1: An Escort to Heaven

1: An Escort to Heaven

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

An Escort to Heaven

Peace is not the absence of affliction, but the presence of God.

~Author Unknown

The doctor’s words ricocheted through my mind: “Unfortunately, Jake didn’t make it.” I slammed the phone down in disbelief. Sobbing, I collapsed on the counter.

My fiancé grabbed my purse and rushed me to his truck. By the time we got to the hospital, the sight of my five-year-old son Garrett was a shock. The blood from the wounds on his face had already turned a crusty black. At first glance, it looked like all of his teeth had been knocked out from the impact.

“Hi Garrett,” I said as I forced a smile and leaned down to kiss his forehead. “Where did you get this stuffed bear? He sure is cute.”

“From the ambulance man,” Garrett managed to say through his swollen jaw.

Like most young boys, Garrett was fascinated by emergency responders. His favorite TV program was Rescue 911. Before the show started, he would line up all of his electronic emergency vehicles on the carpet in front of the TV. His collection of fire trucks, police cars and ambulances were ready for action. I never imagined he would be a victim in his own episode.

Suddenly the curtains opened and the doctor entered the room. “We need to check for internal injuries. Since Garrett can’t swallow the contrast dye, we’ll need to insert a tube up his nose and down his throat to inject the dye for the X-ray. Would you like to stay in the room and hold his hand?”

“Of course.” I gulped, fighting back tears. Never mind that I couldn’t even watch my own blood being drawn.

The rest of the day was a blur. Between all the phone calls and the multitude of visitors I barely remember a thing except that an odd but welcome sense of peace began to settle on me. Later that day, the doctor gave us the first bit of good news.

“Garrett has a hairline fracture to his jaw but the X-rays show no internal injuries.”

The swelling in Garrett’s face prevented much of an expression, but I could tell he was trying to smile. He didn’t want me to worry. Soon, he drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, I dropped little squirts of juice into Garrett’s mouth with a baby eyedropper. “What’s wrong, Mommy?”

“Nothing,” I lied. Despite the peace I felt, the truth was I didn’t have a clue how I was going to tell him about his two-year-old brother Jake.

“Why don’t you wait until Garrett asks about Jake?” my friends advised. Initially, that sounded like a good plan, but four days later he still hadn’t asked.

With the funeral approaching, my fiancé was concerned. “Do you want me to talk to him?” John asked.

“No.” I sighed. “I have to do this myself.”

Garrett’s face brightened as I entered his room. “Look Mommy! Bruce brought me some more stuffed animals. And the Transformer I wanted — Optimus Prime.”

“That’s nice, honey.” I hesitantly pulled up a chair to his bedside.

“Garrett,” I began.

“Yeah, Mommy?”

My body felt suddenly paralyzed. “What would you say if I told you. . . ,” I stalled, gasping for air. “It’s Jake. Jake didn’t make it.” Tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t even look up.

“Mom, I already know.”

“You already know?” My jaw dropped. “What do you mean, you already know?”

“After the accident, I got to go to heaven with Jake.” Garrett swooped Optimus Prime into the air. He made gun sounds as he beat up his invisible enemies. “Jake got to go in but God told me it wasn’t my time.”

Suddenly I was on the edge of my seat. “What was heaven like?”

“Mommy!” Garrett’s eyes squinted with apparent irritation. He set his Transformer down. A bewildered look spread across his face. “Mommy! I can’t tell you that!”

“Why not?” I insisted.

“It’s a surprise!”

“I’m sure God won’t mind if you tell me, Garrett. He’ll understand — I’m your mother.”

“No, Mommy, I can’t!”

“Why not?”

“Cuz. God told me it’s a secret.”

He went back to playing with his toys while I sat back in my chair flabbergasted. Garrett sure picked a good time to start keeping secrets. In the past he flunked confidentiality, but now his lips were locked.

The peace that Garrett felt magnified my own. We both spoke at Jake’s funeral. I held the microphone while he shared his story about escorting his little brother to heaven in front of hundreds of attendees. In the days and weeks following his release from the hospital, I tried to squeeze details out of Garrett, but he never uttered another clue. His childlike trust amazed me, yet I fought skepticism. Did Garrett really take a trip to heaven or was his story a figment of his five-year-old imagination?

Preschoolers can make up some enchanting stories. If it was make-believe, however, it worked for him. He didn’t grieve like the grief recovery books predicted. He never had a nightmare about the accident. And even though his biological father received a deferred sentence for negligent homicide for driving under the influence of several narcotics, Garrett held no bitterness toward his dad. Even so, I pried and pried to get him to open up about his trip to heaven.

Until I found the reason for his peculiar silence.

One day, I was reading my morning devotional and came across a story in the Bible about a man who had been to heaven. He couldn’t describe what he saw because it was a secret. I was spellbound. In the book of Second Corinthians, the apostle Paul says that he was caught up in the “third heaven” where he heard inexpressible things — things that man was not permitted to tell.

Paul experienced the same kind of secret quest that Garrett had witnessed.

I lingered over the verses for a moment. What Garrett saw, he wasn’t permitted to tell. It really was a secret. It wasn’t a fairy tale — it was a faith tale.

I closed my Bible. My doubts had finally vanished. Who was I to contend with a divine mystery? Awestruck, I realized that his journey to heaven empowered him with peace in the midst of disaster. Never again will I doubt the faith of a child, nor God’s ability to provide peace in the midst of tragedy.

Especially to his precious little children.

 

•••

Jake’s death changed my destiny. I started writing because of the peace and joy I experienced in the midst of sorrow. In a way, Jake’s legacy lives on in me. As for Garrett — he is nineteen and although he still speaks little of his trip to heaven, his countenance of peace has never left. I know God has a strong purpose for the secret he entrusted with Garrett that day. As much as I long to understand more, one thing I know for sure — heaven is flowing with peace and joy, because Garrett came back with a lifetime supply.

~Christy Johnson

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