I've been visiting my mom a couple weekends here and there recently. I go to see her with Elaine every Friday, but sometimes I've been able to go by myself and spend a couple of nights. My mom is under hospice care now and she is feeling an urgency to go through all of her things to decide what to do with them, but she doesn't have the energy to do it and needs my help.
It's sort of a no-brainer to say I've been so sad lately--going through all the finite things my mom has owned and loved to try and decide what to do with them. But through the sadness, I'm trying to pray--pray specifically for my mom. What do I want to ask for her? That she will feel peace? That she won't feel pain? And suddenly, a few weeks ago, it came over me--what I should pray for her. I need to pray that heaven will be so real to her, that it will be far more real than this earth. I need to pray that she just can't wait to get there. This thought became so overwhelming to me that now I pray it every day, throughout the day...sometimes I just plead and beg for it, for a glimpse of heaven for my mom.
I've never told her that I pray for it; I just do.
I've tried to find out more about it for myself too, which frankly isn't too hard because I actually have always loved thinking about heaven. A lot. Last fall I went to hear a Native American poet, and before she read one of her poems she said, "This poem is about...you know that feeling you get? So homesick? Even if you're right at home?" and I almost raised my hand and said, "You too? I thought that was just me!" Ever since I was a child I've had that feeling come and go, and I've just figured it will never go away until I get to heaven.
I read this beautiful little passage by Anne Graham Lotz recently, about how whenever she would go to her parents' home, even near the end of her mom's life, her mom always left the outside light on--so when Anne would round the curve of the road, she would see that light shining and know her mom was waiting for her. Then Anne did the same for her son, and she always cooked his favorite things when he came home. She says, "When Jesus says, ‘I’m preparing a place for you, He knows the colors you like, the people you want to be with, the landscape you enjoy, and the music you want to hear,” Anne says. “When you walk through heaven’s gate you will know that you’ve been expected, that you’re welcomed because you’re the Father’s child. I think it’s that personal."
Not too long ago, my frind Brad posted something on his facebook status about his little boy. He said, "My son told my wife, 'You know who I'll miss when I die? Dasher' (our dumb potty train-proof dog). My wife told him, 'Honey, dogs don't live as long as you and I, so you'll have many pets,' and he replied 'Oh, ok, I'll see lots of pets when I am in JesusWorld.'
I don't know about you, but I firmly believe that when I open the front door of my mansion in heaven, my dogs, Boo Radley and Gatsby, will be right there to meet me. I cannot wait. I miss them so much. (Any pastors and/or theologians reading? Do not even try to talk me down from this faith position.)
So anyway, I've been thinking and praying about heaven and spending some weekends with my mom, and we're having a blast in the same old way--talking about books and watching "Cranford" and then watching "The Making of Cranford" and then watching "Return to Cranford" and then pulling apart every character and every actor from "Cranford." And "Return to Cranford." And talking about books again.
Then as we often do, especially when it gets late at night, we start talking about the Bible: what we're learning (yes, my mom is still learning and teaching me what she knows), the parts we love, and the parts we don't understand. We somehow got on the topic of Moses, and then we had to laugh because we've both felt a little bit like how Moses must have felt after he met with God and then came down the mountain, only to see everyone dancing around the golden calf. I said, "You know how after you've had a really great quiet time? Then you come downstairs and everyone is just acting like total heathens? I could totally smash the Ten Commandments right there." And Mom said, "Or grind up the powder, give it to them, and say, 'DRINK IT!'"
Then we talked about how awesome it was that Moses asked to see God's glory, and God hid Him in the rock but let Him catch a glimpse of His back. We wondered, what exactly was that that he saw?
And Mom said to me, "Does it bother you, honey, going through my dying with me? I never really liked to be around sick people. I feel so bad that you kids have to go through this." Then she closed her eyes and the most beautiful smile spread across her face as she whispered, "You know, sometimes when I close my eyes, I see the Lord Himself. And He's standing there, His hands stretched out to me, and He's saying, 'Come home!'"
The next day we went out in the car; Mom can't really go out any more and she hates that, but I took her out for just a little bit. Not too far from home, my favorite song came on (from Travis Cottrell's "Alive Forever"--a CD that never leaves my rotation). My mom said, "Oh, how I love this one!" so we turned it up and let the music and lyrics wash over us.
We neared home, just as it was cranking up to the best part so we drove around a couple more blocks so we could hear it all--there's no way you can turn the song off in the middle. And as the end came: "No guilt in life, no fear in death...no power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand...till He returns or calls me home...," Mom leaned her head back and whispered, "Awesome. Glory! The man who wrote that, he caught a glimpse, didn't he?"
Later on that evening, I heard my mom sitting at the piano--I don't think I've heard her play in at least two years--picking out the notes to that song. And I looked out the window into the night sky and thought I might have seen the hem of His garment go by.
Exodus 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."