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Ethan's Quandary

Driving in the car the other day, my older son, Ethan, looked up from his phone and suddenly asked me a very serious question in a very serious tone.

"Dad, is there a Heaven?"

I was a little taken aback and wasn't sure how to answer. We'd certainly talked about Heaven before, and different depictions of what it might be like there. And this being the Easter Season, thoughts and discussions about Heaven and about how one might get there are no doubt more common than at other times of the year.

But I don't think that was the only impulse for Ethan's quandary. I think, at the age of eleven, he is beginning to ask himself questions about life, and the direction and purpose of his life, and where it ultimately will lead. In the past six years, he's lost two grandparents, two great-grandparents, and a couple of pets, so he understands that all life is finite. I also think that Ethan was asking me for my honest assessment, not what I was taught, or even what I believe, but what I knew. So I told him the truth.

"I don't know."

I of course reiterated what I hoped and believed might be the case, but I've made it a point to be honest with my sons, especially when discussing things that are difficult. When my mother died, just before Christmas in 2020, I remember Ethan tearfully asking if this meant we were never going to have Christmas Eve dinner at her house ever again. I told him the truth, that we were not, and we cried together.

Thus, I told him what I knew about Heaven too. Now I wasn't trying to discount anyone's faith, including my own, or their firm belief in what comes after life. But, again, being honest, as we walk up the stairs or down the hall to our bedroom every night, we have a pretty good idea what we're going to find on the other side of the doorway. As we approach death's threshold, I don't think most people have that level of certainty. And not knowing, including not knowing if we'll ever see our loved ones again, is one of the major reasons that almost all people fear death.

After some thought, I composed a little poem that I hoped would convey my thoughts to my son a little better. It is raw and unfinished, but I thought I would post it on this Good Friday anyway.

Is there a Heaven?

I do not know.

One day I hope

to get there though.

Despite my doubts,

I often pray,

I guess I kind of believe,

In a way.

I know I’ve been lucky,

My life has seen joy.

And I have been blessed with you,

Beautiful boy.

But I wish there was more,

Than just this brief chance.

To laugh, to love,

To feel, to dance.

So if you reach Heaven,

And I cannot be found,

Trust that I’m at peace,

Knowing that you are sound.

But think of me,

From time to time,

Of the fun that we shared,

And this tender rhyme.

Is there a Heaven?

I wish I knew.

But today I’m just happy to be here,

With you.

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