Monday, June 25, 2012

Peeking Into Paradise

"Do you want to tell me about Heaven?" I asked my friend Sue. We were sitting in Starbucks, friends of more than 50 years, sharing our hearts.

Sue has been through a lot lately. In 2005 her father died, a loss she felt very deeply. She knew he'd gone to Heaven, but she wondered what his life was like there. She picked up Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven, and found great comfort in its pages, especially during the grieving process. Heaven became more real to her.

The following year her mom, who was just beginning to show the signs of dementia, moved in with her and her husband, Rod.

On November 18, 2009, Sue sat in her doctor's office, having just had an MRI. "An aid unit is on its way, taking you to the hospital," the doctor told her. " We have found a tumor on your brain; it's very serious."  Sue rode in the ambulance, Rod followed in his car.

After more testing, surgery was scheduled for the morning of the 20th. It could be an infection, a brain bleed, or cancer. The 4-hour surgery confirmed the worst: glioblastoma, grade 4. I've heard it referred to as The Terminator. The doctors said she might have 18 months to live, maybe just two weeks. Rod went home that night to care for Sue's mother.

Sue spent four days in the hospital, recovering from the surgery. It was during that time that she became aware of a memory -- of an encounter or a visitation that she had experienced earlier, maybe while she was in surgery.

She saw down at a distance, as if peeking into a deep window. "I wasn't part of it," she said, "but it was extremely bright and extremely crowded. There were lots of heads, some were angels, some were the communion of the saints. There was this bright light coming down on them. I didn't see Jesus, but the light on the people was coming from Him. It was the intense kind of light that makes you want to put on sunglasses, and it was so bright that the details of the faces were vague and unclear. The light was shining onto the world.

"And it was musical, but it was more harmonic than music. It was like a choir singing in 4- (or more) part harmony, but they weren't singing words, they were singing 'aaahhhhh,' like they were warming up before a concert."

It was so personal, so brief, but so reassuring for Sue. She'd peeked into Paradise.

Sue held the memory close to her heart and shared it with only her husband and one other person. It was a holy moment that she savored. But slowly she began to tell others, randomly, and one day she told me. Her eyes were filled with wonder when she spoke, her face was serene. I knew that what she said was true. She'd had a glimpse of Heaven.

As Sue was recovering from the surgery and settling into a routine, her mom had a fall that required her to be moved to the nursing wing of Warm Beach Senior Community. In July of 2010, she, too, passed into Heaven.

Over coffee I asked Sue if the memory is still clear. "Oh, yes, I see it as vividly as I did when I first became aware of it. I'm not in any hurry to die, nor am I afraid of death. But that peek into Paradise was just so reassuring."

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