She sits next to me and says, ”Mom, why is heaven so far away?” I take a few deep breaths stunned by her poignant question. There are times as a parent when we don’t have the words or the answers, this is one of those moments.
I remain silent, thinking about how I’ll respond to her heartfelt question— wishing I had the knowledge and the insight.
Instead, with glossy eyes, I whisper: “What if it’s not far away at all? What if it’s simply all around us, invisible to our human eyes but delicately crafted to surround us at all times. What if it’s not a far away place but the air we breathe and the atmosphere that surrounds us. What if what we envisioned heaven to be is simply not nearly as accurate as we’ve been taught?”
She looks at me through tears, one’s I’m not sure are due to pain or hope. She misses her grandmother almost as fiercely as I miss my mother and these are the kind of moments where the heartbreak is undeniable— the moments where her grief is heavy and unavoidable.
I continue, “What if every moment we ache because your grandma is so far away, she’s actually smiling right beside us, wishing we could see her or feel her presence. What if every time we feel sad for the things she’s missing, we’re aching only because we can’t comprehend that she never has to miss a moment, not the big or the small. What if heaven is the closest thing to perfection we could ever experience and it’s right here constantly surrounding us just as boldly and intentionally as the air we breathe. What if heaven only feels far away because it can’t be seen but it’s actually always here, never fading or diminishing?”
I have no idea where these words have come from or where the perspective was crafted within my brain. I simply know that they turned her tearful eyes to ones that remain wet but also lifted by the smile that has appeared on her face. She hugs me as we let our tears fall together.
My voice goes silent as my mind begins to wonder…What if heaven isn’t some far away place? What if it only feels like it is. What if we had to be taught that it’s a place instead of an experience so we’d appreciate the beauty when it comes time. What if our hearts and brains and souls can’t understand something so powerful and mighty, so we hurt thinking our loved ones are unreachable–except we fail to understand they’re not unreachable, they’re simply unseeable.
I know how beautifully we were loved. I know my mother would never let anything, even death, steal the bold influence and capabilities of that love. I know that she’s here in ways I can’t see or comprehend. I know she is loving us all with the same intentionality and power that she always has, no matter where she is, near or far.
I collect my emotions and kiss the top of her forehead as I say, “The truth is sweet girl, I don’t know why heaven feels so far away. I don’t know exactly what it looks like or how long it takes to get there. I don’t know many many many things about heaven and eternity. It’s full of mystery and unknowns but also delicate hopes and unique faith. What I do know is that your grandmother believed fiercely in the perfection of heaven just as much as she believed in the unwavering love she had for all of us. And those knowings tell me that she’d never love a heaven that didn’t allow her to keep us and the love she had for us, which means she’s not far. She can’t be. It’s simply unseeable so it feels that way.”
And as the words leave my mouth, I pray they are just as true and accurate as I feel they are in my heart. Hopefully heaven isn’t as far away as we think…
A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.