Going to Heaven?

“Everyone here going to heaven, raise your hand!” the rather exuberant older woman said as soon as the crowded elevator doors closed. The people on board, including myself, looked everywhere but at her. Then she said it again, “Everyone here going to heaven, raise your hand.” Thankfully, the elevator stopped at her floor, and she got off. The folks who remained in the elevator didn’t speak for meet each other’s eyes.

It seemed obvious going to heaven was very important to her. I wondered later why who was headed to heaven was so important to her. Perhaps in her religion, she was taught that it was her duty to mankind to see that all were “gathered in.” What was her heaven like? I supposed from her demeanor that her heaven was that of the old-time religionist as voiced in “church” songs of the past. She could be expecting “a mansion over the hilltop,” or maybe in her bid for humility she preferred “just a cabin in the corner of Gloryland.” How about “band of angels” and getting to meet her savior face-to-face. Streets of gold? Crystal seas? Whatever it was, the idea excited her.

Through the centuries, many writers have described their vision of heaven/the dwelling place of the gods. John of the Revelation saw heaven as a place shining with the presence of God where there were no more sorrow, tears, death or pain. He also had some pearly gates and other precious jewels.

A heaven from a writer’s imagination that I find attractive is in The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. There in the voice of Susie Salmon, who was raped and murdered at age 14, speaks of her heaven as a place of simple pleasures. Dogs of every shape, size, and description frolic in the park outside Susie’s door. She has a roommate, Holly, who plays blues on her sax while the dogs form a chorus. Women of all ages come out of their doors and join in the evening. They all dance, the dogs dance until the moon is high then Mrs. Utemeyer, who plays the violin comes out and joins Holly. The dancers would then retire while Holly and Mrs. Utemeyer played their final duet of the evening. As Susie says, “…this was my Evensong.”

Dogs, music, dancing, and a peaceful evening—sounds like heaven to me.

I hope the elderly woman on the elevator finds her heaven and folks to go with her when the time comes. Later when I thought back on, “Everybody going to heaven, raise your hand,” I wish I had thought to say, “I don’t think this elevator goes that far.”

What would be heaven for you?

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Sebold, Alice: The Lovely Bones, Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (April 20, 2004)

This article was written by Margie Campbell

I have been "writing" since I could first hold a pencil. I would fill lines with squiggles thinking that could convey my ideas to the world. As I grew, so did my interest in writing. It really helped when I learned to make letters and to combine them into "real" words. I have a degree in creative writing and a Master's in English (tech writing specialty). I am retired from teaching all types of writing as an adjunct at community colleges in VA, MD, Ohio, and WV.

5 thoughts on “Going to Heaven?”

  1. I had to come to grips with the idea of heaven and being there when I watched my mother die in 2012. The reality of another existence became very acute for me as I suffered watching her leave this world. The Bible says that Jesus called heaven paradise when he was on the cross. For me that’s all I need to know. That is where I plan to be, in paradise.

  2. Wow! Interesting post and comment. I was raised in a fundamentalist Protestant tradition, and there was no questioning in my family about the reality of heaven and hell. One was supposed to take both locations as a matter of fact.

    It has never been that easy for me to simply envision a perfect paradise waiting to welcome believers. I am a believer and of course I want there to be a good afterlife. The nothingness of death has always frightened me. But my meagre faith does not extend to picturing what an eternal bliss would look like.

    When my mother passed away (25 years ago this fall), my father died within three years. I will always remember something that my eldest sister said at the time: “Mom and Dad are together again now in heaven. I bet they’re just making a cup of tea right now.” I was absolutely astonished at what seemed an absolutely ludicrous idea. I certainly had no such vision.

    But who is to say that having such faith is foolish? My sister is gone now too, and I wish that I could better envision a heaven where she makes tea. I’d love to join the party some day.

    1. May,
      Those are some provoking thoughts as are Jorinde’s. I tend to agree a little with both of you. I suppose I looked away because my “enlightened” self sees “old time” religion ideas a bit benighted. Besides, I see one’s personal beliefs as personal, and this stranger had no business asking such a question of people she did not know. I don’t mean to be harsh; if that is what she believes, I hope it gives her comfort and not thoughts of other going to eternal torment.

  3. How funny that everyone looked away… Even though I believe Heaven and Hell are both right here one earth and in our own hearts, I would have smiled and raised my hand. I think that I understand the lady because just by saying that or by raising your hand, you indicate that you are an optimist and believe that even better things are to come.

    Heaven is just having “the faith” – whatever that faith is- that you can trust YOURSELF to make good causes and therefore, get good results. I wish everyone that kind of heaven of their own making!

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