Friday, October 10, 2008
What Color is Heaven?
I need to tell you something, and some of you longtime readers know this already.
My brother died in 1995. He was murdered, by somebody who will be in jail for the rest of his life.
My mother died in 1980, when I was ten years old. She was manic depressive - today we call it bipolar disorder. She took her own life. I don't know if I want to say anything more about it. Someday I might.
I miss them every day. Some days more than others, but I miss them every day. I often talk about them, especially now that Oliver has come into our life.
My father-in-law - Mrs. B's father - passed away two years ago. Cancer. It was shockingly swift, like a car crash. I can tell you that Mrs. B misses him every day.
Oliver has seen pictures of these people - his uncle, his grandmother, his grandfather - and knows that they existed once. He met his grandfather, just once, before he died.
One day, we knew that we would have to explain that they were no longer here, no longer on this plane. So we decided that we would have to explain death. And one morning, the three of us were laying in bed and Oliver asked something about his uncle. And we started talking about death.
We chose to tell him that death is what happens when someone's body gets broken and stops working. We told him that usually, this happens when someone gets really, really old. (This way, he doesn't have to worry that his parents are going to keel over next week. Or that he will. I know that someday, he will learn math, and he will realize that his uncle was just 29 when he died, and that his grandmother was just 35. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.)
So we talked about death, and then we talked about heaven. I told him that heaven was the place where you go where you die, and everybody goes there. (There is no hell. The God in which I believe does not believe in eternal damnation. YMMV.) Frankly, he was much more interested in heaven. And wouldn't you be? Think about it - it's an invisible place up in the sky where everybody you ever loved goes to live, where you can get everything good that you ever wanted, where nothing bad ever happens. Heaven is way cool.
So the other day, I was putting him to bed, and he started asking about uncle Mike up in heaven. Apparently, he had some details he was trying to get straight.
What color is heaven?
Where is heaven?
Is it there all the time? (Logical question. The moon goes away during the day, the sun goes down at night. Yet heaven is always there.)
What is in heaven? (He wanted details: birds? Trees? Streets? Houses?)
What is Uncle Mike's house in heaven? (Translation: describe it to me.)
What street does Uncle Mike live on in heaven?
What does he do in heaven?
Does he look down on me every day?
At night, too? (It's dark at night, so this is understandably a pretty weird concept.)
Do they eat in heaven?
What food do they have in heaven?
Do they have beds in heaven?
And then he asked if he was going to go to heaven, and I answered him: you are absolutely, definitely going to go to heaven.
He asked why, and I told him that he just was, that this was just the way things worked. I didn't say what I was thinking: if there is no place for you in heaven, son, then it doesn't exist.