Saturday, January 17, 2009

How Far to Heaven?

"When you are born, you cry, and the world rejoices.
When you die, you rejoice, and the world cries. "
Ancient Tibet Buddhist saying

I just got home from a funeral. A member of my new church family was killed this week. A man driving a hijacked car at top speed rammed into her. She was not wearing a seat belt. She died instantly. Is it horrible to think this was a blessing? The instantaneous part, I mean.

She was 23 years old. She was just leaving work at the end of the day. She was going to pick up her two children from day care. In an instant one life was gone and many others were changed. Parents, grandparents, and friends are left to try to make sense of the loss. A man who has already had a few serious brushes with the law will go to jail for a long time. The police will have to second guess their high speed chase procedures.

What I can't get out of my mind is her children. Both under 4, they are too young to conceptualize death. All they are going to know is mom was there that morning and gone that night. I think my heart actually hurts just trying to fathom that kind of misfortune.

At the risk of sounding like "it's all about me," I've been asking what is my lesson in this? Seems like there's been a lot of dying, or talking about it, going on around me lately. Is that just the way things happen, or is the Man upstairs trying to tell me something? Sometimes I go through my days in a bit of a self-absorbed trance - not paying attention to things outside of my small space. Today, as I sat in a church packed with mourners, I realized how inter-related we all are. What happened to Amanda and her family, in some small way happened to me. Just like I was touched somehow by the heroic life saving events that took place on the Hudson River. The bombs ripping apart lives in Gaza, Iraq, and Afghanistan diminish me, even if they are hundreds of miles away.

I believe we are all connected. Is it a connection of the heart or the spirit? Who knows? But when you hurt a part of me hurts also. When you are touched by joy, I know it somehow ... or should, if I'm paying attention.

Before the funeral I was thinking of Amanda's children. Wondering what anyone can possibly say to them to make them understand. Dumb question I know. I went to my book case and laid my hands on a book* I haven't read in years (serendipity or dumb luck?).

It's about a question a young girl asks her Nanna about her grandfather who has passed away.

"Is heaven very far?" A simple question not easily answered.

In an effort to teach a life lesson, the book's Nanna takes her granddaughter's hand. Together they walk into the nearby "lush green meadow." They look at the sky, smell the aroma of wild roses and dance to the orchestral sounds of their surroundings. Nanna explains if you look closely the gifts of heaven can be found right here on earth.

I hope if one day Amanda's children ask the same question, they will get this answer:
"Forever and always, inside all around,
Heaven is everywhere heaven is found.
Listen with glad ears, see with love's eyes
Give wings to your heart, and cherish the prize!
Forever and always we dance to the sound,
For heaven is everywhere heaven is found."

Words won't bring their mother back to them. But, prayerfully, the time will come when these children will know their mother is not so very far away. She is the angel that sits on their shoulders. She is air they breathe. She is the whisper in their tiny ears. "I am here little one. I love you."

Wishing a little piece of heaven for each of you,
Merry ME

*How Far to Heaven? by Chara M. Curtis, Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc., Bellevue, WA., 1993


Chara Curtis said...

I happened on your posting this afternoon and got all teary-eyed. Thank you for sharing what this book has meant to you. God bless!

Chara Curtis said...

btw: you can connect with me at Not much on the page yet (just getting started), but I will be telling some of the story behind the story of How Far to Heaven?