I grew up going to Sunday School and reading the Bible and hearing stories about how great heaven was — no tears, no sickness, no night. It sure did sound good to me, but it didn’t sound real. In fact, a lot of nights I’d lay in bed and worry about dying. I wondered if there really was a place called heaven or if it was just a made-up story — a fairytale told to make kids be good at night and fall asleep quicker. “Dream of how happy heaven will be. Just close your eyes and think about heaven. You’ll fall asleep before you know it.”
When my thirteen-year-old sister died tragically, my world fell apart. Literally. Our family fell apart. Literally. And, suddenly God didn’t make sense any more. How could a God who is good and who is so full of love allow a little girl to choke to death because her lungs wouldn’t allow enough air to go in? We prayed, but God didn’t answer. I wish I could say that my heart only knew the horrific pain of child loss this one time while growing up, but that isn’t so. When I was around twelve a phone call came to our house and I remember my mom screaming, “Oh, God! No!”, and she fell onto the floor yelling she needed help. I didn’t know what was going on, but I soon found out.
My cousin — the one I played with every weekend at my Grandmother’s house, had fallen out of an apple tree in his back yard. It was being called a “freakish accident.” These things just don’t happen. But, the truth is he died.
And, my heart grew more afraid and more confused. I didn’t know what to think about this God of heaven and earth. He made no sense at all.
A few years later, while sitting around my Grandmother’s table eating Sunday lunch after church her phone began ringing. Normally she wouldn’t answer the phone during a meal, but for some reason this time she walked over to the phone and picked it up.
I can still see my Grandmother standing there frozen. She didn’t move. She didn’t say a word. She only listened. And, when the person on the other end of the line was finished talking, she hung up the phone, looked us straight in the eyes and said, “Your cousin Raymond is dead. He went out on a boat in the middle of the lake and killed himself. Nobody knows why.”
And, that is when the fear inside of me began swallowing me alive. I no longer trusted life. Why should I? I continued to take my little sister to church each week. My mom and dad had quit going a long time ago. I don’t know why I went — searching for some kind of answers, I guess.
Time has a way of quieting our spirit and allowing us to find a new way to live and that’s what happened to me. I got married and began a family of my own, and the raw pain of my sister’s death and the deaths of my two cousins finally quieted so that I could enjoy the beauty of my family.
Then, when I least expected it, the unthinkable happened. I had made bargains with God early in life that I would live a good life — a life that served Him — if only He would answer one prayer. “Please, dear God. Don’t ever take one of my children.”
God didn’t keep His end of the bargain. My Samuel died and so did a large part of me.
For months after Samuel’s death my world that was once happy and carefree started spinning out of control. I didn’t know who I was, and worse yet, I didn’t know who God was and I really didn’t care. After all, we had a pact. A promise. I held up to my end of the bargain as best I could, but God had abandoned me the day He let Samuel die.
Samuel’s death was the ultimate blow to my heart. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. Most moments I didn’t want to live. I cried constantly, and found no peace.
Sometimes when we least expect it, miracles happen, though. And, that is just what happened to me! While having a total meltdown one day — screaming and crying and saying very angry things to God — I realized my eyes were so swollen from crying that it wasn’t safe for me to continue driving. About that same time, I heard the loudest clap of thunder I’ve ever heard in my life and it was as though the sky opened wide and began pouring buckets upon buckets of rain.
What a sight! I was pulled off on the side of the road screaming as loud as the thunder and crying as hard as the rain. My heart was broken and the storm I felt inside of me was a mere reflection of how broken I felt.
While sobbing loud sobs that didn’t even sound human, the miracle began to unfold. As I watched the sky, the rain stopped just as quickly as it began. And, then I saw it. I really saw it!
I saw a glimpse of heaven!
The sun began shining so brightly that it hurt my tear-drenched eyes. And, then the most glorious of all rainbows stretched across the sky just as if the mighty hand of God was placing it there for me to see.
And, then…..the most beautiful dawning of the sun with dancing sunbeams all around. I watched in awe as I saw two puffy white clouds meet in the shimmering blue sky. One looked like a teddy bear and the other cloud took on the formation of a man in a robe with outstretched arms.
I watched as the man in the clouds embraced the small teddy bear and they were swept away by the dancing sunbeams in the sky.
That is the moment — the very moment that heaven became real. God allowed me to catch a glimpse of what it was like when Carmella, Ronnie, Raymond, and Samuel were carried off to heaven by an angel of God.
Yes, heaven is very real to me and I can only imagine what a great reunion it’s going to be when I meet up with my sister, my cousins, and my precious little boy in heaven!
I wish I could say that never again did I experience a tearful meltdown, but that isn’t true. I’ve had many more occasions when my tears wouldn’t stop flowing. It hurts to lose a child! It hurts more than anything in the entire world, so my tears fall often. And, they always will.
But, never since my meeting with heaven have I questioned the existence of heaven.
Thank you for reading my story of when heaven became real to me. I hope this has encouraged you in some way as you walk this difficult journey of child loss. I welcome your comments on this blog. In fact, I cherish your comments! As we share, we will grow together and we will be encouraged!