The following piece was written for the anthology Imagining Heaven, which was published summer 2010. All proceeds from the book go to Hospice. To learn more about this anthology, click on: http://www.imaginingheaven.com/
I’ve been pondering heaven and in doing so, it’s been entertaining to watch the two angels on my shoulders duke it out.
I’m not sure if she’s the good or the bad one, but Wanda’s heaven is simple emptiness. She visualizes no heaven. In her snarkiest voice she says, “Unless you want to call nothingness heaven.” Wanda believes we’ll return from whence we came—to blackness, a vacuum. We’ll simply cease existing.
Grace, on the other shoulder, constantly points out heaven every time she sees it. For her, heaven is right here, right now. When I’m in awe of natural beauty, it’s Grace poking me in the ribs saying, “See, see?” I just swear Grace is right the moment I see brilliant green hovering at the hummingbird feeder. My heart swells like the pink tulip opening its blossom, as if part of a chorus howling at the sun.
But then I hear Wanda asking, “Yea, but, how do you explain a Venus Fly Trap nefariously offering up its showy bloom, enticing flies to become dinner? Hasn’t been so good for that darned fly, has it?” Good question, Wanda.
When I asked my son, Brian, what he considers heaven to be, he replied, “You mean when you die, or a metaphorical heaven here on earth?” That’s another good question and is the crux of the Wanda-Grace dilemma.
Grace is with me when I sit quietly soaking up every ounce of heavenly sunset over the waters where the Great Lakes meet between the mitten that’s Michigan and its northern peninsula. Late in the afternoon, when the huge sky fades to pale blue, white clouds morph to a glowing rosy pink. On the brink of evening, these clouds start to radiate gold from the edges. Spanish pillagers would drool at this bounty. Grace’s eyelashes flutter with delight. She claps energetically in honor of this scene, which is like a tapestry in an opulent exotic temple, and decorates my world.
I feel Wanda tapping again. Off topic, she reminds me to spend it all while I’m here. Her favorite saying is, “Have you ever seen a hearse with a U-Haul?” She blurts out, “You wouldn’t want to take your riches into the dark recesses of a cave, for heaven’s sake.” Is that a Freudian slip I hear, Wanda? Even the bumper sticker says, “I’m Spending My Children’s Inheritance.” It all seems snide, but I suppose Wanda’s entitled to her opinion.
Brushing Wanda off, I refocus on the sky show, now fading to black like the end of a movie. But even as darkness falls, the show goes on. It is the Mackinaw Bridge that the sun has slipped behind. This five man-made miles of engineering wonder, suspended over the black, still water, looks from shore like a toy Erector Set draped with Christmas lights. White and red, they sparkle and shimmer in the reflection. Elizabeth Taylor would snatch up this necklace for the awards show. It would bowl over the paparazzi. There beside me is Grace, nodding excitedly in her agreement about this stunner-of-a-view.
Even the recluse poet, Emily Dickinson, said, “To live is so startling, it leaves time for little else.” On this Wanda and Grace agree. There really is no fist fighting between them, I was just kidding about that. They just have different takes on the world and the future. Wanda and Grace co-exist. They have to because these Cain and Able-like sisters live with me.
Like a parent, I love them both equally and try not to play favorites. I drink up the loveliness of today and just don’t fret about a possible black hole in my future. Heaven will be what it will be.