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.
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.
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.
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!)