I was talking with Trish at work on Monday — although I can’t recall exactly what prompted it, but she recommended I read Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. I’m sure it had something to do with this blog and one of my stories. Now, this hasn’t been the first time that this book has been recommended to me. I think most of my neighborhood has already read it and more than one person thought I personally should read it. The book was published in 2010 and it’s amazing that it’s taken me almost three years to realize something so wonderful existed. I started reading this at 9 pm last night and finished it in three and a half hours. It’s such an engaging read — you can’t put it down!
As much as I could not relate to the story itself — I could relate to something in every chapter. So much as in less than ten minutes in the book, I was weeping to the point that I had to stop reading, get my composure and then start all over again. I cried through the entire book.
It’s a story of Heaven as seen through the innocent eyes of a four-year old child and truly a journey of faith for any reader. I may not have any children of my own and am unable to relate to the intricate relationship of a father and his son (paralleled with God and his Son), but the miracles, blessings and unexplained moments in medicine — I could relate to all of that.
And what I find very weird (and I’ll use this word, because Todd used this word sometimes in the book) is the fact that I started this blog last year having never read this book or even heard anything about it in detail — and I designed this blog with myself, my brother and my sister as children with rainbow typography and wings on each of us! At the time I even contemplated if I wanted to show us with wings, because I didn’t want to imply that we were angels! What a coincidence that I used the same kind of imagery that Coltin described in Heaven (and I don’t believe in coincidences.) I mean it was very difficult for me to decide what represented “faith” for the masthead. I thought of angels, a starry night, Heaven, clouds, beautiful landscapes and so much more. I searched for days, but nothing was right. I thought about what represented love to me. Those images weren’t right either. And then I got very nostalgic thinking about the stories I would tell about my friends and family and that’s when I remembered this photo that I had on my hard drive. I pulled it up, but it wasn’t quite right. My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I had the idea to put wings on each of us! Did I have an inkling of Heaven? Or did someone from Heaven make a suggestion in my mind? Who knows, but I find it too much of a coincidence — and you know I B E L I E V E.
I cried over a lot of things that just hit home for one reason or another. There’s a part of the book where Coltin is telling his Dad that he stayed with Pop in Heaven. Now Pop was Coltin’s great, great Grandpa — Todd’s Mother’s Father. He had passed from an accident at the age of 61. Coltin was four years old and had never known Pop or anything about him. Coltin told the story that everyone had wings in Heaven and that his wings were really tiny — and he was sad at that. But Pop’s wings were really, really BIG!
As I read the story, I guess I related Pop to my own Dad, who is already in Heaven. My Dad passed at age 62 — there were many similarities. For an instant, I imagined my Dad, clear as day, standing before me with these enormous, glorious wings, and he wrapped those wings around me, telling me that he’s been here with me every step of the way over the past 10 years. That was the moment I wept for a good 10 minutes. The vision was as clear as if he stepped into my living room — I could even feel the shadow that came over me as he spread his wings to wrap them around me. It was so incredibly comforting and so very real.
I have always thought that perhaps God answered many of our prayers over the years about my own health issues with the cancer. There were just so many things that would be unexplained — my doctors were always amazed at my resilience. I did more than beat the odds — to the point that my doctors started studying my case beyond the physiology of it.
I remember one trip that Tom and I took to the Cleveland Clinic. We were meeting with Dr. Rose for the first time. This was the second time the cancer came back, and Dr. Price recommended we go see this doctor who was doing all kinds of clinical trials with Endometrial cancer. He wanted to see if Dr. Rose had any other ideas as we had done chemotherapy the first time it came back. I was so scared, because I couldn’t do the chemo again — I couldn’t go through losing my hair again — and I remember sitting in this room all by myself waiting for this doctor I had never met. As I sat there, I prayed to Jesus — I asked him to sit in the empty chair next to me and help me get through this day. I remember that I felt like a five year old girl asking Jesus to hold my hand. I wasn’t praying to God — I was talking to Jesus. You know, we got the best news that day. I thought about that moment over the years — every time we went to Cleveland to talk to Dr. Rose. It was always the same exam room, same chairs — same empty chair, reserved for Jesus.
But I don’t think that I actually believed Jesus was sitting there. I always thought it just made me feel calmer. But now, after reading this book, I believe Jesus was there, because I asked him to be there. And I believe that he provided the answers all those times to Dr. Rose. Those amazing wonderful solutions — that he now whispers into the ears of Dr. Goodman and Dr. Rizk. And that touches my heart so deeply. I thanked him so many times for getting me to the other side and always staying with me.
I’ve always said to everyone who is worried about me or worried about me dying that I believe Heaven is such an amazing place that when we get there, we are going to wonder why we put ourselves through so much in this life to stay here. And after reading this book, I have all kinds of wonderful thoughts of what is actually like. I’ve always believed in Heaven. And now I feel like I have a small glimpse of what eternity holds for those of us who believe.
Always B E L I E V E .