“Is heaven everything you had hoped? Are the gates really made of pearl? Are the streets laid with gold? Is heaven real? Can we see each other again?” – Braden’s dad
“Happy Fathers Day! Pearls and gold are only earthly creations. I really can’t describe Heaven, but you’ll understand when you get here. I’m joyful just knowing I’ll be here to welcome you home, Dad. And I’m ok. See ya soon!” – Braden
I’m not a runner.
I do exercise some but I hate running. There isn’t a person on the planet who honestly likes to run… Of course, that’s just one opinion. I could be wrong.
Although I personally despise running, there’s been a lot of it going on lately. Ever since October 30, 2018 it’s been a full out sprint. Running from reality and towards purpose by helping prevent other families from a similar loss.
Today is my first Father’s Day without our son. And I’ve become weary. Completely exhausted. Every emotional and physical nerve. Spent.
To share all the experiences we’ve had in the span of eight months would be impossible here. But we write to pull out some threads of insight and encouragement. This has not been a race we signed up to run. But we believe it’s an important one.
I’m off work all week and hoping to get some rest and re-charge, to continue the race.
Speaking of rest, I have a phone app for relaxation to help wind down and relax at night. One feature on the app has different narrators who read “sleep stories” designed to get the listener’s mind off their own thoughts and to relax. It sounds weird but it really works and it’s certainly better than sleeping pills.
One of the stories is narrated by international space station Commander, Terry Virts. He led numerous earth orbit missions and published a book loaded with photos titled, “View From Above”. He has a passion for photography and the indescribableness (new word) of the universe.
Virts is a brilliant man and a gifted photographer. On each of his missions, he captured hundreds of thousands of images. The photos of earth are amazing. Yet still, although he tried on every one of his voyages to capture the expansive view of the opposite side of the space station, he just couldn’t do it.
He personally saw galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters, yet he couldn’t clearly capture and share what he had witnessed. Can you imagine going through something so indescribable that it changed the very way you looked at your own existence… yet, you couldn’t give an accurate account to others?
I found Vert’s experience to be very interesting and personal. Although commanding space stations isn’t my thing, I’ve had experiences that are impossible to sufficiently describe.
Once, I recall a fishing trip to the Texas hill country in the spring of 2007 with a group of dads from a church in Austin. We all went to a fishing camp west of Lampasas, Texas. It was the darkest and clearest night sky any of us had ever observed. We couldn’t even see our hands in front of our own faces much less one another as we walked along a dirt trail from the dock to our cabin.
We all looked up and tried to verbally describe the view. The sheer number of stars was beyond anything any of us had witnessed. Although we’d been taught and read about the universe, we hadn’t actually seen it in such a way until that night. Such a clear view into the “Heavens”. Well, I can’t really describe it. Guess you had to be there.
Braden was a curious person. He loved to watch videos about the unfathomable size of the cosmos in comparison with Earth. One he watched over and over was by Louis Giglio how Earth’s size compared to the moon, then Venus, the sun, unimaginably huge Kanis Majoris (his favorite) and that our planet is located in just one of billions of galaxies. Far beyond what the mind can fathom.
He was mesmerized watching that video and that’s the way he perceived his world: a lone grain of sand on an expansive sandy beach. He was so exceptional in his ability to think deeply it was scary. I still remember him, at a very young age asking, “Why are we here?” I responded, “Because we’re playing cards, son.” He repeated, “No, why are we here?” I clarified, “Oh. Because daddy’s work moved us to Austin”. He became frustrated. “No, dad. WHY ARE WE HERE?” Then he said something that still gives me a chill. “Why doesn’t God just take us to heaven when we trust in Him? I wish I could be in heaven with Him now.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about Heaven these past few months. Losing a child forces the question. Is Heaven real? We certainly hope our loved ones who pass from this life go to a place where they are at perfect peace. That’s always been a given source of peace to those left behind. It definitely applies in our circumstance.
There are two things that confirm our faith in truth. They’re both as evident as any that could be produced to a jury or judge:
First, following such an unspeakable loss, we remain standing. Even walking forward. None of us know how, but we have. God has answered too many specific prayers to even list here. Some would say (or think) these events have just happened by chance. The odds of this many random events “just happening” would be like saying an orchestra of instruments “just happened” to play a symphony in perfect harmony. These are miracles through events and a community of people that would not, could not occur without our Father’s guiding hand.
Secondly, we have been confirmed in our faith through shared experiences of fellow witnesses who have experienced similar miracles. Have you ever talked with someone who believes something from having actually seen it with their own eyes? Their testimony is far more credible than that of a bystander who heard someone else tell of the experience. We have talked with so many eyewitnesses to this truth that we are fully convinced Heaven is real and not fictional.
I’ve been reading a lot lately. Recently, I finished Don Piper’s second book about his near death experience over 25 years ago and the people he met at the gates of heaven. Don and I had a chance to meet a few months ago and he has crystal clear recall of many details of his 90 minutes in heaven. He told me about the gates and the sound of a thousand songs being sung simultaneously but understanding each one distinctly. He remembers the music still but can’t fully describe it.
Of all we talked about, Don said one thing I’ll never forget. He told me he was deeply sorry for our temporary separation from our son. It’s not what he said as much as how he said it. Like someone who had witnessed the indescribable and wanted simply to confirm the facts.
Also, have been reading the Bible on the topic of losing loved ones. One Old Testament story tells of the great King David and how he responded when his seven year old boy passed away. Instead of going into a hole, David worshipped and became even closer in his faith in God. David was fully confident he would see his son again when he went home.
When we are exhausted from running life’s short but trying race. When we have nothing left to give, we need to surrender and look up to reach for our Heavenly Father’s hand.
Prayer for Readers
“Lord, thank you for every trial. Thank you for every tragedy. Thank you for every subtle message you share in our daily lives. Forgive us for thinking we can run life’s race on our own. Humble us to know we can rest in You and have confidence You have prepared a home for us. Happy heavenly Father’s Day.
It’s in your Son’s name, Jesus which we pray these things, Amen.”