Mom, Me, and Heaven Is for Real

Renee Ann Smith —  February 24, 2013 — 40 Comments
It’s October 2012. I sit by my mother’s side, my chair squeezed between her bed and the bathroom of a cramped hospital space. While a nurse administers meds, my gaze drifts to the wide window and its panoramic view of our small city and the blue Catskills beyond. A white church steeple rises tall and straight above the trees, now brilliant with fall color. Quite a contrast to this drab, antiseptic place.

Complications of COPD, a small blood clot, and other ailments have brought my 83-year-old mother to the hospital. (This will be repeated three or four times in the next few months.) She doesn’t do well here. She is disoriented and unsure. Her eyes search for the familiar photos that cover her walls at the nursing home. She jumps at every noise.

After the nurse leaves, I take out my book. I’ve been reading to my mom, and this month we’re working our way through Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent.

In spite of her increasing dementia and the distraction of these strange surroundings, Mom is really tuned in. I can tell because when I come to a Scripture or Bible story, I stop in the middle of the section. I wait. Soon, in a feeble voice, my mom finishes the verse. She knows the words by heart.

I love that Todd Burpo backs up everything he shares about his son Colton’s experience with Scriptural truth. But Mom and I are eager for the details on Heaven itself. As we read, Colton’s experience amazes us. His vision gives us chills.

Heaven Is for Real mom to resize

At one point in his journey, Colton learns about a painful part of his parents’ lives that he had not been around for. My voice trembles as I read how this comes about. Tears slide down my mother’s cheeks.

What Colton learns reminds us that God redeems every pain and sorrow. Even though He takes away, what He gives in return rises exceeding abundantly beyond what we can ask or think.

This comforts my mother because she is poised on the threshold between earth and Heaven. This comforts me because ours has been a difficult mother/daughter relationship.

More often than not we butted heads. We didn’t just rub each other the wrong way. At times we scraped raw and bruised each other. I expected more than she could give. I blamed her that she could not be what I needed her to be.

But this book brings home to us that Heaven holds the cure for all life’s ugliness. And how seeing Jesus is the answer to all our dreams. (Click to Tweet)

As the months pass, I grow increasingly grateful for that shared experience. Mom’s mind retreats more and more into her dementia. She no longer responds when I read. She begins to fail more quickly—with one short rally for a Christmas visit from my out-of-town sisters.

Halfway through January 2013, the nursing home suggest we contact hospice. Just hearing the word freezes the breath in my lungs. Who knew hospice would take the form of a burly young man, who would pray over my mom during every visit.

By February, my sister and I spend every moment we can with Mom. We feed her and attempt to comfort her and give her our last messages. When she stops responding, we simply watch over her.

Death torments her brittle, little body like a beast ravaging some poor creature in its mighty jaws. He’s a relentless enemy. He does his best to make us think he will win this battle.

But he’s too late. Even though we’ve never been there, we know—just as surely as Colton does—that Heaven is for real.

We know that God has conquered death, trampled it under His heel. Now death is simply the last foe a Christian fights before the blessed home-going and the joy that lasts forever in the land where he is not allowed. (Click to Tweet)

On February 7, 2013, Mom breaks free of him, and God takes her home.

Yes, I believe Heaven is for real. I believe my mom awaits me there. I know she forgives me—that I could not always be what she wanted me to be.

And I bet Mom thinks it’s cool that now she knows what Colton knows.

Plus more.

I love that the last thing Mom & I bonded over was a book—especially one about Heaven. This little book has been such an ambassador for Christ! I pray for seeds to be sown whenever I see it in a store display. If you’re skeptical about the book, here are some facts that should put your mind at rest. 
  • The total focus of Colton’s experience is on the risen Christ.
  • Colton and Todd emphasize that there’s one way to Heaven: through the saving work of Christ.
  • Colton’s experience leaves him with an evangelistic fervor.
  • The Gospel is clearly explained through the story.
  • The book is filled with pertinent Scriptures.
  • The Burpo’s experience also highlights the power of prayer, forgiveness, and love.
You can pick up Heaven Is for Real at this link. You can connect with the authors at this link.
Thanks for reading my story, friends! Please know that I pray for each one who leaves a comment. Blessings!

Bonus pic. (Yes, that’s me at age 7 or so in the striped shirt and slicked back hair!)

mom collage to resize

Here’s the list of the top 5 Books that Made Me Love Heaven!

This week I’m linking up with Miscellany Monday, Monday Musings, Hear It on Sunday, Soli Deo Gloria, Unite @Rich Faith Rising, The Better Mom, Covered in Grace, Modest Mondays, GraceLaced Mondays, Raising Arrows, A Mama’s Story, Mommy Moments, Teach Me Tuesdays, Gratituesdays, Just Write, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Teaching What Is Good, Mom’s Library, Tuesday Tips, What I Learned This Week, Heart and Home, God-Sized Dreams, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots at Home, Wise Woman Builds Her House, Tell His Story, Wednesday Walkabout, Word-filled Wednesday, Wisdom Wednesday, Wholehearted Home Wednesdays, Thursday Favorite Things,Thriving ThursdayLittle Things Thursday, Hearts for Home, Legacy Leaver, Thoughtful Thursday, Raising Mighty Arrows, Life in the Comments, Almost Friday Thursday Blog HopThis and That Thursday, Favorite ThingsSimply Link, Faith-filled Friday, Photo Friday, Just for Fun Friday, Fellowship Friday, Weekend WhateverSunday Snapshot, The Simple Things, Heart Reflected, Fresh-brewed Sundays, and The Sunday Community.

Renee Ann Smith

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I teach literature in a Christian high school by day and write inspirational fiction by night. I love to share heart-touching quotes and stories here on my blog. So glad you stopped by!

40 responses to Mom, Me, and Heaven Is for Real

  1. Thanks for sharing this story with us and the love between your Mom and the Lord. I want to read this book also. I liked your reference to Death being the last thing we must conquer and The Lord did that for us, we can step through the door knowing he is there on the other side, I think it will be a tremendous feeling of Love and peace for us then….eternally.

  2. Oh Renee, beautifully, beautifully told. Thank you for sharing.

  3. What a great post.
    I loved this book. Colton’s images of heaven will forever remain with me.

    I’m sorry about your mom.
    *hugs*

    I love that you’ve found peace.
    It sounds weird but it brings me peace to know my dad will be waiting in heaven for me when it’s my time to go.

    *HUGS*

  4. Beautifully written Renee. Grandma would be humbled and proud!

  5. Renee, that was beautiful! You have definitely made me want to buy the book, I know you and your sisters must miss your mom terribly and am so happy that you are sure of where she is and how truly happy she must be! (not to mention, whole and well)
    Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. Renee that was moving & powerful & wonderful. Your words describe something I dread, but those words are also comforting. I’ll continue to pray for you & your family.

  7. Renee…powerful, heart tugging and reassuring. What a beautiful reminder that heaven IS real. What humbling reminder to be bold in sharing and living the gospel daily. Praying for you. Thank you for sharing this precious post at WJIM. God bless.

  8. I read that book and it was amazing. I am sorry your mom passed away but I am praying you remain in comfort for where she is and the realization she is well now.
    take care of yourself.

  9. It’s so hard to let moms go. What a beautiful treasure you have in sharing her last earth times in heavenly places. I know you’ll be missing her. What a hope we have for seeing loved ones again.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Being with a loved one as they journey toward Heaven is a gift~a painful but precious gift. May the Lord continue to comfort and hold you close as you grieve.

    Deb Weaver
    thewordweaver.com

  11. this was so sweet and beautifully written. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I’ve read the “For Kids” version of Colton’s story – it was such a great book (we gave it to my niece and nephews for Christmas)!

  12. Sorry to hear about the loss of your mother but know you must be at peace knowing she is at peace. I have heard great things about Heaven Is for Real but haven’t read it yet.

    My mother is in the late stages of early-onset Alzheimer’s (on hospice) and can no longer communicate. I put a lot of her favorite music on an mp3 player for her to listen to in the nursing home but have not tried reading to her.

  13. I also read that book and loved it. How special for you to read it to your mom and having those sweet times together.
    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be praying for you during this time. My mother is also in her 80’s and I don’t like to think of her leaving, yet I rejoice that I know where she will go and I believe I will see her again as you will with your mother.

  14. This is such a touching post. I love the first picture of your mom with the book. I am SO filled with joy that heaven is indeed REAL. What hope. What joy. What happiness. What purpose.

    Praying peace and comfort for you tonight.

  15. Thanks for your kinds words, my friends. I so appreciate you!

  16. Oh, Renee. God bless you as you share your journey with us. I’ve come to know your mom through your posts and her passing touches me deeply. May the days ahead be strenghtened by our Lord in ways he alone can do. Much love. Diane

  17. This was so sweet to read. I’m so happy for your Moms new found peace, and I pray The Lord sends peace to you as well.
    Thanks for sharing!

  18. What a beautiful heartfelt post; it was an emotional read for me. I lost my mother in 2006 and my father in 2001. My father died of complications from hip surgery and he had dementia. My mother had congestive heart failure. She lived with me the last few months. Being a hospice nurse for several years I thought I knew how to handle death. Being a caregiver was another story.
    My parents and I have a deep faith in our Savior Jesus Christ and I know there is a heaven. I have had many spiritual experiences with the passing of patients and family. I am now trying to care for an 99 year old aunt who is now in a rehab center. I visit her as often as possible. I know that she doesn’t have a long time left. She doesn’t have the faith I do; but she does believe in Heaven. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. I also want you to know that when you have mentioned your mother and her struggles; you were in my prayers. I am going to get the book.
    Blessings to you!

  19. I love that book. I read it after my Grannie died. Praying comfort for you as you deal with the loss of your mom.

  20. I just stopped by from Wisdom Wednesday. This post is just beautiful

  21. Oh my goodness…what can I say. I was taken aback by your lovely awesome heartfelt post about your mom. What a blessing! WOW…I will remember this today. Blessings to you and i am grateful you got to spend time with mom first….I did too for my dad and it meant alot!

  22. Again, thank you for reading this and for leaving such kind comments, friends. I cannot adequately express how strengthening you all have been. Blessings!

  23. Hello Renee

    I’m your neighbour over at the link up on Serving Joyfully. What a bittersweet time for you and your family. I know first-hand how hard it is to watch a loved-one wasting away (I lost my dad to cancer 14 years ago and my mother in law, also to cancer, just last year. They both died at home under the care of their loved ones.) yet it is also a time of much blessing and grace. My condolences on y our loss…I pray for strength for you all.

    Regarding the book, I’ve seen it and have wanted to read it…thank you for the little review, it does make me want to go and buy it now!

    God bless you!

  24. Thanks for sharing. We lost my mom on December 29 after a blessedly-brief (19-day) downhill slide into Hospice care. The last several days she kept asking for her mother, when was her mother coming, she was going on a trip and wondered if she needed to bring her purse. 10 days before she died she had a TOTALLY lucid hour with 2 of her granddaughters, and I am so glad they had that last hour with her because they are the ones who took her death the hardest.

  25. Hi Renee,
    My 95 year old Mom beat your Mom to heaven by ONE DAY! So you and I are probably in similar stages of grieving. I read the Burpo story several months ago; it was then–and still is–a comfort to think about. Thanks for this timely reminder.

  26. I needed some comfort after the death of my 83 year old mom who passed from complications associated with Dementia. Loved the book and it gave me the peace and comfort I needed…it also gave me a thirst for more knowledge from the Bible. I know my mom is smiling and has a youthful appearance as she is greeting those who have passed after her and she’ll be there to greet me too! I love you Mom and I thank the Lord for giving us Colton and his book!!!

  27. This book touched my life also. Reading it after losing my brother and two great nephews (as well as another in another car) in a horrific car accident, soothed my soul. I knew that they were at peace even though we were a mess. God sends you what you need when you need it. What a soul-touching story!

    I wish I had had this book before my mother lost her battle to COPD/cancer. It would have changed our last months together. I’m so glad you such a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  28. So sorry for you at the loss of your mom, but so happy that you have the assurance of where she is. Why not ask her to reassure you by answering a specific question? When my sister died, recently, I asked her to tell me the gender of her miscarried child, many years earlier. She could only know if she, herself, were in heaven. That evening I heard, as I dozed, my voice explaining to someone those who met my sister as she entered heaven. I ended by saying, “…and her son.” I awoke startled, but clearly understanding that my sister had heard and answered my request. The Lord permits communication with those who have been separated from us by death. Your mom will likely answer you in some way, too.

  29. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom.. This was a beautiful story of love. I’m so glad you bonded with your mom . I read “Heaven Is For Real..” It is an amazing book that lets people know what we have in store for us in Heaven. God bless.

  30. Michelle Kinsey March 7, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing… I too have read this book and shared with my family.. It will always be present in my home and shared among people whom wish to read of the love Christ has for each one of us.. You are in my prayers and thoughts.. Have a blessed day

  31. Lisa M. Decker March 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I also read this book, I loved it so much that I could read it over and over. I am sorry about your moms passing! God Bless you 🙂

  32. Thank You! so much for posting this I also read this book when my mom was in hospice and it was a great! help to me God Bless! you and your beautiful mother. Patti

  33. Thank you for sharing your story, which is similar to my own. “Heaven is for Real” was the last book I bought for my mother after her diagnosis of terminal cancer was verified. At that point, she had entirely lost her faith and I hoped this book would bring her back so that she could live out her remaining weeks in peace. Everyone in my family took a turn reading it as well and I now constantly recommend it to people who are suffering a loss.

  34. Thank you Renee for sharing your wonderful story about this wonderful book. I enjoyed hearing about your final days with your Mom. I heard the Burpo’s story on the Today show when it first came out and ordered it for my e-reader. I was so moved when they related the event of the little boy finding out he had a sister, even though his parents never shared this with him. I had four miscarriages very early in each pregnancy and to find out that my little babies are in heaven and waiting for me was so uplifting and helpful to know. The last year and a half I have been a caregiver for my little Mama who is 86 and at one time was put on a ventilator and told she would get no better. So, per her wishes and a living will, we took her off the ventilator and was told she would die in a matter of hours to days…that was in Dec. of 2012! She spent two months in a nursing home and was able to come live with me for 10 months. She is now back at home on her own and doing well. She has some memory issues, but at this time she is doing remarkable for everything she went through. I never thought about reading to my Mom, she use to be an avid reader, but now her little brain won’t let her pay attention very long to really get into a book.Perhaps I will ask her if she would like me to read to her. I am so glad you feel better about you and your Mom’s relationship. Even though my little Mama and I are super close and always have been, there are times I feel guilty about having to put her in a home. There are times now that I lose my patience with her, because I have repeated information to her over and over…but the good thing about memory loss is she doesn’t remember us arguing! I loved the scenerio you described about her finishing the bible verses. Mama and I have a favorite verse that I started “testing” her with while she was in the home and we repeat it almost daily. I will say: This is the day the Lord hath made…and she finishes it…let us rejoice and be glad in it. I plan on using that verse as the opening at her funeral when that day comes. Let me share something with you that the singer Amy Grant said in reference to being a caregiver for her father and mother that had dimentia. She said that being a caregiver to your parents is the last great lesson they will ever teach you…and she is so right! I have learned so much through this journey (good and bad). I will cherish the days I have left with Miracle Mama (as we nicknamed her)! Thanks for sharing your story.

  35. It has been my honor to spend time with the Burpo family over the past two summer’s while their church family and community packed food for FMSC. I can assure you they are genuine, humble people not looking for attention but only to encourage and bless others through their experience. Colton strikes me as a very normal young man in many ways while at the same time a calling sits on him that is clear and God sent. Keep the whole family in your prayers as they continue to trust and learn where God directs them.

  36. Sorry for your loss. Being close to my Mom, it’s hard for me to hear of mothers and daughters having tough relationships, if any at all. So glad you were able to bond with your mom. Blessings

  37. Thanks for sharing your wonderful and inspirational story. I am going to buy the book and after I finish reading it, I will pass it on to my daughters to read. Your story really touched my heart! God bless you and your mom up in heaven!

  38. My daughter forwarded this to me because she knows what a hard time I have had since losing my Mom in June 2012. I have not read the book but I do know that Heaven is real. I know that my Mom is there waiting for me someday. She lived with me for the past ten years and her sickness and death really came quite suddenly. We did not have a great mother/daughter relationship; it seemed I could never please her but my five brothers could do not wrong. However, I loved her dearly and miss her more than I ever dreamed that I would; sometimes feeling guilty because we didn’t alway see eye to eye and thinking I should have done better. I spend many days sitting in my recliner crying and in a very depressed mood waiting for the magic moment when this grief will be over. In my Mom’s last few days and hours, I prayed with her and sang to her. Thank you for your story and inspiration.

  39. Thank you, dear friends, for sharing your hearts with me. I consider it a privilege to read your personal stories. May God bless each of you with peace, healing, and joy. Hugs!

  40. I never knew this book existed until I was holding my 73 yr old Mothers hand as she was taking her last breaths on June 19, 2013 due to end stage COPD and other complications, as time was getting near I called our Pastor so he could be with my Mom and give us comfort, he was telling me about this book and a few days after her passing my daughter brought it to me, little did I know this book would change my life forever, It strengthen my faith in God gave me peace and hope that knowing one day I will see my loved ones again. God Bless you ~Deb~

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