Proof I didn’t need

We recently lost a friend to cancer (or as I like to call it, f***ing cancer) — my fourth such loss in less than a year. She had battled strongly for 7 years, accomplishing so much in that time and never letting repeated surgeries and treatments get the better of her. I admired her tremendously. I liked her even more.

At her lovely and moving memorial service, her son spoke first, telling of his mother’s giving him a book that gave her great comfort and explaining her wish that he read it and share it with everyone at the service so they would understand that she was ready to go and at peace. He explained that butterflies played a role in the book, which was why we were each given a white silk butterfly at the service, but that his mother, a voracious and passionate reader, would want us to read the book for ourselves, so he wouldn’t say more. He went on to read a touching poem from the book, as his mother had requested.

Of course, I bought the book: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.

I have never doubted heaven; never needed proof. Yet still, the book was comforting. The author’s premise was that he — as a man of science, a brain expert no less, a man who had heard (and largely dismissed) his patients’ accounts of near death experiences, attributing them to some random brain activity or another (as you’ve undoubtedly heard, too), a man who had experienced the most unlikely deadly illness and even more unlikely recovery — was in the perfect position to serve as irrefutable proof that heaven exists.

It’s pretty darn convincing.

Even so, and even though I don’t doubt heaven, I was struck by how much of what he recounted parallels what religions teach us. There were loved ones, there seemed to be beings at different levels, there were angels, there was incredible overwhelming peace and love, there was God.

The skeptic in me couldn’t help but wonder if maybe those preconceptions influenced what he experienced?

The believer in me answered that maybe that’s simply exactly how it is.

Whatever heaven turns out to be, my favorite part of the book…the part that made me cry when I read it…was the message he received loud and clear on his journey, though no words were spoken:

You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.

You have nothing to fear.

There is nothing you can do wrong. 

What more could we ask of heaven? What could represent heaven better than that?

That that was the message relayed to him — out of every possible message he could have received — is really all the proof I would need, if in fact I needed any proof at all.

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Totally unrelated, yet perfectly related, I heard today about another friend who has battled cancer for many years and faces it with amazing resiliency and courage. I wasn’t aware that her cancer had returned at some point, and that it was quite serious, and that she had had complex surgery in December. But I learned, via her post on Facebook, that her latest scans had shown amazing success, and in turn found a link she’d posted  to the blog she’s been keeping for a few months, since right before the surgery. It’s full of her hopes, her fears, and her unwavering faith and sheer belief that God is with her on this journey.

In one of her posts, she talks about a book that others had recommended to her for years, but that she had only just gotten around to reading.

No, not Proof of Heaven, but another book so very, very close: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.

Of course I bought it. It’s more proof I don’t need, but I’m sure will be so so comforting just the same.

Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile
on boughs too slight, 
feels them give way beneath her,
and yet sings, knowing that she has wings.
~ Victor Hugo

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Believer or not, seeds = faith

Who plants a seed beneath the sod
and waits to see believes in God.
~ author unknown

I’ve planted.

I’m waiting to see.

So, ipso facto, I believe in God, right?

Of course!

But do I really believe these crude little semi-matching trellises fashioned after a how-to in This Old House magazine will be entwined with Black-eyed Susan vine, moonflowers, and morning glory before summer is through?

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Do I really have faith that colorful poppies will be waving in the breeze in this spot next year, just because I sprinkled some tiny black specks in the dirt?

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Do I really think I won’t be planting pots of basil (to match my bird-in-the-hand pot of rosemary) because this will planter be awash in all the basil I could want?

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Can I really foresee the day when this pole with its silly-small birdhouse cap will be a sea of orange nasturtiums — a cheery oasis, even on rainy days like today?

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Or that my “doomed” ash will enjoy its numbered days in a blaze of (morning) glory?

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Not so sure — me and seeds don’t usually get along.

But, but, but…

I planted. I’m waiting. And for now, the rest is up to Dad and Mom (Our Father and Mother Nature). In other words, everything is in the best possible hands.

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So, is it time for that change yet?

I’m not the first or only one to say this (I rarely am). But isn’t it time for that change we kept hearing about? Specifically, isn’t it time for the powers-that-be to stop dwelling on how awful things are and start leading the charge? (And I don’t mean with plastic.)

I get it. The economy is bad. It’s likely to get worse. Much of the retirement fund I spent the last 20 years building is gone. I won’t be able to afford to retire or to have long-term care when I simply can’t make my fingers push the keys anymore. I GET IT.

And so did the powers-that-be — to the tune of $787 billion. 

Isn’t it time, finally, for some encouragement from our leaders?

…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…. (FDR)

Isn’t it time for reassurance that we still live in the greatest country the Earth has ever known and we will not let this destroy us?

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender! (Winston Churchill)

Isn’t it time for a little pep talk?

But don’t forget, men — we’re gonna get ’em on the run, we’re gonna go, go, go, go! — and we aren’t going to stop until we go over that goal line! And don’t forget, men — today is the day we’re gonna win. They can’t lick us — and that’s how it goes… The first platoon men — go in there and fight, fight, fight, fight, fight! What do you say, men!  (Knute Rockne)

Isn’t it time for a little positive thinking?

Isn’t it time for Hollywood to get back to its roots?

Isn’t it time to restore our confidence?

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Sadly, it seems to be time for more platitudes about tightening our belts (mine, like most Americans’, is too tight already, and it has nothing to do with economizing). And scare tactics. And a lot of preaching, but not a lot of practicing.

I’m a pretty good self-motivator. But in tough times, it would be nice not to have to be.

To lead the people, walk behind them. 
                                      ~ Lao Tzu