Heaven

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When our daughter Lillian was about five years old, she started thinking about the natural end of all the things she knew. She started thinking about dying and death. 

I don't know why she did, but she did, and it made her sad and worried. She didn't want to lose her mother and me and her grandparents to death, and she was frightened that she would. 

 


Because she was a bright kid and a problem solver, she tried to think of a solution, some way around death, and the solution she thought out was her own personal vision of heaven.

Heaven, she figured, would be a place where she and her parents and all the people she loved would live in some perfect place, interacting with all her favorite characters from all her favorite books.

It sounded great, and I used to love to hear her talk about it. She and her mom and I would be in the same perfect place as the characters in Laura Ingalls Wilder and C. S. Lewis. We would have lunch in a park with Laura and Lucy and Edmund and Susie and Peter and Aslan, the compassionate, kind, loving God of this Heaven. 

I loved to hear about Lillian's vision because her vision of heaven would have been more pleasant than mine. 

My favorite books were Crime and Punishment, Primo Levi's Survival in AuschwitzGrapes of WrathSound and the Fury, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. Gloomy books, every single one of them.

And I knew that my heaven wouldn't be the golden place Lillian's heaven was. My heaven would be a sad place, a heaven-noir where every day would be filled with rain and snow, misery and grief. In the dark gray shadows of that heaven, we would all huddle around in the cold talking the language of loss. 

God would be a penniless peddler with an empty push cart.

Lillian is now 38 years old, and sometimes when I'm thinking too much about Dostoevsky and Morrison and Faulkner, I call her up and say, "Hey, Lillian, remember the time you imagined that heaven was a place where you and Laura and your mom and me would play tag?" 

And Lillian says, "Yes, I sure do, I remember when Aslan would ...."

 _________________-

(The photo above is of Lillian and my dad and my mom's brother Uncle Walter.)

 

To read more about me and Lillian and my wife Linda and my mom and dad, and everything else I love stop by my blog Echoes of Tattered Tongues.  Just click here.

Comments

opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:26am
That sounds like a nice place - better than the heaven that Christians believe in - an eternity of praising god might get tedious. Great imagination.
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:46am
Tom - I thought you'd gone - or was that a ruse?
Satanism - that was really the old pagan religion prior to Christianity ousting it and declaring it evil wasn't it?
What makes you think that John is a Satanist?
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:47am
Opher, thanks for the comment.  
 
I remember listening to the nuns at my grade school talk about heaven and hell.
 
Both sounded boring -- Heaven sounded like a church service that went on and on and on.  One sermon after another.  
 
Hell sounded like the math class that wouldn't end.
 
Both places sounded like places no human would want to be in.
 
 
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:48am
Here's a piece of a poem I wrote.  
 
A tree is the palm of my hand
and the face of all there is
to wonder about
 
It is the tree to heaven
and its roots start
in your heart and mine.
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:51am
Tom, stick around.  You might learn something.  Really.
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:51am
I think a few thousand years of singing praises would probably send me wishing for hell as an escape. I can't imagine much worse.
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:52am
Tomi - that's fine. You see things very weirdly don't you?
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:53am
I'll shake hands with that poem John.
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:54am
Tom, I've learned a lot from you.
 
I had never had a conversation with someone like you.
 
You've taught me a lot about how some people try to see history.
 
I'm working on an article based on your responses to my All Holocausted Out essay and my Remembering My Mother essay.
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 11:56am
Tom makes it up as he goes along John. He has a mindset that distorts history and people into what he would like it to be.
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 12:09pm
Well Tom I've visited the Death Camps in Germany. They seemed real to me - the piles of hair in bales, the rooms of shoes, suitcases, glasses. I've looked at the detailed logs of the transit. Seems real to me. I've watched the films of the liberation of the camps. Seemed real. Why deny it?
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 12:19pm
I'm a biologist Tom.
I saw the ovens. I saw the shower rooms where they dropped the canisters of zyklon B through. 
They made up the films of skeletal corpses too? And the mass graves?
Holocaust does not need removing; it needs shouting out. It is one of many atrocities but in its calculated, cold blooded callousness it is one of the very worst.
Tubularsock Added Aug 6, 2017 - 1:49pm
John, what a wonderful view of Heaven. Sounds like a fun place for Tubularsock to hang out. Tubularsock was more of a Crime and Punishment kind of a guy but C.S. Lewis was a least fun.
 
From what you have written here Tubularsock just doesn’t see a “Satanist disguised as a half-Jew atheist” but life is but a projection so one see usually themselves in what they project onto others.
 
Tubularsock enjoyed your historical slice of your history. It is funny that it’s the little things that really count. Cheers.
EXPAT Added Aug 6, 2017 - 2:42pm
john. I like the idea of an idyllic existence, but I have seen too much to ever think it is possible. I guess that is the difference between youth and age. When you are young, all things are possible! When you are old, all things are tainted by memories!
Even in Heaven, they don't sing all the time.
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 3:05pm
Tom, Germany according to you was heaven.  Hitler a god or at least a superman.  
 
Some of us dream of peace.  Others dream of butchery, killing the untermensch, the subhuman Poles, Blacks, Jews, Roma.
 
May you sleep well.  
EXPAT Added Aug 6, 2017 - 3:09pm
john. Tommy cannot be reasoned with! Take your own advice and ignore or delete him!
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 4:55pm
Tom, read what you've written a little more carefully.  You present Hitler as a wise and kind gent.  Germany as the greatest country on earth.  
 
It's all in your response to my essay "All Holocausted Out."  
 
Check it out.  
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 5:02pm
You clearly haven't read anything about Hitler except the comic books published by the Nazi Stormfront.  
 
 
Saint George Added Aug 6, 2017 - 6:58pm
We see what we want to believe more than we believe what we see
 
Of course, that pithy apothegm would apply to you, too, right?
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 7:35pm
Tom - you are typical of all deniers. You make up your own story and deny all the mass of evidence. If it doesn't fit with your thinking it didn't happen despite the mounds of evidence - and boy I've seen mounds of evidence. I suppose they made up all the film as well?
You excuse mass murder. That is shameful.
opher goodwin Added Aug 6, 2017 - 7:37pm
Tom - justifying your own views by using war atrocities of the allies as an excuse is pathetic. We committed atrocities too - Dresden and Nagasaki come to mind - but not on the systematic scale of the Nazis.
john guzlowski Added Aug 6, 2017 - 9:43pm
Tom, you'll love my new novel Road of Bones, coming out next year.  About a German woman trying to live through the horror of the allied bombing of Berlin. 
 
Really. 
 
Coming out from Cervena Barva Press. 
 
Amazon will have it. 
 
The first chapter, about her German lover trapped behind Russian lines, is available at my blog Echoes of Tattered Tongues.  
 
http://lightning-and-ashes.blogspot.com/2010/03/german-short-story-about-war.html?m=1
john guzlowski Added Aug 7, 2017 - 8:54am
Tom, please do read it.  It's a novel about how the Germans suffered in WWII. Focuses both on Homefront Germans and those in the war against the Reds.  
 
Give me your email and I'll send you a note when Road of Bones comes out.  
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Aug 7, 2017 - 1:21pm
John
 
Can't we ever stop to remember old wars until a new one comes that we can remember afterwards ?
 
I fucking hate wars, and I would never write a book about the most primitive part of our species....
EXPAT Added Aug 8, 2017 - 2:21am
Stone. If you hate wars, why did you get married? Yuck Yuck Yuck.
EXPAT Added Aug 8, 2017 - 2:24am
Without wars, the most ruthless, evil people would rule the world.
Shaka Zulu is a prime study.
Stone-Eater Friedli Added Aug 8, 2017 - 5:51am
Expat
 
Good question LOL
Dino Manalis Added Aug 8, 2017 - 11:39am
Beautiful, we should strive to make our world a Heaven on Earth!
john guzlowski Added Aug 8, 2017 - 1:49pm
Thanks, Dino.  I sure would like the earth to be heaven.  I wish I could figure out how.
john guzlowski Added Aug 8, 2017 - 1:52pm
Stone-Eater, I hate war too.
 
My father spent more than 4 years in a concentration camp.  My mom spent 3 years in one.  She saw her mom shot in the face, her sister raped, her sister's baby kicked to death.  My mom traded sex for food to stay alive.
 
I hate war but I'm not going to ignore it and the shit it does to us. 
 
Here's a poem about what the war taught my mom.
 
What the War Taught Her
 
My mother learned that sex is bad, 
Men are worthless, it is always cold 
And there is never enough to eat.
 
She learned that if you are stupid
With your hands you will not survive
The winter even if you survive the fall.
 
She learned that only the young survive
The camps.  The old are left in piles
Like worthless paper, and babies
Are scarce like chickens and bread.
 
She learned that the world is a broken place 
Where no birds sing, and even angels
Cannot bear the sorrows God gives them.
 
She learned that you don't pray 
Your enemies will not torment you.  
You only pray that they will not kill you.
opher goodwin Added Aug 8, 2017 - 2:23pm
Tom - there were plenty of burned corpses in British cities too. Our cities were blitzed to pulp. My mother-in-law was bombed out of three houses in Hull and had to be dug out from under the rubble. My Mum had her classmates blown to bits by a V1 doodlebug. Germany bombed the hell out of Britain.
Not that I'd excuse Dresden or Nagasaki. Bombing of civilians was a vicious tactic to bring countries to their knees. Germany perfected it.
Bit different to a systematic, cold blooded killing of millions of people though isn't it?
opher goodwin Added Aug 8, 2017 - 2:24pm
Expat - they do.
opher goodwin Added Aug 8, 2017 - 2:28pm
John - a powerful poem.
I taught next to a German woman when I was in Los Angeles. She had been a young girl in Berlin when the Americans liberated her section. She did not tell me much - all she said was that if the parents of those young men knew what they had done they would never have let them back into their houses again.
War makes barbarians of people. I hate it vehemently.
john guzlowski Added Aug 8, 2017 - 4:10pm
Opher, my wife's uncle was with Patton's army, one of the guys who liberated Buchenwald.  He told me about a special US Army cemetery for the GIs who were executed for murdering and raping civilians in Europe during the war.
 
War gives some people license to do what they shouldn't.  And to do it for pleasure.
  
John Minehan Added Aug 11, 2017 - 7:49pm
The dogma of the Catholic Church is that salvation is to Know the Presence of G-d (the "beatific vision") .
 
When you think about it, that really seems very much like the Buddhist  view that the purpose of existence is to reconcile the self and the universe and to free self from illusion ("Nirvana"). 
john guzlowski Added Aug 11, 2017 - 8:12pm
John Minehan, But the Catholic Church asks you to do it in the framework if a structured religion. 
John Minehan Added Aug 11, 2017 - 8:20pm
As do some (but far from all) forms of Buddhism.  Now I begin to see what Thomas Merton may have been talking about.  

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