Two or three years ago my mom broke her foot. She was nearing sixty at the time. There are only three steps off the porch, but she missed one, sent the ankle sideways, crack. She had to have it wrapped, use crutches, the whole deal.
One day I had to drive her to Wal-Mart. By the end of our trip, she was tired, so I went for the car while she waited by the doors. When I swooped around the lot toward the doors, the car ended up being at an awkward slant, a little too far from the door, a little too far in the road. Mom started hobbling toward me just as I was getting anxious about the car’s position. A young man was coming out at the same time. He watched my mom elbow one crutch forward at a time, probably making little huffing noises as she has been known to be dramatic. Just then I started inching the car forward, maybe five feet. She hobbled on, trying to catch up when she’d just been almost to me. Then I gassed it five more feet. By then the young man had fully directed himself at my mother, offering his assistance as my cruel self could be seen hollering from laughter in the driver’s seat. Mom started chuckling, too, under and around her exasperation. His face was scrunched up in concern as he grabbed the door and opened it for her, probably trying to stave off any more driving. Mom thanked him and assured him she didn’t need any more help while I continued to bark laughter inside.
Mom texted me the other day. She was lying on her back-patio couch, looking up at the bluebird sky. A canopy of green branches spread out like a fan above her. She sent me a picture. She said I could use it in a blog post, and said she’d like a word on “perspective.”
Mom’s always been able to see the positive, believe the best. When our next-door neighbor made snide comments after we accidentally kicked a ball onto her property, I called my mom to fume. Her first thought was that maybe I misunderstood. Turns out we probably didn’t misunderstand, but for every insult, mom comes back with a kinder perspective.
After my cousin died she started reading up on death experiences. What people said as they were dying, what happened to people who briefly died and came back. She said there were a lot of nonsense stories. She also said there were lots of stories that held to a thread. Random stories that corroborated the others, had the same details, generally piecemealed a coherent story about Heaven. Vibrant colors. Always that. Sometimes family members. Sometimes music. Sometimes Jesus talking.
We’re a fairly conservative family, spiritually speaking. Not overly expressive in worship or prayer. Most of our lives we haven’t thought over much about Heaven, or put over-much stock in what people who have claimed to visit have had to say. But when my cousin died, we did see some things. The veil between Heaven and Earth seemed, for just a tiny bit, thinner. Ross heard music. (“What did it sound like?” my Aunt asked. “Contemporary Christian,” he said, and when we heard that we chuckled a little.) Ross asked his friend at his bedside, “can I touch you?” and seemed amazed when he could. He’d been afraid of dying, leading up. But that day was all peace. He spoke with confidence. Said, over and over, “I love you, Jesus.”
It changes the way you see things, seeing that. Makes you curious. Gives you a face to look forward to at the gate. You wonder things like, “what have I got wrong?” and “maybe there’s more than I thought.” You start planning your life here a little more for the life there. Like, “would Jesus like this? What gifts has He given me? What’s He want me to do?” All of the sudden, the grumpy neighbor beside you starts looking not so bad. You start thinking, “I want you in Heaven, too.” You start baking muffins and making small talk, taking the jabs she throws with more patience. You start giving her the benefit of the doubt. You start praying. “God answers prayers.” You know this now, for sure. You see the backyard forest all lit up, the sun catching the East leaves in glowing Arugula greens; you think, “that’s nothing” and try to imagine it even better.