especially since I’ll be in one in a month to have their baby sister. But we realized… are still realizing, this is how they grieve. How they cope and understand that Papa is no longer on this earth. That he’ll no longer walk in our door, or be at their soccer games, or take us to Hy Vee for lunch.
It’s sad. I love that they had that relationship with their Papa. I know my dad cherished it so much more. He was so proud of those boys, and I just pray they know that. That they always know that.
But through them, I am visualizing a Heaven more pure and real. I am seeing Jesus through the eyes of a child. And really, they can truly see.
I drove passed a golf course today with just my 2 year old in the back. He says to me, “Look a forest!” I corrected him and told him it was a golf course. I then went on to tell him that Papa Lynn loved to play golf. I asked if he thought he was playing golf in Heaven. And he answered me only the way a two-year-old could.
“Does Jesus like golf?”
“Yes, I bet he does.”
“Does Jesus like monkey bars?”
“Does Jesus like to play catch?”
“I don’t know. Do you think he does?”
“Does Jesus like pickles?”
Honestly, have you ever thought about that? What Jesus likes. Or what Jesus does for fun. Think about it. My adult, “Christian” mind had Jesus pegged as a God who loved me, cared for me, and celebrated me for my uniquness. But I also saw him as someone too holy to sit across the table with, or invite into my home, or laugh with. To me, my conversation with Marcus made Jesus more real, more like a friend. Less like someone who judged my every move, and more like someone who would play a round of golf with me.
I felt this burden, and I can’t say it’s vanished, but that it is my job to tell my kids what Heaven is like and that Papa is okay. But my boys are showing me that they know. That this Jesus who may or may not like pickles, is speaking to these little boys too. He is letting them experience Papa when they need to and how they need to.
TJ had a dream that he was riding bikes with Papa. When I responded to him that Papa loved to watch him ride his bike, he corrected me and said, “No Mom, Papa was riding his bike and I was riding mine!” It brought tears to my eyes.
Heaven seems so far away- too big, too fragile, and too pretty for me to touch. Jesus seems too big, too busy, too holy for me to bother. But neither of those are true. I pray I continue to experience this grieving process, and this new journey of faith the way my children do. When I need to see my Dad most, Jesus will give me a peak of Heaven. He can bring him back in a dream or in a memory, or even through a song.
When we told TJ that Papa was in Heaven, he first asked if Papa was one hundred. And then asked, “So Papa is in our hearts?” I am still certain that, yes, he is forever in our hearts.