As a pastor, I have talked about and preached about God, heaven and God’s love for us many times. But in all of us, there is a “doubting Thomas.” The question is: are God and heaven real, and ultimately, will we go to heaven when we die? This is something I struggled with for years.
Several years ago, my 86-year-old mother was rushed to the hospital. I was told she had the last stages of inoperable colon cancer. We knew she had just a couple of days left here on earth. My wife and I prayed for healing for her, as did our prayer community. Within a few days, the doctor said her death was imminent. My mother was not responsive, just lying in that hospital bed with her eyes closed and breathing heavily.
Was she going to heaven? Would she see my dad who died 15 years earlier? I prayed for peace and for a holy death for her, and for me to know that heaven is real.
As my wife and I stayed by her bedside, a woman came into the room, carrying a small harp. She said her name was Carol and was a harpist, and her ministry was to play for those in the hospital. She asked, “May I play for your mother?”
Little did she know my mom always wanted to be a harpist, but could never afford that instrument. She loved harp music. I said, “Of course,” with tears streaming down my face.
Carol sat on the floor and started to play, “Nearer my God to Thee,” “Amazing Grace” and finally “It is Well With My Soul.” My mother seemed to hear these comforting hymns and, all of a sudden, she opened her eyes and looked up with a beautiful smile on her face, gasped like she had just seen an amazing sight, and exclaimed “Ohhhhhh!”
And with that beautiful smile still on her face, she slowly closed her eyes. We watched her vitals on the monitors slowly decrease and ultimately stop.
We looked around to thank Carol for coming to play, but she apparently had already left. We went out to the nurses’ station to inquire where Carol had gone so we could thank her, but each nurse said she didn’t know of any Carol, or of anyone who played the harp for patients. Carol was God’s angel sent to us.
I firmly believe God sent his son Jesus or his angels down to escort my mother up to heaven. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 14, Jesus says: “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back to take you to be with me that you may be where I am.”
I firmly believe in heaven and that there is a place made for you and me. All you have to do is accept God in your life.
May you be blessed this Lenten season.
The Rev. Terry Highland is interim rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 45 W. Winter St., Delaware.