It was not the first time someone told me this and I suspect it won't be the last.
Talk about bittersweet.
I suppose I should explain. I'm talking about when people hear that your child died and immediately----I mean without even pausing to take in a breath----say, "You will see him again in Heaven."
Is that supposed to make it all okay?
Tell me, what exactly do these kind folks mean when they toss out that line?
If I were to watch a mother or father crying over the loss of an infant that only breathed for a few moments or a son or daughter who lived to be forty, I would never say that line.
It's a cheap shot. My opinion. To me, it makes it seem as though there is no reason for tears. Or makes it seem that if I had real faith, I wouldn't be sad.
Don't get all ruffled up now. It's not that I don't believe. You see, I do believe in Heaven. I wish more was written about it in The Bible. On many days I wish for just a glimpse. When I'm at the ocean and the breeze blows and the waves dance against the shore, I feel I'm closer to Heaven. Or when I go for a walk and the scents and sights of spring fill my vision, I think, "Ah, this is heavenly."
I believe when people die they go to Heaven. The criminal on the cross next to Jesus was promised he would be with Jesus in paradise. Love is perfect there because the Creator of love, God the Father, lives in Heaven. There is no sin, no sorrow, no tears and no human frailty in this place of eternity.
Yet sometimes I wonder if those who tell me not to worry, that I'll be with my son again in Heaven, are not using their God-given mind to think, to ponder.
Do you really think I am going to be serving animal crackers and reading bedtime stories to my Daniel in Heaven?
There will be reunions, yes. But I will never be Daniel's mama on earth again. Gone is the dream every mother holds and that is to watch her little baby grow up. That ended for me with Daniel's death at age four. When he died, so did my need to buy Cocoa Puffs for him.
I was thirty-six then. I'm fifty-two now. That's been a lot of time for me to wonder and pray and think, and oh, yes, bite my tongue. Especially when well-meaning folk try to cast off my pain by quipping, "We'll just think, you'll see him again in Heaven."
"If Heaven is going to be just like earth where I have to take out the trash, worry about paying bills, and discipline my kids, I don't want it," a mother said to me.
Some seem to think Heaven is an extension of earth. That Heaven to many will be a repeat, only without mosquitoes and a place where consuming a pound of milk chocolate won't make one fat. Many act like it's going to be where I can see my Daniel again as he was on earth. Folks, that little body that took a beating to cancer is gone. It is no more. The Bible promises we'll get new bodies, and I imagine that they won't age. In fact we probably will all look the same age----young and flawless, like the women in all those Oil of Olay commercials.
So before you tell a mother who is sorrowful over the death of her dreams, who is questioning who she is now without her son or daughter, who dreads Christmas because it means one less stocking to fill, who has seen her family diminish in size, and who has a hard time putting one foot in front of the other on most days---even years later----THINK!
There are so many healthy and nurturing ways in which we can comfort each other. Consider them. Instead of giving a pat, "Well, you'll see your child in Heaven," why not sit down, hold a grieving mother's hand, and listen?
You just might cry when you hear her aching heart. Don't you think Jesus would be weeping if He were seated next to her, too?
She knows she'll see her child again in Heaven. Right now she needs more than that reassurance. She has to learn how to live the rest of her life without him. She has to conquer sleepless nights and inappropriate comments, criticism, and push herself to believe that she will get a day free of tears.
Let her know that she is going through the hardest journey a mother ever goes through.
Let love coupled with understanding be how you bring comfort.
~ Alice is the author of five inspirational novels and the new devotional on grief and loss, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. Read the reviews and order a copy here.
[This post was first posted at Alice's Patchwork Quilt Blog]