Sunday Post 9: What is heaven like?

When I was a kid, my family would go to South Carolina for the day once a month to visit our grandparents.  Both sets lived there.  It was about two hours from our house in North Carolina, a straight shot down I-95.  The grandmother who could cook (and there was only one with that talent) would serve us a huge helping of fried chicken and butter beans which we poured over white rice.  Without exception, my brother and I would have gas for the entire trip back home, my mother ready to crucify us by the time we hit South of the Border.

The other grandmother was also a special lady.  Idee was the one we really talked to about life. 

I remember sitting at her white and chrome formica kitchen table one Saturday afternoon.  I was eleven and, as a teenager, learned to drink coffee at that very spot.  On this particular day, we had a discussion about heaven. 

“Idee, what do you think heaven is like?”

“Honey, it’s beautiful.  Like being in a huge garden – clear bright skies every day.”

“What do you do there?”

“Oh, you just sit around and listen to the beautiful music.  The angels play their harps all day long.”

“What do you wear in heaven?”

“There are no clothes in heaven baby.  We leave all that stuff here.”

I have a horrible vision imprinted in my head of me sitting around naked with my also naked grandparents listening to harp music in heaven.  That is NOT my idea of eternal bliss.  I’m not a modest person, but if they’re around, I need clothes.  I hope God has bow ties – and maybe a little Kenny Chesney or Usher.  I’d take Bieber over angelic harp music any day.

This year my view of heaven has changed, actually for the better.  It’s not because I have a new outlook on the fashion scene up there or a new idea about the tunes God plays.  It’s because of a dream.

Last fall I had a vivid vision, I guess it was a dream, about heaven.  It was so real.  One of those moments when you wake up with a racing heart beat because you feel like you were actually participating.  I’ve never been one to remember my dreams.  But I’ve had several this year that I can’t forget. 

In this particular one, I saw a place filled with those who have died before me.  My one grandmother greeting me with a big plate of fried chicken.  My big tall goofy friend Trey with his hand in the air – a high-five and a huge hug.  I could hear him say, in his slow southern drawl, “You finally made it dude.” 

And then I spotted Lisa.  She was radiant, like the day I married her.  She walked over.  We didn’t talk but knew exactly what the other was thinking… “Finally.”

We looked at each other, and in that one glance the years apart vanished.  I reached for that hand that I’ve missed so much and we walked down a path, just the two of us.  It seems as though this time we won’t ever have to be apart again.

It’s a vivid image, an image of deep, deep comfort.  It gives me hope.  

I’m not sure I’m communicating with the dead and I probably wouldn’t admit it if I thought I really was.  But I will say that something has put images in my head that have given me the assurance that Lisa is ok.  That something has also given me the assurance that I will see her again.  And somehow, that makes it easier to live.

Dad, got any gum?

Posted by Danny (written last Sunday)

My trip responsibilities used to be:

1)      Carry all suitcases to the car after they were packed.

2)      Load the car.

3)      Get cash.

4)      Drive.

5)      Swim with the kids at the hotel (Lisa did NOT swim at indoor hotel pools).

6)      Carry all bags into the house when we returned home.

My have things changed. 

Packing:  I do pretty well at remembering the critical things that must accompany us on trips:  bathing suits, toothbrushes, rubber bands for hair.  It’s picking out the clothes that stresses me out.  I can’t imagine that we’d ever be in Boston in February and need shorts or flip flops.  But I pack them.  What if a heat wave rises from South America?  What if we unexpectedly get invited to a Hawaiian themed party when we get there?  My mother-in-law can fit two weeks’ worth of clothes in a book bag.  It’s a combo of good folding and strategic planning.  Not me.  What if someone pees in their pants?  Might need an extra outfit or two.

Shopping:  In Boston I went with DJ to a store to help pick out flats (that’s a type of women’s shoes) for the cotillion dance on Thursday.  Actually, she’d already been in the store with her Nana and Aunt Sallie, but since I was carrying the credit card, I got to make the final decision.  She asked for a size 8.  I made the woman bring an 8 ½ too.  I’m not sure why – when Lisa bought the kids shoes, there always seemed to be a lot of boxes sitting around; it seemed like one just wasn’t enough.  I had her stand up and walk and felt for her toe.  I’m pretty sure I came across as knowledgeable.  After that I looked at the saleswoman and at DJ and said, “What do you guys think?”

“The 8” they replied in unison. 

“Yeah – my gut was leaning in that direction too.”

Gum:  Does gum come with the pocketbook or do you have to buy it separately?  I’ve never met a woman who did not have gum or lifesavers on her person.  Men produce sweat.  Women produce lifesavers.  They never run out.   I’m now in charge of trip gum.

As kids my mom always made us split a piece of gum in half.  Until last year, I didn’t know you could fit an entire stick in your mouth.  And when I finally did chew a full Wrigley’s, I felt ashamed. 

“Dad, why can’t we have the whole piece?” 

“I don’t know, ask your grandmother next time you see her.”

Skipping and dancing:  Today at the airport, Michelle was holding my hand and said, “I like to skip.”  Although it was phrased as a comment, it was really a question.

“I like to skip too.  There’s a big, long open hallway right here.”  And off we went.  I thought I’d get some eye rolls but instead got warm smiles.  It gave me enough courage to take the next step (the airport wasn’t crowded).  I learned to Chasse and Grand Jete.  Took me about 12 tries, but once mastered, it was good enough for Michelle to brag on me to her siblings.  At least I think it was bragging, she said, “Everybody, everybody, look at Dad!” and she was laughing in a proud sort of way.

I might give Jesse some props too.  Yesterday at the nephew’s birthday party, he broke out some impressive moves to in Sync’s Bye Bye Bye.

I did do two things that are typical dad.  We ate dinner at Dunkin’ Donuts tonight and this morning I coaxed Stephanie into going to the lobby to fetch my coffee.  Some things never change.

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