What does heaven look like?
It's a question many of us ask, especially after losing someone you love. I lost my grandmother this week. I called her Nonnie. It was the name she wanted to be called by her grandchildren. There were 14 of us. And in her 87 years on Earth, she ended up with 16 great grandchildren. So there were lots of little voices calling her "Nonnie" throughout her lifetime. Family was her top priority, along with her faith. She fed them both in abundance.
Just over three years ago, Nonnie suffered a massive stroke. It took away her ability to speak and walk. She was confined to a wheelchair, and eventually her bed. After decades of caring for others, Nonnie was now cared for by her husband of 67 years, her loved ones, and the incredible people at her nursing facility. Her words were taken from her, but it was clear through her beautiful blue eyes that her soul and faith were still alive. And while she could no longer speak the words, "I love you," she would take your hand in hers and kiss it. That was her way of communicating how she felt.
On the day that she passed, I was with her as she took short, rapid breaths. Her eyes were glazed over, and it was clear that she was about to end one journey, and begin another (that is what my faith believes). I was not in the room for her final breath. But in the days that followed, the most incredible conversation happened between me and my seven year old niece. I want to share this dialogue with you because if you've lost someone you love, or you wonder what heaven might be like, I think you might see the magic that came from the mind of this little girl.
And so, what does heaven look like? I don't know for sure. But I kind of hope it's like this...
I asked to doing a reading for my grandmother's funeral, and I needed something appropriate to wear. My niece Adriana just arrived from her hometown of Charlotte, but wanted to come along for my trip to the mall. With her Kindle in hand, and new reading glasses on, she propped herself into her booster chair in the backseat of my car. I think drive time is the best time to have good conversations. So I took this time to talk to my niece about what to expect in the coming days with Nonnie's funeral services. Adriana is precocious and inquisitive. And it only took moments for her to ask, "Were you there when the angels came down to get Nonnie?" I told her I was not. And then she asked me what angels look like. I gave her my honest answer, telling her that I've never seen an angel with my eyes, but that I believe they exist. I told her that angels are often invisible to us, but that I believe we all have a guardian angel. And when we're afraid, or uncertain, we can ask our guardian angel to help us. Adriana seemed to think that answer was acceptable. And then, without asking or being prompted, she said, "I know what heaven looks like."
Of course, I had to know! I replied, "Tell me, what does it look like?" Her canvas was broad, and it had many colors. This was the description she painted of heaven...
"It has ponies and lots of rainbows! There are rainbows everywhere! And you don't need any money. You can get whatever you want. It's Christmas, and Halloween, and Valentine's Days, and St. Patrick's Day, and all the holidays every day! And people are always happy and smiling. Even when they walk around, they smile. And when they watch tv, they smile too. And you don't need cars, you just float everywhere."
But it didn't end there.
Then she said, "I wish you could take a rocket ship and go right up to heaven to visit people. And once you get up there, you would look down and probably not want to come back because you love heaven so much. But you would have to come back because your mommy, and daddy, and other people would miss you."
I asked her if there was music in heaven. At first she said no. But then I led the witness, and said, "But music is one of the greatest things on Earth." So she thought about it for a second, and said, "Yes, there is music. And this is how it happens. Jesus puts a spell on everyone, and then their phones go up into the sky. And that's how there's music in heaven."
Amazing! A beautiful imagination, with a touch of technology. Yes, it's true, if unicorns exists, then my niece Adriana is surely one among us. A mind that's pure and filled with imagination. Which makes me wonder, maybe our imaginations are what heaven is like?
Nonnie would love this description of heaven. So here's to hoping that she's riding a pony, across a rainbow sky, with a pot of homemade soup at the end (because who needs a pot of gold when you don't need money in heaven).