It’s hard to imagine heaven.
When I was a child I was told that heaven was where everyone stood around praising God. That sounded to me like a very long church service – not at all appealing.
No, my childhood heaven would have had a football pitch at the very least – a chip shop too and ponds to play by – because I loved ponds. And now I think I would want my family and my friends there too – for they also are my joy.
It’s hard to imagine heaven. We think of a place –but if it’s a place then where is it? And when will we meet people again? Will we meet people again?
I remember sitting with my Father, on a bench, in a garden, in the last days of his life. The sun was behind us and our shadows joined together in the space before us.
He was speaking about his own story…his childhood, starting work at 14, the adventure of the war years, the snake he ran over when he was stationed in Africa, courting my mum.
It was his story but of course it was also my story – the life we had shared together – how he was part of me and I was part of him and how that would be so forever.
It was all far away in time and it was as present in his mind on that day as if he was still there.
I still see myself sometimes sitting on that bench, looking at those shadows, listening to his stories, our shadows merging into one.
There are moments like these, in time, but seeming to be beyond time, as if there are two layers of reality: a surface one in which experience follows experience, moment upon moment, and a deeper, truer level where every moment is here and now...always...never lost...eternity if you like.
Sitting there with my father, and later sitting there in hospital beside him while he slept, holding his hand, though there was noise and movement in the room – for me there was a stillness I have no words to explain.
In a moment like that I begin to understand heaven. It is life beyond the limits of time and of place – where no experience is lost but everything is gathered in the here and the now. Everything and everyone.
You might be walking along the street or sitting in your room or watching the sun setting, or listening to the sound of the sea... and suddenly life is more than this succession of moments and experiences. There is something deeper going on, as if you have walked through a door into another world. And you child is there or your dad is there or your dear close friend who was always part of you.
And in another moment that awareness is gone, leaving you sad or empty, or glad and wondering. But you have tasted heaven and you will know it again. And one day we will all taste heaven completely in the company of those we love.