Ashes to Ashes and The Question of Heaven

When I was little, I remember going to see the Care Bears movie and thinking that Care Bear Land must be what heaven is like. Think about it. That place was basically a castle/playground in the clouds and the Care Bears got to fly around in little cars and peek through the clouds to see who needed their help before sweeping down to save the day. How could heaven (and angels for that matter) not be like that? I couldn’t imagine anything better. Frankly I still kind of hope heaven is like that.

To be honest, I’ve never been a big believer in heaven. For most of my life I’ve fallen squarely in the agnostic camp when it came to life after death. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. It never seemed particularly important to me – life now, here on earth, that was what was important and worth worrying about. Perhaps my anti-anxiety meds keep me from feeling all “angsty” about what comes next. But since we lost our boys, I find it matters more to me now. 

I have always appreciated the beauty of the ashes to ashes, dust to dust liturgy of Ash Wednesday. It has always struck me as a poignant reminder of our finitude and our ultimate equality – in the end we are all ashes. More than that, many years it has helped to put the rest of my life in perspective. Day to day stresses and frustrations tend to melt away when I am reminded of our ultimate end – it helps me take the long perspective.

But this year the words mean more than that to me. This year the phrase ashes to ashes brings to mind Micah and Judah, our twin boys, whose ashes remain in small wooden boxes on our dresser. This year I find myself hoping that when the time comes I will join my sons not only as ashes, but perhaps somewhere else – somewhere where I can get to know them. And even farther in the future, I hope someday Caleb gets to meet and know his older brothers. I hope someday we get to all be a family together. I don’t know that I believe in heaven any more than I did before, but I certainly hope for it much more.

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