Reflection: Have I Seen Heaven?

If you ask me if I’ve seen Heaven, I’ll tell you yes. Yes. Glimpses. But yes, oh, yes. My friends and I playing in the shade of 100-year-old trees in my backyard in 1985, that summer seems endless–laughter, swinging, sliding, playing in the water, clapping games.

Even though she’s been gone twenty-five years, Grandma’s voice reaches my ears as if

backyard
My backyard growing up

she’s in the room next door. I watch and watched her knobby knuckles carefully put the teabag in her cup, raise the tea to her lips. Her rosy cheeks crease as she smiles. Her piano where we kids pounded and her arthritic, shaky fingers made melodies, the music never stops. Not really. My mom and I saw her rainbow, her sign only for us on the day of her funeral after it rained from the day she died until the clouds cleared that evening. Like I say, glimpses. There one minute and gone the next. If you don’t look for those glimpses, you miss them and refuse to believe so openly.

piano
Grandma at her piano with her grandchildren

My wedding day. A peace overcomes me that I can’t explain. Moments before I walk down the aisle, I tell my dad, “I’m going to smile the whole way.” The organ blares, a jubilation. I walk and see smiles everywhere. Everyone so happy. For me. For us. For our union. And here we are, Erik and I, seventeen years later, married.

Later that day, the anniversary dance. My favorite part of any wedding reception. Three couples remain on the dance floor, all married over forty years. I stand on the side and watch them for what could be forever, and still replay in my mind even now, so it could be forever. Erik’s great-aunt and great-uncle are married the longest at fifty years. We hug them. I tell them I want what they have. Fifteen years pass. At my sister-in-law’s wedding, they are still the longest married couple, at sixty-five years! I am in awe. At fifteen years at the time, I start to grasp some semblance of that sort of devotion. Something made beautiful only by time and a lot of love and dedication. Something the young cannot understand. And then my parents celebrate their fiftieth in 2020, a year turned upside down. And again, I have no words for what moves deeper

wedding
My wedding day

than fleeting moments.

parents
My parents 50 years ago

On our honeymoon in Hawaii, lying in a hammock on the beach, listening to the grand Pacific as she laps on the shore and the lemon sun reddens and absorbs into tbe ocean, this moment I hold in mind when sleep eludes me. On that same island, Maui, driving up Mount Haleakala to see the sunrise over the clouds, the largest, most brilliant white moon rests over the calm sea, perfectly mirrored. I understand what Forrest Gump meant about not knowing where and sky ended and the water began.

It’s 2007, and I’m a table leader for a teenage girls’ weekend retreat through the Methodist church. One girl is the outsider, even there. The others, they snicker behind her back. Yes, even there. Then, a miracle. We all come together in some transcendent moment one evening where we die a little to ourselves and live more for God. We all cry. Yes, together. Our shared pain, our shared balm, our oneness in the Lord. Those girls who ridiculed the outside girl, they hug her. Literally. They weep on each other’s shoulders. I see Heaven, and I step outside under a billion tiny lights studded in the perfect black velvet sky and see that same Heaven. Both inwardly and outwardly.

I tell my friend not to kill herself. That she is worthy. Loved. She cries and opens up instead of closing in. I can’t take credit for the words God put in my mouth that day. I tell three people across my life the same thing because it’s true, and they are all still alive. Thank God.

hawaii
Hawaii sunset from the hammock

I’m in a bathroom of all places, and after two and a half years, the pregnancy test has two lines! I hold you, Luke, nine months later, and I am never the same afterward. I am a mom. And again with you, Joshua, and you, Emma, my grandma’s namesake. To see you all grow and wonder, I stop sometimes, amazed at the miracle of childhood. Sometimes, I watch you sleep and just marvel at your beauty, that you are mine. Ours. That the man I married is the best dad in the world to you and that he loves me, despite my severe imperfections. And I wonder, How did I get so lucky? No. It’s not luck. It’s blessed.

“We write worlds. Our words breathe, and I come back to why I wrote in the beginning.”

Last year, I turned forty. I don’t know what numbers really mean anymore, but I do know this: When I walked into that room where you all waited to surprise me, my dear friends, I saw angels. My friendships now, wow. Those moments are golden, like when I entered the wine bar and you were all there to celebrate. And so many of you are writers, like me. You play a small part in creation, like God. We write worlds. Our words breathe, and I come back to why I wrote in the beginning.

To see Heaven. To create. To share. To love. Yes. Heaven is real. This is just a glimpse.

2 thoughts on “Reflection: Have I Seen Heaven?

  1. Oh…I read this twice! It’s so beautiful, a snapshot of your mind. Snapshots, really. This is why we write, to capture forever the fleeting thoughts we have. We all have imperfections, and what a gift to have someone to love us in spite of them. And maybe even for them! You lead us in a poignant example of mindfulness and gratitude for all that life is. Would that we could always see each other the way you and those young girls did, that we’d be brave enough to take off our masks and compassionate enough to love other flawed people, to actually hug them (post-COVID…whaaaaah). Thank you for sharing this and bringing joy to my day. I count myself a thousand times blessed to be your friend. xoxo

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