Minnesota Mamaleh: Mama, What’s Heaven?
Kayli, Chloe and Brody are all in the question-asking phase right now. Lucky us, right? (Right, Mama, right?!) While their questions vary, What is that? How does it work? Why did you say that? Why? Why? WHY?! Jason and I are sometimes (okay, okay– often) stumped at what answers to give. Why? (I said, Why?!) Because we’re worried that whatever we say, they’ll believe.
Does that sound absurd, or what? While there are some things that I’d really like for my children to take at face value– that I love them. That they’re beautiful. That working hard is a must. That spinach is, indeed, delicious. There are just as many somethings that I want them to question, ponder and learn for themselves.
Like that doozy in the title.
Heaven came up at our house when one of our oldest and dearest friends was visiting. He was curled up on the couch reading to the girls because he’s just that sort of guy. He had barely gotten the word heaven out when Kayli, employing those serious big brown eyes of hers, immediately asked, “What’s heaven?”
Being the completely fabulous friends that we are, Jason and I let him go ahead and field that one all by himself. So he asked her what she thought, pointed to the pictures, probably sweated a little bit and then they moved on.
Much the same way that it went the other fifty two times that Kayli had already asked the same question. Of each of us.
So we realized that we’re going to have to give her more answers. More details. More depth. More something. Because she’s asking. And she’s curious. And she is, for sure, craving that knowing and understanding.
“What do you think?” is just not cutting it any more.
And I have a heart-wrenching feeling that, “Daddy and I have no idea either” isn’t going to add to her sense of comfort, knowing and knowledge satiation either.
My fear is that whatever I say right now she’ll just…believe. As the TRUTH. In all capital letters. Yep, all official like that. Because kids are great that way and that’s just what they do.
I worry that one day she’ll learn so much more and resent the fact that what I told her at age six was pure drivel.
Or even worse, that she’ll never ever question my words. That she’ll take for granted that what I tell her today as we sit snuggled up on the big bed, in our jammys, with damp hair, her little fingers resting lightly on mine, is the only TRUTH there is. And she’ll just blindly follow it as a given. In my mind, that would be a tragedy.
So I’ve been wrestling with what to tell my children about heaven. I tried to remember what my parents told me, and came up blank. Bless them for that.
I researched (and researched and researched) what JUDAISM says. And in all of its official-ness (note the capital letters), I also came up somewhat blank. Lots of ideas, thoughts, theories. But not one set-in-stone belief. Some have a traditional vision of heaven. Others believe that everyone gets there eventually, after some cleansing per se. But, importantly, no pictures were drawn in my mind.
And to be honest with you, although I didn’t come up with the pat answer to share with my children that I was looking for, I was secretly thrilled. And relieved. Because let’s just face it, assumed truth and I are not exactly old friends.
I did glean that Judaism is not focused on the question of how to get into heaven. But rather, on life. And how to live it. And live it well. And, can I just say, there’s an idea that I can heart-and-soul get behind.
Interestingly, the “resources” (Judaism, Jason, my girlfriends) that I love abide by all of the same rules and regulations. Living this life to the fullest. Being good for the sake of being good. Being grateful. Being kind. Being helpful. Do no harm. Make the world a better place.
Now I’m not arguing that nothing exists besides the here and now. The technical side of me (yes, believe it or not, it does exist) is drawn to the soul weight studies. Because if the soul has mass, then, well, you know. And the spiritual side of me is humbled to be a small part of this great big beautiful world. And the emotional side of me has held a crying friend’s hand as she mourned the death of a child and saw that she thought, felt, knew that there’s a heaven for that baby of hers.
What I’m saying is that just like no one can really tell you what it’s like to fall in love. To be a mom. To be pregnant. To go through childbirth. To hold your newborn. To be up all night with her or him. To experience loss. To be chronically ill. To be really and truly terrified. I think that heaven and all of its what-ifs fall into the same category. No one can actually tell you what it is, what it’s like.
And that’s OKAY. And it’s ENOUGH.
So what’s my plan? What do I want my children to know about heaven? Well, here’s a start. I believe in souls. And that theirs are absolutely stunning. That this earth is so abundantly breath-taking in its beauty and opportunity. And we should treat it well. That the thought of what we would do if not better our world, frightens me. That I believe that they, my babies, will do amazing things in this lifetime. And that their souls will grow stronger, wiser, better. And after that? After they’re done with all of that? I. Don’t. Know. And that I feel safe and confident in that not knowing. I’m open to reading more, talking more, learning more and filling my heart with more. But at the end of the day (pun so not intended), I will still not know. And that’s okay. Really. And that is all.