In the Desperate Housewives episode of Mike Delfino’s funeral, his son MJ asks where heaven is. It occurred to me that I hadn’t thought much about heaven for a very long time. I recall it occupying my mind a lot as a child especially after Catechism classes. So I have quizzed my 32-year-old self what heaven means to me now.
What I do recall is that as a child my picture of heaven was heavily influenced by those Watch Tower magazines (never mind that I’m Catholic but you know how hard it is to say no to a Jehovah’s Witness) as well as paintings by the likes of Michelangelo like The Last Judgment in The Sistine chapel. The idea of being able to cuddle up with a lion as depicted in the Watch Tower magazines was interesting and I hoped this friendliness could be extended to dogs, for whom I had a grave fear of too. I recall images of people picking fruits from trees, nothing new there for an African child but at that age climbing fruit trees was a big deal. The choice of fruit seemed endless, the grass was the greenest green and everyone looked very happy; a picture of paradise.
Michelangelo, on the other hand provided the image of more spiritual heaven of chubby people in robes and wings ( the nudity however worried me as it wasn’t in tune with the Catholic church of my time ) . This seemed more in line with the heaven that formed in my mind as the Priest spoke during Mass. But I will admit the heaven pictured by the Jehovah’s witnesses was more appealing to my 9-year-old self; that was before I knew they believe only 144,000 people will attain salvation! For a child, the image of floating in the heavenly skies for all eternity seemed dull. It had all the majestic appeal of what I thought heaven should be but presented a rather mundane end to my life. Michelangelo’s heaven, though beautiful was foreign to me. It lacked that personal touch and appeal.
We have always looked to the skies and believed the heavens to be beyond the sky. Science has named this space which is inhabited by other planets within our solar system and other galaxies far, far away. But alas, space travel isn’t quite the picture of heaven for me. So many questions plague my mind just as they did many years ago. What is heaven? Do people go to heaven when they die? What do people do in heaven? I’m seriously hoping that no one expects me to answer these questions, but here is my disclaimer just in case. I am merely going through a thought process which unfortunately has more questions than answers.
Mike Delfino’s response struck a chord with me. For him heaven was the” here and now”, sitting in a diner having a cheese burger with his family; beautiful moments in one’s life. I pause to reflect on mine.
- When my daughter replaced “You are my sunshine,” with ” You are my mummy…”
- The first bite into a Magnum White and the sound of the cracking white chocolate, bliss.
- The smell of a new pair of shoes.
- Sharing a quiet moment with someone but still feeling connected.
I don’t know whether it is facing a life altering situation or losing loved ones that makes one dwell on the phenomenon that is death. But I do find myself dwelling on it when I hear of someone passing. thus it’s surprising that through the years the notion of Heaven itself hasn’t really passed through my mind. We hear a lot that we are alive for a purpose and our life’s mission is to find this purpose and pursue it. I often felt after Catechism class that, we were meant to trudge through life with whatever we had, do well and get our reward in heaven. But what if this is the reward? Life presents itself with challenges aplenty but is there anything else you’d rather be doing besides living? It scares me to think that I could go through life hoping for something that’s already within my reach.
In reincarnation, the notion is that when we die we come back as a child reborn into a new life. The life we inhabit depends on how well a life we lived previously. Little bit of Karma, maybe? Anyway, hypothetically speaking, the process of birth allows for the state of renewal. We are born, without the hang ups of our previous lives, allowing us to learn new lessons and some we didn’t quite get the hang of previously. If this is the case, the concept of enjoying this life like it were your heaven is essential as is being good. But then again, the benefit of rebirth means you don’t know whether you are better off or not. The pursuit of happiness though, instills in us a desire to be good, and life throws in the curve balls .
If there is a heaven in whatever version, Michelangelo’s or the Garden of Eden, I don’t know and will never know for a fact. But what I do know now more than my 9-year-old self is, l am present and that is a big deal. I endeavor to be happy in most of these experiences, and when I feel other emotions other than happiness, like fear, sadness, anger, I hope to remember that I am able to feel this way because I am alive; I am in heaven!