While I was contemplating the mountains, rivers and valleys of life the other day, a strange notion came over me. All my life I have listened to people expound on the wonders of heaven and how they hoped to be there some day. I have never been particularly religious, but I have wondered and pondered what this special place might be like. The only information I have to go on is my limited bible study and what I hear ministers and priests talk about in the many church services and funerals I have attended. Funerals seem to be the best occasion for promoting the heaven idea since someone you are probably close to has passed away and in your grief you are hoping they have gone to a ‘better place,’ and you are also wondering about your own demise. Many preachers look at this moment in life as an opportunity to recruit more members into the fold so they hypothesis over and over again about the beauties of heaven and why we all should come to their church, thus ensuring a place at the heavenly buffet. Although the renderings of this special place one goes to at the end of life are somewhat consistent in many ways, there are some subtle differences. The most talked about benefits of heaven are the meeting of past friends and loved ones. When I mentioned this to a friend he responded in this way: “What if your wife died and you remarry? Who would you hang out with in heaven? Who would you go to bed with, or do you sleep in heaven?” I am not sure if you can have two wives in heaven-probably not. That is more likely the heaven down the street. I shrugged my shoulders to imply that I did not have an answer to that. I assume that obesity is nonexistent in heaven since every one is healthy, which means you may be on some stupid diet the rest of your existence. Or alternatively, you can eat anything you want and as much as you want and not get fat! I use the word ‘existence’ because in heaven you never have to die again which could pose a population problem. I have to tell you, I LOVE TO EAT! In fact, when I think of heaven, my second thought is that again, eating the best food I can imagine and plenty of it is the way heaven was meant to be. If you are wondering about my first understanding of heaven, it is that it is more carnal in nature. If you tell me there is no such activity in heaven, I will be quite disappointed; in fact, I may start doing bad things to ensure I am not sent there!
I have always believed that heaven and hell are right here, right in one’s everyday life. I would certainly love to believe that after I die I am going to this beautiful banquet with lots of loving people where everyone is nice, such that he helps you when your car breaks down or holds a door for you when your hands are full. But it’s hard to believe that the multitude of people, whose only interest seems to be their own well-being, are going to suddenly turn into loving, caring people! In my early life I led a folk group for a service at a very large church in Prince Georges County, Maryland. The one thing I remember most is the lemming-like exodus, with little to no regard for their fellow Christians, to get out of the parking lot after mass.
I am one of those people who stop when someone needs help or holds a door when someone needs it, but I do it because it is the right thing to do and not for any other reason. It also makes the world a better place to live in. My calling here on earth is to make my life and the people’s lives around me as much like heaven as possible. Christ told us how to be good people, and even though I do not expect to see him when I die, I live by his rules. Let’s work hard to make heaven right here on earth! As for the folks who are convinced they are going to heaven at death, I hope they do. For myself I hope your God is forgiving enough to look past all my skepticism and scientific way of thinking and let me in as well. To this I say, amen!