When the telephone rang at approximately 2:00 a.m. Saturday, October 16, 2004, I knew that my father had died. My mother said toward the end, he simply slipped into a coma-like state never to awaken. A part of me was relieved to hear this news given that he had always said the he wanted to sleep away - no fighting or struggling. In these moments death becomes deeply personal not an abstraction or something we hear or read about but a certainty. Death forces us to consider our own mortality - our finitude - to recognize that as surely as we are born, one day we too will die. Then what?
Some scoff at the very mention of heaven and hell. They reason that since no one they know, or has ever known, has seen either clearly - they don't exist. I will not attempt to explain or even defend that human belief - or lack thereof - does not make a thing less or more real. Said differently, the existence of heaven and hell is not predicated on our understanding, acceptance or belief.
As a Christian, my father believed in heaven. Even when he knew that the end was near, rather than seeking to turn from death - he welcomed it. The promise of going to a prepared place - a place of rest brought him profound peace. My prayer is that when I pass from this life into life eternal, I will see my father again. The hope and the prayer of those who believe is that the One who promises will one day return and receive those called by His name unto Himself.
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first." I Thessalonians 4:16*
*King James Version