Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Next Life

So this whole rapture thing has me thinking.  And I"m thinking I'm not buying into it.

However, it has made me think about the possible existence of an afterlife.   As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I grew up in a "religious" family, so naturally accepted that people go to Heaven when they die.  Of course, my wondering mind always wanted to know more about Heaven-- and why we rational, educated, adults would believe in such a magical, unexplainable thing.  And my conclusion is that it feels nice.  It's comforting and safe and explains things that we don't know.  It gives us an answer--for something that there really isn't one.  It makes us feel better.  It makes us accept death because it's "new life" and we don't have to think about people really being totally 100% gone.  We don't have to admit that we'll never see our loved ones again because, well, that's really sad.  

For me, this was yet another challenging piece of religion. (And believe me, I REALLY wanted to believe this one.)  I simply cannot wrap my mind around the idea of a Heaven-- or human souls continuing to live in another dimension.  This may be partially due to my total inability to think about things analytically, or it may be due to the fact that Heaven just sounds completely unbelievable to me.  And really, all people go there?  Only some go there?  Only some who believe? Only some who have had the right exposure to believe?  Only those who say the "right" things?  Hmmmm...

It took me awhile to become comfortable with the idea of death being final.  But, I truly believe that when I die, that's it.  I'll be dead.  100%.  Not living in the clouds, not looking down on my family, not haunting teenagers who are doing bad things in the cemetery (now that sounds fun).  Just simply gone.  And that is okay because I feel that (hopefully) I'll "live on" in the memories (fond, of course!) of my family and friends.   At this point, I would like to say that I LOVE the idea of Heaven.  Who wouldn't?  If I'm mistaken about it and end up there, I'll be pleasantly surprised.  (I have a long list of things I'd do, and what my Heaven would be filled with--maybe that's another blog topic.) And honestly, I'd love to see my lost friends and family in Heaven--I would love to feel my great-grandmother's skin again, or hear my grandfather's voice. 

And for this reason, I understand why it is comforting to believe in such a place.  I must admit that there have been times and situations when it's just so hard to accept that someone so special has really died.  And during those moments, I'll allow myself to entertain the thought of Heaven--and actually find a little peace in doing so. But most days, if I just close my eyes, I can still feel the silky, cool, skin of my great-grandma's arms and hear the deep voice of my grandpa...and to me, that is how life goes on. 

Dog Heaven [Book]The other day, I met with a little girl who was incredibly sad about the death of the family puppy.  I found myself reaching for this book:  Dog Heaven by  Cynthia Rylant.  If you're a dog lover, you'll love it--such a perfect description of what we hope happens when our furry four legged friends meet their master.  And while I don't believe it, I love thinking about the possibility.   

Continue reading "Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant

"Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant

When dogs go to Heaven, they don't need wings
because God knows that dogs love running best.

He gives them fields.
Fields and fields and fields.

When a dog first arrives in Heaven, he just runs.

Dog Heaven has clear, wide lakes
filled with geese who honk and flap and tease.
The dogs love this.
They run beside the water and bark and bark
and God watches them from behind a tree and smiles.

There are children, of course.
Angel children.
God knows that dogs love children more than anything in the world,
so He fills Dog Heaven with plenty of them.
There are children on bikes and children on sleds.
There are children throwing red rubber balls and children pulling kites through the clouds.
The dogs are there, and the children love them dearly.

And oh, the dog biscuits.
Biscuits and biscuits and biscuits as far as the eye can see.
God has a sense of humor, ho He makes His biscuits in funny shapes for His dogs.
There are kitty-cat biscuits and squirrel biscuits.
Ice-cream biscuits and ham-sandwich biscuits.

Every angel who passes by has a biscuit for a dog.
And of course, all God's dogs sit when the angels say "sit".
Every dog becomes a good dog in Dog Heaven.

God turns clouds inside out to make fluffy beds for the dogs in Dog Heaven,
and when they are tired from running ad barking and eating ham-sandwich biscuits
the dogs find a cloud bed for sleeping.
They turn around and around in the cloud...
until it feels just right and then they curl up
and they sleep.
God watches over each one of them and there are no bad dreams

Dogs in Dog Heaven have almost always belonged to somebody on Earth and,
of course the dogs remember this.
Heaven is full of memories.
So sometimes an angel will walk a dog back to Earth for a little visit and quietly,
invisibly, the dog will sniff about his old backyard, will investigate the cat next door,
will follow the child to school, will sit on the porch and wait for the mail.

When he is satisfied that all is well, the dog will return to Dog Heaven with the angel.
It is where dogs belong, near God  who made them.

The dogs in Dog Heaven who had no real homes on Earth
are given ones in Heaven.
The homes have yards and porches and there are couches to lie on and tables to sit under
while angels eat their dinners.

There are special bowls with the dog's names on them.
And each dog is petted and reminded how good he is all day long.

Dogs in Dog Heaven can stay as long as they like and this can mean forever.
They will be there when old friends show up. 

They will be there at the door.

Angel dogs.

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