I have a hard time with the idea of Heaven. It’s too much of a “place” that we check into on our last breath. Where there isn’t much to do, except walk circles as on a track.
I struggle with “Heaven” every time someone I love dies. Especially those who die suddenly, as my husband’s best friend did, last week. This morning, I actually was walking circles around a track, at a park where I take the boys to ride their scooters.
The boys scooted past me, around and around, and I kept walking, and working my brain to fit together puzzle pieces – life pieces that now have to fit into those of death. Of sudden cessation; a human life is far too solidified in emotion, memories, love, and deep ties to others, to dissipate on that last breath. Ted must have been sitting at his desk, settling down with a morning coffee, when the embolism struck. By the way he fell, he had died before he hit the floor. A stilling of life so sudden, it is barely, just so barely, comprehendible.
So there was the wake, and the burial, my husband then had to get back to work, and I packed up the kids to go visit Gramma. We while away the mornings at this park, where life continues, amazingly, unabated. Kids shoot basketballs. A mother trails behind her toddler awkwardly steering a tricycle. My boys grin as they pass me on their scooters, my youngest flashing the gaping hole where he’s lost a tooth, and my heart breaks; as they age they gradually will unlearn this, how to live in the actual moment.
Walking those track circles is indeed repetitive, and I got tired of trying to piece together that life/death puzzle. So I started talking to my husband’s friend. Casually, the way I used to sitting across from him at our kitchen table.
In my rambling monologue, I asked Ted to send a sign to my husband when he goes to visit him today at his freshly dug grave. Keith is struggling to make peace; he told me he can still see how Ted would even fold his newspaper. The other day, my son came to me with a yellow ladybug on his hand. She was struggling to pull in her wings, and we thought she was hurt. But then the ladybug took off across the playground. In that burst of flight, I felt Ted.
I do look for those signs. Rather, for that ubiquitous of the spirit: how that solidity of life, in death, translates into an energy that prevails all around us. Even, if you look closely, in the tiny breeze just rippling those white flowers low to the grass, the ones we can too easily overlook as weeds. If there is a heaven then, maybe this is it. In the here. In the now.
At the cemetery, Keith left cut flowers, but said he could hear Ted saying, “Flowers? What am I going to do with f---- flowers?” Ted loved to dine, and he might have preferred takeout from a fine restaurant. Keith compromised; he told Ted he would return this weekend with a freshly baked bagel and coffee.
I worried a little. “You’re actually going to buy him a bagel?”
Keith said he would “proxy” a bagel, by eating it for him.
Ted, I guess, didn’t finally send him any signs. Unless you count the fact that Keith got locked into the cemetery, and had to chase down a security guard to get him out. But he did imagine that after he left, Ted bawled out the guard for latching the gates one minute too early, before actually closing time.