My Dad’s New Home (MGO*)

(*MGO stands for My Grief Observed. These are the thoughts I’m writing as a process my grief over my dad’s finish to his battle with brain cancer.)

Shortly after the doctors found the second tumor in my dad’s brain, my dad compiled a list of books he wanted to read. At first I was beyond thrilled to have something tangible that I could do for my dad. My goal this past year was to make sure that he had everything he wanted and that it was possible to obtain on this earth. When the man wanted a pumpkin spice Krispy Kreme doughnut, I’d go get him a dozen and throw in some crullers for good measure because I knew he liked them. When he was out of the cologne he’d discovered on his trip to visit us in Boston, I ordered it online from the company. But when I read his list–90 Minutes in Heaven, Heaven: My Father’s House, The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth, Heaven–I was scared and even a little perturbed. I wanted him to be reading books about winning battles; didn’t Lance Armstrong write a book he could read, for Pete’s sake?

I tried to make light of the situation. “You planning a trip I don’t know about?” I asked offhandedly.

I can still the slight, almost sheepish smile on his face as he said, “Cramming for a big test.”

And it touched my heart to realize that at the end of the day, this man who had devoted his life to ministry for over forty years wanted to be sure of what he knew that he knew. He never gave up the fight, but he knew that unless God gave him a miracle of earthly healing, he was getting close to the end of this part of his journey. Even in death, my dad was teaching me that it’s always important to be ready and prepared for what lies ahead. I don’t think for a minute that my dad ever doubted that he was going to Heaven, but just as I research a new city before we move there , my dad wanted to make sure he knew all he could about the next stop on his trip.

He ordered several books about Heaven, but the one that meant the most to him was a book by Randy Alcorn aptly titled Heaven. Although I’d accepted that he wanted to read about what happens after death, I didn’t share his interest at the time. I didn’t want to talk about anything that reminded me that my dad might not be with us much longer. But not many days before he died, my dad asked me if I would read to him from Heaven. I think it had become very difficult for him to visually focus by this time although he tried to keep us from knowing about a lot of the changes he was experiencing. I sat down in the chair beside his bed and picked up where he’d stopped reading.

Apparently my voice would make a great cure for insomnia because a couple of sentences in to the chapter, he was sound asleep. He was sleeping more and more at the end but sometimes he’d recount things we’d discussed in the room when we thought he was asleep. Since I wasn’t sure just how much he was hearing, I decided to keep reading anyway. I’ve heard preachers talk about Heaven in sermons and at funerals all my life but I’d never heard anyone say some of the stuff I was reading in this book. I think I was hooked when Mr. Alcorn talked about how the Heaven we hear about in church a lot of times doesn’t sound like a particularly fun place to go. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good church service (or I did once upon a time and probably will again one day), but I’ve never been sure I wanted to be a part of a service that lasted forever and ever and ever. Isn’t that the impression you get from preachers some times? I’d always felt bad about thinking that way about the place Jesus was preparing for us, but was relieved to know that maybe I wasn’t the only person who’d ever thought that.I’d always heard that Heaven was too wonderful to imagine, but this book was actually encouraging me to picture Heaven and even gave me the words to help paint the mental pictures.

Here are a few of the questions covered in this book:

What is life like in the present Heaven (or the place were we go when we die before Jesus comes back again)? Do people in Heaven know what’s happening on earth?

Will there be space and time?

Will we eat and drink?

What will our daily lives be like?

Will we desire relationships with anyone except God?

Will there be arts, entertainment, and sports?

Dad died before I finished reading the book and like I’ve told you, I’ve needed some time away from books and words for awhile. But I find myself drawn back to Heaven to read more about where my dad is and where I’m going to be. I remember when I was younger hoping Jesus wouldn’t come back until I got married, or had sex (just keeping it real, kids), or had kids….I always had a few more things I wanted to do. Now that my dad is already there, I can’t wait to get to Heaven. And the more I read this book, the more I want to go and the more I want to be sure that the people I love will be there, too.

Shortly after Dad died I was having an email conversation with one of my newer friends who lives in my computer, Marla Taviano. Do you know her? She’s a wife, a mom, an author, a lover of zoos, and she’s become a true friend over the last little bit. She mentioned the book Heaven to me in a letter of encouragement. I told her the story about the book that I just told you and she told me that she had corresponded with the author, Randy Alcorn, on occasion. She asked my permission to share the story with him so he could know that his book had been an encouragement to my dad and to me. I told her that I’d be more than happy for her to do so.

This weekend I received a package in the mail from Mr. Alcorn’s ministry.  It contained two beautiful picture books for  younger children about Heaven, the older kids’ version of his adult book on CD, and a devotional book. The package didn’t have a note in it and I just assumed Marla had sent it to me. When I asked her about it she said that when she told Mr. Alcorn about me, he asked for my children’s ages and my home address. I think one of the things that blessed me most about the package was that he was more concerned that I receive the resources than he was that he received the credit for sending them. I was touched that he was concerned about how my kids are processing my dad’s death and that they have all the facts about Heaven in language they can understand. I told Marla that his kindness has made such an impression on me that now I want to read everything he’s ever written and he’s written quite a few books. In fact, Marla says that his fiction book Safely Home is one of her all-time favorite books.

I know this has been a long post and I’d really promised myself that I was going to write shorter posts this year (Keep ’em thin in 2010!) but I wanted you to know about this book and I especially wanted you to know about this author. If you want to know more about Heaven, you need to read this book. We are just starting to listen to the CDs but I can already tell you that his books and resources for children are great tools as well. Mr. Alcorn’s ministry, Eternal Perspective Ministries, has a detailed website with information about the other resources he has available (www.epm.org). Thank you, Marla, for telling Mr. Alcorn how much his book has meant to me. I wanted to tell the rest of you about this book today so that you can be encouraged by it, too.

And now I’m going to ask you to do something else. I want you to pray for our friends Mike and Suzonne Callen. Mike is battling the same kind of cancer my dad had (glioblastoma multiforme). He had an MRI not too long ago and the results were inconclusive so he’s having another test on January 7th and will get the results on the 8th. When my dad died, my family promised Mike and Suzonne that we would use every bit of the fight that we’ve called on for the past year to fight his battle with him now. We fight with our love and loyalty and we fight with our prayers. I need you to pray for Mike with me and for me. I still struggle with my communication with God, I’m not going to lie to you, but I’m working through my stuff. Those of you who are stronger in the faith than I am right now? Well, I need you to stand in the gap and go to the Father on behalf of Mike. Don’t get me wrong. I’m praying for Mike, too, I just need backup. You’ve always had my back before and I’m still counting on you to have it now. Thanks, friends. I can always count on you.

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26 Comments

Filed under My Grief Observed

26 responses to “My Dad’s New Home (MGO*)

  1. Thanks for your sweet post.

    • Thank you, Amy, for sharing more of your story… your life… your heart.

      When my dad moved to Heaven on March 2, 2008, I ordered from CBD: Randy Alcorn’s book, “Heaven for Kids.” (Fyi & for all my English teachers: I used quotation marks knowing proper punctuation is to underline; however, I can’t make my computer do this here.)

      My little boys wondered about this “place” of which I spoke, where Papaw now lived. I read to them from this book every night, and I must say that I finished it up rather quickly as they stayed awake for such long stretches while I read from ‘Heaven’ (the book… or did I go there while reading :)?

      Will kept telling me after each chapter, and at times after each sentence, how much he wanted to go there… to Heaven. I would selfishly (& fearfully) tell him to be sure and wait on me for such a move. Will’s words flashed back to me over and over again when he was diagnosed with cancer later the same year. I did and do love Mr.Alcorn’s book, knowing that what we experience in part now, we shall know in full then! How cool is that for you to get Heavenly things from the author himself for your family?!… and how cool is it that we get Heavenly things from THE Author & Creator, Himself, for our family!!!

      Indeed, Mr. Alcorn has an incredible gift in describing this place we hear about called Heaven. And I, like you, recall as a child wanting to accomplish or “experience” a few things before going there… forEVER. It’s like we want the Cinderella story before getting to the Royal City. Why’s that?! ~Must be because our “infinite selves through Christ” view our days with our humanly “finite” minds and perspectives, seeing things too often in 3-D or 4-D, but never in infinity-D, like we’ll be doing in Heaven.

      I know I am rambling (& need to adopt your motto: Keep it thin in 2010!), but I am trying to identify with you on this. I remember wanting the same things before going to Heaven that you did (being too prude to mention one of them -wink), but then it seems that as life unfolds and those “things” happen, along with other things that didn’t come in our Cinderella Stories, I find myself LONGING for Heaven more than I ever thought I would or could. I realize that Heaven is my home and I am homesick! Sure, I am homesick for the people (like Dad) that I miss so much, but even more than this, I am homesick for my Jesus! I am not trying to be too super-spiritual here; rather, I am saying that after experiencing those milestones of what I thought would be the pinnacles of life, I realize more and more that only in intimate union with our Saviour & God is complete bliss. I am being way more open than I planned on here…

      Amy, in October of 2008, when first I faced the unthinkable reality that Will could join my dad in being healed in Heaven rather than on earth, I felt that God was telling me more loudly what I often have the hardest time hearing: that only in being completely satisfied with HIM and completely trusting in HIS sovereign ways, above all else, will I ever know true and lasting inner peace and joy. I was again made aware of my selfishness and brought too my face before the God who holds in His hands my very breath and that of my dearest and most tightly held treasures! Where I am going with this is unknown to me. I just planned to comment for a second about your post and now I am off in the inner parts of my soul while Will is asking me if he can use the computer now. I guess I’ll swim back up to the surface, hoping I have made a little bit of sense here, and that I haven’t revealed too much or tried to claim anything I don’t really have or bring on any new “strengthening” trials upon myself. Can I call myself Whimzie the 2nd?! The computer I am turning over to Will.. and myself continuously to His Will… Love you much, Jen

  2. Kathleen Hoffmann

    Thanks for sharing this with us Amy, and for being so honest about your feelings right now. We love you and pray for you daily!

  3. I love you, Whimzie. I’m praying for Mike and his family.

  4. Theresa Antee

    Thank you so much for your post! I will definitely buy “Heaven” and Safely Home” . Four members of my family are now in heaven and I want to read about what they are experiencing and what I have to look forward to. My prayers are with you and family and your friend, Mike.

    I Love You,
    Theresa Antee

  5. Owantha Barfield

    Thank you for still sharing with us. I am looking forward to reading Alcorn’s book, Heaven. I have lots of loved ones there and am also yearning to go already.
    Waling With Jesus Daily class
    First North, Spartanburg, SC

  6. Marty Werke

    Amy,

    Your posts are always such a blessing.

    Thank you.

    Marty

  7. Betty Boop

    Amy,
    I was given the book by a lady who lost her handicapped daughter in the last couple of years.
    She had a problem w/people saying her daughter would be perfect in Heaven. She would get mad about it because she loved her just the way she was on earth and she wanted to love her that way in Heaven…..she was afraid if she was changed, she wouldn’t feel the love she had given for so long. I only read a few things in the book but found it interesting and would like to read further. Thank you for being so transparent and a lot of things you share, I have felt but didn’t have the courage to admit. Keep posting and I’ll keep listening.

  8. Lupe meza

    Amy, you have touched my heart. Thank you for always being what I call “transparent” … I pray for you and for Phyllis and all the family… often. …
    I think of your dad as well – and my friend Judi who left us on Dec 5th – had a brain aneurysm. I am secure in that someday we will go and be with them. Praying for Mike…
    Lord bless you

  9. Oh, Amy.

    Just between you and me, I think you should think about publishing your MGO in a memoir format. Really. Because all of us can have faith when things are going well. Christians can. Non-Christians can, for that matter. But when the rubber hits the road and cancer takes a loved one. Or a child is taken. Or any other form of hideous suffering happens–we can look to books like Heaven for a little bit of comfort and peace. And we can look to women such as yourself. The place you’ve gone is not terribly unique. Sadly. But each one of us feels uniquely devastated when loss occurs. Your words cry out. They pierce. They comfort. And…even if you don’t see this right now…they always point back to your True North.

    love you.

    P.S. did i make any sense? Because in my head, this sounded right, but i can’t be sure.

  10. BTW, praying for Mike and Suzonne. xxxooo

  11. The Heaven book has been on my list for years, and I’ve hesitated to read it. I’m not sure why. I think so highly of Randy Alcorn and his teaching. The children’s resources look great.

    I’ve been really touched by the things you’ve been writing lately. Even with your usual humor and wit, they’ve been inspiring. I agree with Gretchen’s memoir idea. You’d write a good one that I know many people would relate to.

  12. Thank-you for sharing this story – I loved that book too 🙂 and I think its so cool that he sent you that package – what an encouragement!!

    I’m keeping you in my prayers (and your friends too!)

  13. Ruelle Thompson

    Thank you Amy for sharing this story, you and your family have been a blessing to my life. I am certainly going to purchase Randy Alcorn books because I have a son and both parents in heaven.
    I am looking forward to the day I will see them again.

    I will be praying for you, Mike and Suzonne. May God bless you.

    Love from Honea Path, South Carolina

  14. Linda Cate

    Precious daughter of the King, words fail. I always have great empathy and sympathy for ‘Job’s comforters’ those poor souls that I feel have been maligned in so many sermons. It is true that sometimes the abundance of words reveals our ignorance and in them we trangress, offending not only our friend but our Heavenly Father. That is not the case as you pour out your heart. But for me I have not dared to try to speak to you, or Mom, or Toph yet as I know that you are all so raw that even the air on your skin is painful and that it is too much to try to sift through well wishers words–I know almost all of it sounds like the Peanuts gang’s peeps–Wah, wah, wah, or listening under water: I hear the vibration I just can’t make out the meaning. Such profound loss, such a shift in our reality takes all our resources to just keep the body and mind functioning. Reminds me of Apollo 13-massive system failure-what is still functioning? What is the bare minimum we need to survive? Air-am I still breathing? Water-is my body still able to process anything? Can I think? Can I act and react? System check. We are so surprized that after such a catastophic disaster that we are still here and that, on at least the most basic level, we are still functioning. It is a paradox that we need to both be alone and yet know and feel that we are not alone. “Houston, we have a problem.”

    When this happens, death, we are alone with our family in that little module, struggling, doing everything we know to do and everything we are instructed to do to stay tethered. As much as the words are an assault on our ears,we cling to them in hopes it will keep us in touch with that other reality we had before death entered in.

    I know each of you will be all right again but each in your own time and in your own way as God ministers to your individual needs. Thank you Father that you are not a one size fits all God! Please know that everybody who was praying and loving you this past year is still praying for you loving you even if it is ‘quieter’ now. Nobody has turned and walked away, we are just acknowledging and honoring your need to draw in. The silence is in reverence and acknowledgement of where you are– God’s CICU. Life will return to the extremities but the vital organs must be maintained and protected at all costs. God has His special angels assigned to you and they will help you. Marla and Mr. Acorn are certainly among them!

    Thank you for sharing Amy what God has wrought, and remember you never have to keep it pithy among friends. Praying for you and your family and Mike and Suzonne. xxoo

  15. Wanda Sullivan

    Dear Amy, What a blessing you have been to me during these difficult days in your and your family’s lives. God has given you a special gift of words that touch, inspire, identify. Continue using them for His glory. A book about Heaven gave me such encouragement and hope during my bout with cancer. I know your Dad is singing gloriously with his beautiful bass voice in heaven’s chorus. I am praying for you who mourn his presence here on Earth, and I am praying for your friends who are presently fighting a similar battle. I have not read Alcorn’s book, but I certainly will put it on my list. Keep on keeping on with His power. Love, Wanda Sullivan, First Baptist North Spartanburg

  16. I’ve enjoyed Mr. Alcorn’s fiction for many years. It sounds like I need to branch out a little.

  17. Mull

    Amy, you have insight beyond your years. I so love and am blessed every time I read your postings. Thank you for sharing your heart and soul with your readers. I love you and am praying for you, Phyllis and Chris. Also, for Mike and Suzanne.

  18. Deborah,"Mull", Mullinnix

    Amy, you are wise beyond your years. I love and am blessed every time I read your postings. You are an amazing writer. Thank you for sharing your heart and soul with your readers.
    You, Phyllis and Chris are on my mind and in my prayers. I will also be praying for Mike and Suzanne.
    Love,Mull

  19. Oh, how this touched my heart…

    I will keep your friend and his family in my prayers.

  20. I’m sitting here in tears.

    My goodness because I SO get it about thinking Heaven is great but “just not yet, Lord” and “how can it REALLY be better than raising/loving these children and this man You’ve given me?!”

    I am so very interested in reading this book…will look for it at the library this week!

    I just want you to know how much your honest, transparency and your heart touches me. I am moved, comforted and inspired by it…always. Love you.

  21. I wrote a super long comment on this yesterday, only to discover my internet service had left me and, in the process, stolen my comment. I’m sorry to say this rewrite will be significantly shorter. 🙂

    1: I love your long posts!!

    2: Mom gave me “Heaven” just before Christmas. I’ve not yet cracked the cover, but I know it impacted her greatly. She studied it together with her Sunday School class.

    3: You HAVE to read “Safely Home!” I read it over two years ago and still think about it regularly. AMAZING BOOK. Get it. Read it. It’s … well, just do it.

    4: Every time you write about your dad I fall a little more in love with him. I never had a relationship with my father (rather, I never had a healthy or decent relationship with my dad) so it’s always difficult for me to wrap my brain around the father-daughter connection so many of my friends have. But I’m learning through you. I’m becoming envious of you. And I pray for you all the more fervently. As I understand better the relationship you had, I understand more deeply the loss you feel. I can only imagine. As limited as my imagination is, my heart crumbles with you. And then part of me is really excited because I know someday I’ll get to meet you dad! I look forward to that great honor.

    5: I’m praying.

  22. Girl, I know they’re practicing together. And man, are we going dance one day….

    Love you, too. 🙂

  23. We are praying for Mike and Suzonne. We’ve known them since our Sarepta days.

    Thanks for this post.

    Looking forward to being in North Louisiana this weekend. I hear it’s going to be cold!

    And can I steal “Keeping it thin in 2010” ? Except I want to change it to “Trying to be thin in 2010”.

  24. Alcorn remains one of my favorite authors. I was first introduced and enthralled by his descriptions of heaven in his fiction series that began with “Deadline.” He followed it up with “Dominion.”

    The heaven he described intrigued, fascinated and made me want to go there. It was then that I realized that if he could describe heaven in such a wonderful, soul-yearning way, that it must actually be “above and beyond” any earthly description.

    Thanks for your thoughts. As always!

  25. I am visiting your blog for the first time today and am so glad I did. This post will hlep prepare me for the day when I go through the same challenges. I am praying for Mike and his family and for you.

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