My husband and I have reached an age where our friends are passing over to the other side, one by one. My heart is filled with gratitude for the blessings they have been to us. My sadness is selfish resistance to living on without them, overwhelmed with love that now has nowhere to go. 

And I wonder, what will it be like when it’s my turn? 

There are so many people who have claimed to die, go to heaven and return. They tell stories that capture the imagination, but also my skepticism. Can words really describe a place that is beyond human comprehension? 

I’ve read about flowers, music and reunions with loved ones. Which of my friends and relatives will be there? Do I have to search or will they be waiting for me? Will I feel regret for those who aren’t? The Bible unequivocally states that not everyone is heaven bound. 

When I read the Book of Revelation, where it describes heaven, I have to keep in mind that the author is attempting to communicate something that is beyond words. It is indescribable. Imagine a toddler trying to tell you about a huge field of blooming flowers. He can’t. He doesn’t have adequate vocabulary. 

Here are a few things scripture tells us that I think we can understand: 

1. Heaven is above us and is God’s dwelling place. 

2. There are angels in heaven.

3. There is no death, no mourning, no crying and no pain in heaven.

Imagine a place where there is no evil. Nothing bad will ever happen to you again. Your children will not disappoint you. Clerks won’t treat you rudely. No more traffic, financial lack, ungrateful employers or moments of loneliness. Leaving your temporal body behind, there is no sickness, addiction or discomfort.

You will live forever with joy and love, abundance and gratitude, peace and companionship. God promises that He makes everything new for us in His Holy House. 

And finally, Jesus — who loves you enough to die for you — awaits your arrival with open arms and tears of gratitude for the life you have left behind. 

Most of my 35-year nursing career was spent in caring for the elderly. Aging requires a special kind of courage and personal acceptance. Not surprisingly, there was one question my patients asked their attending physicians more than any other: “What will it be like after I die?” 

I recently read a Facebook post that was reminiscent of how one of my doctor friends answered that question. 

“One morning after we opened our new offices, Max, my beloved black lab went, to work with me. The first patient that day was an elderly woman I was treating for terminal cancer. It was time for me to suggest she get her affairs in order, a talk I had unfortunately undergone with hundreds of patients over the years.” 

“Doctor,” she asked. “What will it be like on the other side, in heaven I mean?”

“Just as I was about to admit that I don’t know the answer, I heard Max’s familiar scratching at the door. With her permission I opened it and Max entered with his usual exuberant excitement. His tail was wagging and he pawed at my leg as if he hadn’t seen me for ages.

“I don’t know what heaven will be like for us,” I confessed. “But did you see my dear Max? It’s his first day at our new clinic. He’s never been in this room before, so he didn’t know what awaited him here. 

“But he knew who awaited him. And that made all the difference.” 

•••

Sylvia Peterson is co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and an author. You can email her at sylviap7@comcast.net.

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