15: A Glimpse of Heaven

15: A Glimpse of Heaven

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

A Glimpse of Heaven

If we have died with Him we shall also live with Him; if we persevere we shall also reign with Him.

~2 Timothy 2:11-12

The assignment was to “draw heaven.” I took out my prized box of perfectly sharpened crayons and searched for my favorite sky blue crayon. I carefully drew a large sky, dotted with puffy white clouds, separated in the center by a beautiful, arching rainbow. On each cloud, I drew tiny angels; some with harps and others singing and dancing.

At the top of the rainbow, I tried my best to draw God’s face with deep brown, loving eyes and a long flowing, white beard. His loving arms were outstretched. I tried to position the rainbow so that it reached from God’s face to connect with the earth He had created. His domain contained pastel-colored tulips, trees and people of all ages and backgrounds.

I was a child then, and I saw heaven as far away, connected to us by one of God’s exquisite rainbows. Since then, I have often wondered about heaven, not as much about its appearance, but rather what kind of life I needed to live to be worthy. What would it be like to experience eternity and timelessness? What would it actually be like to come face to face with God?

The same year as that assignment, my life turned upside down. My dad, my hero, suffered a massive stroke. He was hospitalized for several weeks and then spent three months in a rehabilitation facility. In what seemed like an instant, my dad’s life dramatically altered. He went from being a highly successful lawyer and a vice president of a major corporation to being unable to utter even one word. His right side was completely and permanently paralyzed and he would need to work for years to regain some of the expressive language skills that had been his forte.

Despite the daily struggles he faced, my dad was the epitome of kindness, love, compassion and fairness. He treated everyone with respect and dignity. He never let the effects of his stroke affect his ability to give and love completely. He never complained of his immense struggles or how even simple tasks such as eating, writing or extending his hand for a handshake needed to be renegotiated using his left hand.

For seventeen years following his stroke, I held my breath as he labored up and down the stairs in our colonial home. I would watch as he clutched the mahogany banister with his strong left hand. Then he positioned his left leg on a step and with effort, pulled up his right leg until his legs were side by side. Step by step, in a slow, methodical rhythm, he would repeat this process until he reached the next floor. It was that way every day for seventeen years.

That was until June 30, 1981, two weeks after my dad had gallbladder surgery and the surgeon explained that they had “almost lost him several times on the operating table.” His heart and body were unable to withstand the time needed to complete the surgery so they brought him out of anesthesia without being able to close his bile duct. Day after day, my dad coughed up bile, grew weaker and was filled with pain. Despite all of his suffering, he approached life and everyone around him as he always had—with an amazing spirit and a genuine, loving, compassionate kindness for others.

On the morning of June 30, 1981, my dad couldn’t move even a finger without excruciating pain. He never complained but I could see the effects in the creasing around his eyes and the slight groan he tried to conceal under his breath. After he tried several times to get up from bed, I tried to pull him up without hurting him. When he was finally able to sit upright, I looked into his eyes. Despite the significant struggle, he looked at me with gentleness and warmth, and he smiled.

After resting for several minutes, he leaned on me. Walking very slowly and in terrible pain, he made his way to the center staircase. Walking the twenty feet from the bedroom to the staircase took almost all of his energy.

He was supposed to go back to the hospital and my mom was getting everything ready downstairs. Dad had insisted that my sister go to work that day, but I still wish she had been with us to experience what happened. At the base of the staircase, my mom had a chair waiting for him just in case he needed to rest before heading to the hospital.

As my dad placed his left hand on the banister, as he had done countless times before, I noticed that the overcast day suddenly looked bright. There was a light like I’ve never seen before radiating from the window behind him, enveloping his face, body and the steps ahead of him.

I was reaching out to help him when I saw the pain in his face disappear. He was no longer holding onto the banister. As he began his descent, he virtually floated down the steps. His feet skimmed over the steps and he wasn’t holding the railing. My mom and I watched in amazement.

His right leg and arm were no longer encumbered. He seemed free.

At the base of the steps, he fell into my mother’s arms. My mother quickly asked me to call 911 as she attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Even with the paddles and considerable effort, the paramedics were unable to revive him. As they lifted Dad onto the gurney, one kind paramedic informed me that my father wasn’t on this earth anymore. Maybe he knew what my mom and I knew already—my dad had gone to heaven.

So, now if I were asked to “draw heaven” I would try to describe it as a place where all physical limitations are lifted — a place where God’s love and light heal and where people who have lived good lives are rewarded. Heaven is a place where there is only love—God’s love.

If I am ever feeling discouraged or sad, I think back to the day when God gave me the gift of a glimpse of heaven. With my own eyes, I witnessed my dad gracefully floating from his place on earth to his well-earned place in heaven.

~Mary Ann Klein

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