Where is heaven? Is it somewhere out there, past the boundaries of our universe? Or is it down the road, around the corner, or perhaps even hidden within a person you know as mom, dad, husband, wife or child? Does everyone go to heaven, or is there a hell, where all the really bad, non-repentant people end up? Do our pets go to our heaven, or is there a separate heaven for all the dogs, cats, hamsters, gerbils, horses, sheep, snakes, birds, or any other furred, feathered, scaled or finned critter that we at one time had as a pet? If there is a heaven, and we end up there at the end of our days, will we meet up with all the friends and family members who got there before us, or will we get there with an empty slate, and spend the rest of eternity making new friends, and adopting new families? If we get to our heaven, do we get there with the physical body we had in our final hours, or can we revert back to when we were in our prime, or even better, can our soul ask for a whole new body? Is heaven hidden within our own soul, just waiting for our bodies to finally wear out, or meet an untimely end? Could heaven be a place so small, that there is only room for one? I don’t know if I believe in heaven. I do believe in spirits though, so is it possible that heaven is right here, right now, and those of us who still draw breath, are the outsiders? No, this place we call “now” cannot possibly be heaven. Not with all the starving babies, tortured animals, abused women, pain, violence, corruption and deceit, not with all the homeless veterans, and fragmented families, not with all the fear and hatred that we see and hear every day. No, this cannot possibly be heaven. Are we all residents of hell, and when we die, our spirits and souls are released from all the bonds that hold us in this place during life, and we are then free to move about, wherever we would like? Are the few glimpses we perceive as being heavenly throughout our lives just tantalizing tidbits of what lies ahead?
I can think of plenty of instances, that I could have construed as heaven on earth. Lying on my back, on a hill next to my parent’s house, the sweet fragrance of freshly mown grass filling my senses, watching the summer clouds slowly passing by overhead. Or the day, as a pre-teen, that I could take in a lung filling breath of fresh air, and not experience the stabbing pain that I had been going through, having torn the cartilage from one side of my ribcage. I felt it was heaven on earth, the day I graduated from basic training, and knew that I would not have to deal with those drill sergeants any longer, and June 9th, 1973, when I was finally able to say “I do” at the altar. I’m pretty sure I will feel as though I’m in heaven, when I make the final payment on my 30 year mortgage! I have never been a parent, but I felt like an angel-in-waiting, when my niece, nephew, and grand- nephew were born. Oh yes, there have been plenty of experiences throughout my life, when I felt that there could not be a better day.
Of course, with the good, come the bad; those days that cannot end soon enough, or that you wish had never happened. September 11, 2001 falls into the hell on earth category, for any American old enough to remember that day – where they were, and what they were doing, when we first heard the news of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center, and the chaos and disaster that followed. I was definitely in my own, private hell, the day my wife passed away. I have never felt more alone, more depressed or more abandoned, than on that day. When I lost my parents, at least I still had my wife to console me in my grief, as I consoled her, when she lost her parents. That night, years ago, when the phone rang, and it was the police, telling me that my wife had been involved in a very bad accident, and that she was being taken to a local hospital. The day I was told my wife, after having suffered a major heart attack, was probably never going to be able to come home again, certainly fits the hell on earth definition for me. All the occasions in the past, when we had to put our long time pets down, either by our own hands, or at a veterinary clinic; the day I found out that the job I had been working at the previous forty years, was being lost, the mornings when I awake, and the arthritis pain I experience, reminds me that I neglected taking my aspirins the previous night. Minor inconvenience, but when trying to get ankles, knees, elbows and shoulders ready to take on the day ahead, I surely don’t look at the day as being “heavenly” at all!
I can’t help but wonder what we might get to eat in heaven, or if we get to eat anything at all. Could it be that our “heavenly remains” do not require three square meals a day, and that we will survive for eternity, with just the memories of what a big, juicy hamburger tastes like? I’m sorry, but still being here on earth, I am thinking that a heavenly meal for me, would consist of a New York Strip Steak, medium, with a twice baked potato and a moderate stack of asparagus spears. Either that, or one of those juicy burgers, on a toasted bun, with the condiments of my choice, and a pile of steak-cut fries, with some vinegar to dip them in to liven things up. I’m hoping that there are lobsters in heaven, so my wife is satisfied with her daily meals. If there is a heaven, but our souls do not need the caloric intake to maintain a healthy, heavenly body, I certainly hope the memory of a favorite meal allows us to feel satisfied and happy.
Where is heaven? Or perhaps the question should be what is heaven? Is it a place, or is it a state of consciousness? Do we have a spirit or soul that departs our bodies when the time is right? As I stated previously, I do believe in spirits and a spirit world, so could that be the heaven I am bound for? Will I have to drag along all the bad memories from my lifetime, or will I be granted the peace and bliss of eternal existence, surrounded by those I love and cherish? Will I be chided for the mistakes and transgressions I have committed, or will I be greeted with open arms, and forgiving hugs? Do I have to worry about embarrassing moments from my past? Will my grandfather know who I am without an introduction? I understand we tend to get more “religious” as our time on earth grows shorter, or after we have experienced something that causes us to pause, and question why things happen. I can’t say that I’m getting more religious, but I will admit to becoming more curious as to where, or what heaven is, and if we all end up there. Or, when our bodies can no longer sustain our lives, is there just an end, with no memories, no reunions, no bright lights – just an empty, nothingness? I most certainly hope not, as I want to see and be with the loved ones I have lost.
Where or what is heaven? Are we already here or there? Do you believe that there will be an eternity awaiting you when your earth bound days are finished? I want there to be SOMETHING, where I can be happy again. SOMETHING that allows me to be with those I have loved, and lost. Without getting “religious”, I want there to be a heaven for me, and for everyone who wants it as badly as I do.