Grandpa Stuart was curious about heaven in the final days of his life.
Last June Grandpa received his lung cancer diagnosis and the prognosis was not good. He started receiving hospice services almost immediately. From diagnosis to death was exactly forty days. And Grandpa made an epic journey from non-believer to man of faith in those forty days.
I wasn't able to see him every day, but when I did, we prayed together. Those moments were somewhat surreal for me; I never thought during my younger years that Grandpa would pray with me. My favorite memories were when we prayed the "Our Father" and we'd take turns saying the lines.
Two days prior to his death, I knelt next to his bed and prayed the Rosary with my head resting on his hand. He lay struggling for breath, but mid-way through the prayer, he wrapped his arm around me. I don't remember who took the picture I've posted here, or even whether I knew someone else was in the room.
I know Christ was there. I think Grandpa knew too.
When I opened my eyes the sheet under my face was damp with tears I don't remember shedding. I watched Grandpa sleep for awhile and wondered what he would see in heaven. Who would be there waiting for him? Would he be able to hear and see again like when he was young? Would it even matter?
I cannot wrap my mind around the concept of heaven; still, I believe.
When Jakob first discovered that Santa Claus was not necessarily a living, breathing magician that visits everyone's home at Christmas, he was livid. He cried and wouldn't be consoled. "You lied to me!" was all he said. His fury lasted a few days. Needing some comfort, he spent time on my lap, but refused to talk to me.
In my own defense, I never lied to my kids about Santa Claus. Whenever they discussed the topic, I always said, "I believe there is magic in the world."
Epiphany Sunday we were on our way to church and I could tell he was tired, and probably more than a little irritated with me.Waiting to make a right on Hwy 25, I caught his eye.
"If there's no Santa," he said in a sad little voice, "How do I know there's a heaven."
There's all kinds of answers to that question.
All I can say, is if I had it to do over again, I would "do" Christmas just a little different.
Am I regretful? Not really. My son started a theological debate with me before he turned nine years old. He wants to know the Truth; his will be an examined and tested faith. I think he'll be all the stronger for it.