FINALLY, after much prodding and encouragement I read Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, a touching story of a little boy struggling through health issues who, during a surgery, takes a field trip to Heaven. Over the next few years, his family learns tidbits of his journey, details of loved ones loss that he would have no knowledge of, and his encounters with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was a beautiful glimpse of Heaven from the eyes and mouth of a child.
I thought about why it took me so long to give this book a chance and it occurred to me that maybe I didn't want ANYTHING changing the image of Trey's Heaven, a place where he has free reign to play all day, snuggles with his loved ones who have passed, watches his Earthly loved ones the way a child is glued to cartoons, and takes daily walks with other angel children and Jesus. When people know that I have a baby in Heaven, I am sure they envision a baby, yet my vision is of a two year old boy presently who will most likely grow in my vision of Heaven as he was never given the chance to here on Earth. In my mind, he has medium length, light brown curly hair, an infectious spirit, and boundless energy, until of course one of his loved ones gets a hold of him at night and tells him stories of his loved ones on Earth and he drifts off to a peaceful slumber. He is a social butterfly just like his parents, welcoming all new angels but he's especially an ambassador to angel babies and children, showing them around and accepting them as friends.
It took me nearly two years to even conceive the image of my child in Heaven, In the beginning of my grief, I didn't accept him being there and didn't want him to be there. He NEVER should have been sick and NEVER should have died to be saved from his illness. His illness and passing represented (and still does) the ONE thing I literally hate about this world, being brought up to NEVER use the word "hate", applying the label is saying something. People would express thankfulness that he was in Heaven and not suffering on Earth, yet Heaven was a place I could not reach until my time on Earth was through. People would tell me I would see him again when my judgement comes and I would stew over the lifetime I would have to wait through until I held my baby again. Heaven was a wonderful place that was off limits to me, no matter how much a I wanted to touch and hold my little boy, I was not allowed passage. Heaven had something that belonged to me and in my mind, he was stolen property.
Slowly, I began to create an image that softened my heart to the fact that Trey was not with us, a kind of fantasy or storybook that replaced the harsh reality that I live with daily and forever. Some might call it escaping, avoidance, displacement, or whatever, I call it coping, a compromise of sorts. If Trey has to be in Heaven, then fine, I will envision the life I would want him to have there. So I conjured up the most beautiful Heavenly life that I could for my son and hold that image in my head and in my heart with the force that cannot be broken.
Reading Heaven is For Real did not take ANYTHING away from my vision of Trey's Heaven, it only added to it. My favorite part was reading about how the little boy kept reminding his parents how much Jesus loves the children, so much so that his parents have to request that he not remind him so often. I have always known that my son knows the love of the Holy Trinity in Heaven but I never understood the extent to which he knows AND understands that love, more than I do for myself. This little boy's Heavenly experience convinces me that it was the love of Jesus that saved my little boy from a life of pain, suffering, and struggle. I STILL don't like it, but I was reminded that right from the very beginning I could not live with myself if I allowed him to stay here on Earth, his own personal living Hell, that Heaven was the ONLY choice for him to live, truly live. It conjures up yet another detail in my vision of Trey's Heaven, him high fiving Jesus and them sharing the deepest love and respect for one another.
I will NEVER like it that my son is so far away from me in Heaven instead of being a living, thriving member of our family here on Earth, though I am grateful that he is not suffering in Heaven the way he would down here. Reading Heaven is For Real only affirmed that my son has a beautiful Heavenly life, and in all likelihood, it is far more beautiful than the life I have created for him in my heart and mind. This little boy's Heavenly account added beauty to the canvas of Heaven that I painted for Trey, a kind of innocence that I, as an adult, could not imagine. It might have taken me awhile to pick up the book and give it a chance, but I am glad I did. With little the arrival of Trey's little sister so close, I look forward to telling her about her brother, the strength he showed in life, and the Heaven I believe with all my heart he lives in.