What Really Happens When We Die?

Karen Spears ZachariasBy Karen Spears Zacharias

Christians lie about heaven more than any other subject.

We say knuckle-headed things at funerals. "God must've needed another angel in heaven, so he took your baby girl." Or, "Your daddy is in such a better place now."

But who can long for heaven, when you have -- like my girlfriend The Redhead did -- a beautiful home on the lake, a husband you adore, children to raise, and grandbabies yet unborn?

In the last hours of her life, The Redhead called me to her side.

She was "perfectly aware and rational," as Sheldon Vanauken wrote in A Severe Mercy of his beloved wife Davy's dying. "As I stood there in that suddenly empty room, I was suddenly swept with a tide of absolute knowing that Davy still was. I do not mean that I thought her body might still live; I knew it didn't. But past faith and belief, I knew quite overwhelmingly that she herself -- her soul -- still was."

The Redhead and I had known each other longer than we'd known our husbands. On the day of her dying, she was propped up on pillows in the den where she could look out over what she always called her "lake of shining waters." She did not look sick. She looked radiant, that curly mop of red hair freshly washed. Smiling, she said, "We've had so many wonderful adventures."

The tears surfaced, as they do now, recalling those times.

"Don't cry," she said, admonishing me. "I'm in no pain. God's provision is perfect. His joy is complete."

Long ago I came to believe that heaven is not a gated community with streets of gold. Rather, I think, it is like college. You miss your family, your friends, and the familiar life you once had, but, homesickness aside, college is a blast. There's so much to learn, so much to do.

And the best of all friends eagerly awaits us.

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Karen Spears Zacharias’ books include Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? and After the Flag Has Been Folded, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, New York Times, and Newsweek. She writes daily at her blog, and can be followed via Twitter.


9/20/2010 4:00:00 AM
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