I, like many other people, was raised with the premise that we live eternally in Heaven after the death of our physical body. But I did not really know this to be true, and I did not know what Heaven was like, what kind of a body we have there, what we do there, and who we are with.
Furthermore, I did not know if we would be old and crippled there if our body had been such, when we died. Also, I did not know if we would be happy there. All of these questions were answered for me in no uncertain terms when my Mother, who had severe dementia, died.
My Mother and I had been very close and I was heart-broken that I had not been at her bedside when she died. As I was flying on a plane to her Memorial Service, I was in constant tears behind my big dark sunglasses. I was so grateful that there was no one in the passenger seat next to me. This helped me settle into a contemplative state in which I expressed inwardly how much I regretted that I had not been at Mom’s bedside, and that I had never gotten to see her again.
Suddenly, I had a very vivid vision–the only one I had ever had. I could see my Mother in Heaven. She was beaming at me. She was with my Father (who had passed away a couple of years before), and my Grandma and Grandpa. All of them were smiling from ear to ear as they stood shoulder to shoulder, looking at me with such happiness.
My Uncle, who had died a few months before my Dad, was running to join this joyous group. All of them were life-size and all of them appeared very healthy and happy. My Mom, Dad, and my Uncle looked to be about 30 to 35 years of age (each of them had been in their late 70’s or early 80’s when they died).
Suddenly, my questions were answered. Heaven is real. We are happy, healthy, and young when we are in heaven. We look like ourselves, and we are surrounded by loved ones. We do not die, we translate into another state of being.
I then learned, as the months and years passed, that I could have an ongoing relationship with my Mom. She comes to me in dreams and we can be together. We can even resolve rough spots in our relationship that didn’t get completely polished before she translated, such as the guilt I felt over something that had happened once, a long time ago.
My most recent dream with my mother was in a room all in light pink, and Mom was dressed in a gorgeous pink outfit. She came up to me, put her arms around me and said, “Joan, I love you.” Gone was any sense of guilt I had previously had about an unfortunate event decades ago.
These experiences with my Mom transformed my life, because I had suffered a lot when she was ill and dying. Now I feel that when a loved one dies (translates), they have gone on a vacation to a wonderful place and I’ll join them there later. As such, I now wish to do what I can to help people know that Heaven is real, that we do not die, and that our shared love is forever.
When I was in my early twenties my father was in hospital recovering from a major heart attack and I was terribly afraid he was going to die.
After crying myself to sleep one night I awakened to a group of people standing at the foot of my bed. I knew them to be long-dead relatives led by Dad’s mother who had died when I was only four years old. She was making beckoning motions and seemed to be trying to tell me something, although I could hear no words. Gradually this silent group faded away and I went back to sleep. But I awoke in the morning knowing one thing: When Dad’s time did come, he would be met by those who loved him, and there was nothing for him—or me—to fear.
Some seven years later and married by now, I was preparing to accompany my husband overseas to England while he studied at a university there. Dad had become increasingly frail in the intervening period and I knew that, if I left him, I would likely not see him alive again. I felt sad and guilty about our parting but, thinking back to those figures at the foot of my bed, I comforted myself he would be well met when he passed over. And, remembering the sight of my grandmother unhampered by time and distance, I felt sure Dad would not leave this world without finding a way to say good-bye.
Later, in Bradford, England, I had two dreams on consecutive December nights. In the first, I was staring at the red-carpeted floor in the rural church of my childhood. In the second, Dad came to me and said sadly, “I’m never going to see you again, Ruthie.”
I responded, “Don’t be silly. I’ll see you again at Christmas,” although I had no outward plans to return to Canada for the holidays. Then, overcome with emotion, I said, “Oh, Daddy!” and we shared a loving embrace.
The next night, I was awakened by a phone call from my mother saying Dad had died peacefully beside her while they watched their favourite TV program.
So, I did return to Canada; not exactly at Christmas, but two weeks before. And I did find myself staring at the red carpet in that church. The fact my faith in our final good-bye had been borne out did much to heal my loss—which I had been shown years earlier was not a loss at all, but a new beginning for Dad among souls who loved him.
In 2013, when my mother went into a nursing home, I was beside myself with grief and guilt that she should go to the very place my sister and I had promised we would never put her. Practicality and medical needs won out, but I was torn up inside as I watched her descend further and further into anguished dementia and confusion in surroundings that were completely foreign to her.
When Mom, a devout Christian, finally did let go of her physical life two days before Christmas and two weeks after her 92nd birthday, I was certain that it was her last step toward a far better existence somewhere beyond—just like Dad. I was relieved for both of us, but I could not shake the feeling I had failed her.
Last fall, a dear friend finally got around to giving me a small evergreen bush that she meant to be in Mom’s memory. It was late November, so we agreed that I would be very careful with the planting and watering-in, and that I would name the little tree and speak to it as a way of encouraging it to establish and grow. I christened it “Thelma” after Mom and visited regularly in those first days with water and kind words.
Once, while I was carrying “Thelma’s” drink to her, I became lost in thought about Mom’s ordeal and my guilt over that broken promise. Inwardly, I said, “I’m sure she forgives me. But I don’t know if I will ever forgive myself.”
Later that day, as I was readying to meet friends for a pre-holiday gathering, I opened a re-usable Christmas gift bag that I was going to use to carry some things. As I reached inside, my hand closed around a gift card for a well-known chain of clothing stores. On the back it said, “To Mom from Ruth”. I must have placed that card in the bag a few Christmases previously, when Mom was still able to enjoy the season, and then placed another gift on top. Mom must have put the bag away without ever reaching to the bottom, and I must have packed it up with her other possessions and brought it home after she passed away.
A skeptic might say this little windfall was just that; or, a pleasant coincidence at best. But, to me, this “gift” meant something far more than that. I believe it was Mom’s way of urging me to forgive myself. In the following days, all self-recrimination melted away and I was finally at peace—reassured once again that even death of the physical body cannot break the bond of unconditional love between parent and child.
© The Meaning of Forever Project