I first shared this blog in May of 2011 after reading this book.
The concept of heaven was never foreign to me. I was raised in a religion where you were taught not to live for this world, but for heaven alone. And the heaven you were living for was far greater than “any eye has seen or ear has heard or human mind has conceived.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) I was cool with that.
Throughout my youth, I lost both sets of grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and friends and was completely at peace, and maybe even a little jealous, that they had obtained the very thing I was living for before I did. While I grieved and missed them, I was comforted that they were “Safe in the Arms of Jesus.” (A hymn we sang often.)
But when our daughter, Sadie Rose, died, so did my peace about heaven.
People would try to comfort me with well-meaning phrases like, “she’s in a better place,” “she’s with Jesus now” and so on, but my grieving heart and aching empty arms didn’t get that memo. Oh, I believed she was in heaven, but I wasn’t sure what or where heaven really was anymore.
I would look skyward and try to picture her among the clouds, walking with the angels, rocking in the arms of God or of those who have gone before, but I didn’t feel the reassurance I so longed for. I felt that as her mother I needed and desperately wanted to know exactly where she was and who was watching over her, but as hard as I prayed, as much as I tried, I never regained my peace.
People shared books and book titles with me on the subject of heaven and I would start reading them and never finish. They didn’t bring the comfort I hoped for, partly because I have a tendency to be a skeptic about someone’s personal revelation and partly because I just couldn’t connect anymore.
I basically just chose to continue believing that Sadie was in heaven and tried to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t have to know more than that. I didn’t talk about those feelings, I didn’t share my doubting and questioning with others, I just kept praying that at some time, somehow, somewhere, my peace would return.
And it did! By the testimony of a child in a book called “Heaven is For Real.”
I was at a local book store browsing for items to put in a Sadie Rose Foundation Bereavement Packet when the owner of the store approached me. (She has known me since I was 7 or 8 years old.) She was holding a book in her hands with a bright yellow cover and a picture of a 4-year-old boy on the front.
She shared in brief, how this young boy had gotten sick, had surgery, and then later started saying things about heaven that his parents didn’t understand how he would know. The book-store owner’s enthusiasm coupled with my quest for heavenly peace made me purchase the book on the spot.
I started reading and couldn’t put it down. This little boy, Colton Burpo, became gravely ill, endured two major surgeries and an extended hospital stay. Although his complete recovery amazed the surgeons, doctors and nurses, no one had ever mentioned, nor was it written anywhere on his charts that he had died, coded or been clinically dead at any point.
After the surgery, life in the Burpo household returned to some sense of normalcy. That is until Colton started talking in his innocent 4-year-old way about seeing Jesus and God and his grandpop and his little sister whom his mom had miscarried that Colton never even knew about before his illness.
In bits and pieces, this little guy gave affirmation after affirmation that he had indeed had a heavenly experience. Amazingly, he didn’t see it as unusual or crazy. The parents, (his dad is a pastor), were careful not to plant thoughts or answers into his head, but simply allowed him to reveal what he had seen and experienced on his own terms in his own child-like way.
That, along with the fact that this was a child with no agenda, who was not trying to impress anyone or capitalize on his experience, and that everything he said aligned with what I had always believed in the past, was the turning point in my search for answers about heaven.
I cried, I laughed, I rejoiced. God used a little child to show me that my Sadie Rose is so happy, so healthy, so free, so loved and so very “Safe in the Arms of Jesus!” I believe it now more than ever and the peace is so refreshing, so freeing. Although I still miss her and wish to hold her in my arms and watch her grow, the deepest darkest aching of my heart is replaced by the joyful reassurance that I will truly be with her again one day.
While I know that the longing and aching to hold our children in a tangible and physical way so often overwhelms the hope and promise of heaven, my prayer is that this heavenly peace will be granted to every parent in the midst of that pain and sadness.
Wherever you are in your grief, I personally believe that God knows, God hears and God cares.