Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Lots of new-talk about Heaven has been inspired by a bestseller "Is Heaven for Real," by Pastor Todd Burpo, and just recently Time magazine grabbed on this topic.

Burpo, pastor of a church in Nebraska, a down-to-earth, do-everything man, wrote about son Colton, who almost died at age four, during emergency surgery, and told his daddy afterward, that he went o heaven.

What does one think, nowadays, about Heaven? Are your visions of heaven created by parents, grandparents, the church, bible stories, loving teachers or what?

What do you picture?

Maybe someone told you that death is "a long, long sleep." (Someone sang me a beautiful song that said that.) Or were you told that after you die you will reunite with beloved dead relatives? Perhaps you need a HEAVEN to inspire you to do good deeds, and thoughts of burning in HELL stop you, prevent you from doing ugly, selfish, unlawful things.

These are just my thoughts circling around, me wondering and wandering.

There are so many things to fear .-- fires, poisons, weather disasters, bombs, guns, nutty people, disease, corrupt officials, food and water shortages, and ... golly, there are so many things to put on my list.

When we're little, very, very young, we learn about death when we see a flower die, or find a dead bird on the ground. We learn ways not to think about death or talk about it or fear it. And that makes us fear it more. And fear, I think, is like a black blotch of ink spreading on a blotter.

I wrote a blog two years ago, about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped for 70 days in a mine, and suddenly, almost miraculously, saved. I knew from my own personal experience, that the miners had a new perspective -- a power they didn't have before the mine collapsed. Aside from becoming celebrities, which is a life-changing experience, there's a change in your spirit when you almost die.

I don't mean a scare, "Oh my God, I could have crashed into that car." When you almost die, but don't die, there's a new awareness, a loud, strong sense that this is MY LIFE.

It happened to me.

Six months after I'd recovered from a major automobile accident, all of a sudden I was convulsed with intolerable pain, and landed in an operating room. During the surgery my heart failed. I watched the doctors, I saw them above me trying to revive me with electric paddles.

Did I see light at the end of a tunnel? No. I saw white light over my head. I heard someone say my heart had stopped beating for five-and-a-half minutes. A doctor said I might be bedridden, there might be serious brain damage.

The fact is, I am not brain damaged, paraplegic, or bedridden. While I was recovering, still unable to walk without crutches, I decided -- yes, decided -- that I was going to dance at Lincoln Center. It took a lot of doing, and hours and hours of rehabilitation exercises. It seemed like a fantasy, but it kept me going.

Yep, I did dance at Lincoln Center, two sold-out performances.

No, I don't think I'll go to Heaven or Hell when I die. The fact is, I feel I have been in heaven. And I am writing about heaven, because I am still in heaven -- yes -- it IS heaven -- that I can dream up something I want to do and -- YAY -- go for it!


Maureen Jacobs said...

Beautiful words Em.

For me, Heaven is where my mother is. Heaven is also the happy place that people go when then die.

Honestly, heaven is a facade. I believe there is a supreme being, a God.... The strict catholic upbringing tells me so. But I also think it is a place we have been taught to accept. It sure is better than thinking of ourselves wasting away in the ground.

The beauty of religion is that we all have our own. We live in a country that permits that. Religion is very personal as well. Your relationship with your God, if any.

So heaven for me is a hotel that my mom checked into on 01.02.08.

Hope I see her when it is my turn.

Ameer S. Washington said...

That is a great perspective and one many people have. Other people say we're all living in Hell now, so we all get to go to heaven, and that is a great perspective all on its own.

The theme I keep coming back to is that "nobody knows," so I try not to worry. The other side, the great beyond, the unknown; it is all very interesting. But like you said, I know guns, crazy, people, disease and all that, so I'd more often than not put my awareness and attention towards that, it's right in front of me.

Death to most of us seems like nothing more than a long sleep, because that's all we can compare death to. In sleep, it's the only time our awareness is gone unless we're dreaming, and I don't think dead people dream. That's another conundrum all in its own. If science is right and energy never dies, just disperses, or releases, or moves on, then maybe that's the soul or we end up in a flower.

I think I'm kinda like you in the sense that I'll try to make my heaven here on earth and live in it, with all my job and smiles as often as I can.

Awesome post. Its the question that would haunt man until the sun burns out 5 billion years from now.

Peggy Bechko said...

Powerful piece Em, and I'm with you. Hooray for your Lincoln Center dance - Heaven is the love that surrounds us - the people we love and who love us and the things in life we love to do. Ah.....

Anonymous said...

Heaven is a good place for people to think of when they die instead of just turning to dust in a graveyard. People who have almost died experience a closeness to eternity and the universe I cannot describe. This is what I believe. And there is a God and our prayers and praise go up to Him. Yes, I hope to travel to Heaven someday, just not yet. kam

Carola said...

I'm afraid I don't believe in Heaven or any sort of afterlife. I wish I did. It's wonderful that you feel you have already been to Heaven.

MikesFilmTalk said...

Is there a Heaven? Good question. When I was much, much younger, like about forty-seven years younger I went to church every Sunday and went to vacation Bible School. I firmly believed in three things - God, Jesus and Heaven; in that order.

As I got older, I went to church less (just the occasional Sunday with my Grandmother) I still believed the same three things. I stopped going when the Preacher told the parents of three children who had died the week before in a horrific traffic accident(they had been drinking) that it was because God was punishing them.

I stayed for the rest of the service seething. I never said a word to my Grandmother, but I never stepped foot in the church again. I have to also add that I do not adhere to any specific religion.

I don't really believe in Heaven anyway, not the Bible's version of it anyway. I remember being told (as a child) that in Heaven, we would sit around and sing all day. We wouldn't know anyone, because angels were sexless, and unidentifiable. I was horrified (and still am, I think) that Heaven was going to be so boring!

Of course I am older now and I still feel the same way. I have not had a near-death experience nor have I 'died' and been brought back. I did survive a horrible car accident, one that when the police arrived to check for bodies, the policeman was stunned to find it was my car and that I was alive, with a minimum of injuries.

But...but...I do like the idea of being able to see our loved ones again. It is a nice thought. I just don't believe it's going to happen. I have always believed that there was a strong possibility that the "white light" was perhaps the entry into another dimension.

I find it difficult to believe that the thing that makes us people, our awareness(or soul if you prefer) ceases to exist when our bodies fail. I like to think that we just pass into another dimension, a fourth one, maybe.

All I do know, is the older I get, I'm a lot more comfortable with my mortality and the tiny amount of time we get here on this earth. Sure, I still get the little panicky feeling that says, "Wait! I've still got so much to do! I'm nowhere near ready!" Just like everyone who gets the curtesy of knowing that their time is soon up.

Nice blog, Ms Em and I have to say I like your version of the big H.

Linda Phillips said...

Em,, you are truly my hero. The things that you have done are awe inspiring. I so look up to you for so very many things.

As for me, I do not believe in heaven or hell. I believe that we are souls in bodies and when the body dies, the soul lives on infinitely. It becomes another life at some point, as it has so many times before.

That is my belief and it has been for ages.

Anonymous said...

Em, this was one of the most profound and inspiring pieces you have written.
Thank you for it.
I think you ROCK.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed your piece Em―an inspiring tale to be sure. Especially enjoyed MikesFilmTalk's comment

I was raised in a religious family, but they gave up on me when I was about twelve. My religion has always been the golden rule: 'Treat others as you would like to be treated.' You can't go too far wrong with that. Think how many wars have been waged in the name of religion.

Heaven exists so that believers can see a light at the end of the tunnell, a hope of being reunited with their loved ones, or maybe a chance to be rewarded for living a good life. Hell exists so that preachers have something to scare mean little boys with.

Like you Em, I don't think much about heaven or hell. I just try to suck the juice out of every day that I'm alive. These are the good old days.

Once again, I enjoyed the piece.

Sudhin Choksey said...

It was an interestig read on Heaven. I fully agree with your views. Heaven is to inspire to do good deeds.I too have few thoughts.

I agree that spirit changes when you almost die. I have experienced earthquake of 7.4 on RS and witnessed destruction and deaths.

I marvel at your determination & come back from near death experience and become a renowned dancer. You have a wonderful spirit.

My personal view is that we are energy pack & when energy depletes that we face death and during those moments memory flashes and the quality of those memory flashes will make us feel heavenly or hell depending on the kind of thoughts we have persued

Anonymous said...

Julian Speed

I have never had a near death experience, however I have had a few OBE's when I was younger.

As for life after death I am a firm believer. It is one of those things that you know in your mind and heart that there is more than this existence.

So faith along with heresay from credible sources is what guides me.

Maria Nascimento Ibrahim said...

obvious that the image of heaven and hell was created with the same aim of a God who punishes and punishes, so that people behave in a way that might be considered more correct in the view of someone smarter than the people, and know how to submit to the will of the oppressor ...