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