Tag Archives: heaven

The Best Life

I heard the distress in her voice as I jumped from the office chair and quickly walked to her room. I opened the door to find her sitting up in bed, silhouetted in the darkened room by the nightlight behind her. She was crying.

“Kitty Keyboard, Mama,” she sobbed.

I pulled her close and rocked her back and forth.

Kitty Keyboard was the name of a toy keyboard we’d had since Beary was about four, around the time she became really interested in music. I got it at Target and it was a green and purple cat face; the keys were the teeth of its very happy grin. Kitty Keyboard filled our house with a lot of music. A LOT. Among the features were the ability to change the sound to banjo or bells or organ, and it had some pre-recorded songs included, as well as a microphone so Little Bear could sing along to her favorite tunes. I picked out Itsy-Bitsy Spider on Kitty Keyboard, and the theme song to Dora the Explorer. My girl would watch closely while I picked out a tune, then she’d take the keyboard and play it back perfectly. She soon began picking out tunes on her own, and creating her own songs. Kitty Keyboard gave us a lot of musical fun.

As my girl got older, she accumulated more musical instruments, and began taking piano lessons, but she still loved to hang out with Kitty Keyboard and make music in her playroom.

But then one day, Beary brought me Kitty Keyboard. “Mama,” she said, “I think Kitty Keyboard needs new batteries.” So I dug around and finally found four AA batteries, opened up Kitty Keyboard, placed the batteries, and handed it back to my daughter.

But it didn’t work.

Kitty Keyboard still didn’t play music.

I took the batteries out, got a pack of all-new batteries, just in case the ones I’d pilfered from the DVD remote weren’t stellar, but Kitty Keyboard still didn’t play.

Panic flashed in my girl’s eyes. “Mama! Why won’t she play? Fix it, Mama, you’ve got to fix it!”

But I couldn’t.

She held Kitty Keyboard up for a final photo, then we lovingly removed a cute kitten face button and cut the microphone loose to keep as mementos. We put her in the bin to be picked up on trash day, and my girl seemed mostly okay with the way things were unfolding.

Until tonight.

She heard me haul the trash bin and the recycle bin out to the curb. The loss of Kitty Keyboard became a lot more real at that moment. But it wasn’t until she was in the cool darkness of her room, alone with her thoughts, that reality sank in. Kitty Keyboard was really going away.

So she called out to me.

I sat on her bed, stroking her hair back from tear-stained cheeks. I’m so tired of explaining loss to my girl, to myself. I’m so tired of things changing. I want Kevin to be healthy and here. I want toys to keep working. I want things that are perfect to stay that way.

But I can’t always get what I want.

“Baby,” I soothed, “remember we talked about how Kitty Keyboard had to go? We can’t keep broken toys, no matter how much we loved them. You’ve still got the kitty face button and the microphone” – I reached over to her dresser and got the items for her – “and we have that beautiful picture of you holding her. She has to go, sweetie, but you get to keep these things and a special place in your memory, right? Some things we keep and some things we have to let go of.”

She nodded, starting to find her calm. Then, matter-of-factly, “I guess she’s starting her third life, Mama. The first life was in the store, the second life was with me, and we don’t know what the third life is.”

“No, we don’t,” I agreed, “but I’m glad she got to be with us for her second life.”

“I think that was her best life, ‘cause it was with me,” she stated with eight-year-old confidence.

She squeezed my neck. I kissed her nose, then tucked her in again.

Wow, God, I thought. That’s hitting really close to home.

Because I’ve been so guilty of this. Of thinking, Kevin would be with me if he could. And we live in a world where books and movies offer up the same romantic notion over and over: the beloved deceased tries to come back, or tries to communicate with the one left living. I know – I just KNOW – I tell myself, that if there were any way possible, Kevin would come back to me.

I like to think the best part of his life was with me.

But that’s not true.

He’s living the best part of his life now, forever, with God.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Everlasting.

I sat in church a few Sundays ago and the choir sang a song I’d never heard, called Unto the Lamb. And when the soloist came to these words, tears streamed down my face.

And all of the angels cry Holy
All the saints cry Holy
All creation cries Holy
Holy is the Lamb

Because Kevin is there, in heaven, a saint healed before God, crying “Holy” – and I am here, on earth, shattered before God, trying so hard to cry “Holy”. At that moment, I was so lonely and so sad, but I felt as close to Kevin as I’ve felt since he died. I felt we were worshipping Him together, like we’d done so many times before. God’s plan was never for our life on earth, as good as it was, to be the best part. The best part of our life will be in heaven, with Him forever. This world is broken, full of hurting people. Kevin was one of those people. But he made it. He made it through cancer and chemo and the agony of knowing he was leaving us behind. I’m so glad, so honored, that I got to be part of his life here. We were good together, and it was a very good life. I miss having him close, sharing everything. I miss seeing the love on his face for our little girl. I miss him and what we had together, loving each other in this broken world. None of that is gone. He’s still close, forever in my heart. He still loves our Little Bear, and is in her more and more every day.

But now he’s made it to a place prepared for him, where there is no more night, no more pain, no more tears. He made it to his next life – and, as hard as it is for me to say, it’s a good one. And someday, when my work for God here on earth is done, it will be my eternal life, too.

It’s the best one.

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#1 DAD

She spotted the bright blue gift card as we waited in the checkout lane. “#1 DAD” it declared in bold white letters. She reached up, fingered it, traced the letters with the tip of her ink-smudged index finger. She shrugged and a small sigh escaped.

‘“We should’ve got this for Daddy.”

Then she brightened. “We COULD still get it and tie it to a balloon and send it to him that way.”

I smiled, “Do you think Daddy needs a gift card in heaven?”

“Well,” she considered, “no, but he could just HAVE it. Because he’s number one.”

And I wanted to laugh and cry and hug her little self tightly to me. Did you hear that, Kev? You’re NUMBER ONE!

Anyone who knew Kevin could probably tell you all about his little girl. When she started walking, talking, reading, singing…no detail about her was too small to be shared. His greatest joy was being her Daddy.

Before she was born, he filled her room with little things picked up here and there. A beautiful plaque with an engraved good-night verse; a ridiculously large ride-on stuffed elephant we promptly named Ronnie after Kev’s favorite president; an adorably fluffy pink poodle cape set, complete with scarf, mittens and pocket purse.

She had Daddy wrapped around her finger from the very beginning and it only took a smile, a kiss, a “Pweese, Daddy?” and he’d cave. Ice cream after supper? Sure. Piggy-back ride around the house? Hop on, little Bear. Stack the blocks so she could knock them down…over and over and over? No problem. They cuddled in his recliner to read and faced off over intense games of Monopoly Jr. She was Daddy’s girl and he reveled in it.

I will never forget the day he was diagnosed with cancer. He struggled to wake up from the colonoscopy’s anesthesia. And then, finally he did. He looked at me, recognized me, tightened his grip on my hand.

He tried to speak, his throat thick and his mouth thirsty. The words that came out of his mouth chilled me: “I’m never going to see my Bear again.” Then huge, wrenching sobs shook his body, his composure completely unraveled.

Shock doesn’t begin to describe what I felt at that moment. What? What did he just say? What is going on? Why would he say something like that? I couldn’t make sense of his statement. Frightened for him, I felt hot tears forming in the back of my eyes.

“Oh, honey, you are going to see her again,” I reassured him in a voice that shook with my own tears, barely held in check. “She’s with Mom right now, remember? She’s at home. She’s fine. She’s just waiting for us to come home. Wake up, honey. When you wake up, we can go home and see her.”

He was inconsolable. No matter what assurances I gave him, despite my every attempt to reason with him, he was distraught over the idea of never seeing his daughter again. And then, the doctor returned to the recovery room and in one simple sentence – a few words at the most – our world completely changed.

“Okay, then. Well, I found a tumor in the colon and I’m 99.9 percent certain it is cancer.”

The doctor’s words stunned us into silence. Cancer? Did he just say cancer? My mind was racing; my mind was frozen. My eyes caught Kevin’s eyes, reflecting the fear and disbelief that we both felt. Cancer.

From that moment on, everything he did was for his girls. He had eighteen inches of his colon removed, had a portacath installed under his skin. He worked all week, then fought nausea weekend after weekend as chemo drugs dripped into his body, destroying healthy cells along with cancerous ones. He fought with everything he had because he wanted to see his daughter grow up.

I was sorting through papers the other night. It’s what I do when the bed’s too empty and I can’t sleep. And I cried when I came across a stash filed away in a small crate. Page after page of our girl’s love for her Daddy, scribbled in vibrant colors. She was three, maybe four, at the time. Child-like stick figures depicted Daddy, always with brown hair, glasses, and blue jeans. One showed him in bed and she’d instructed me to write on the side: “This is a picture of Daddy. He is holding me. It is day and the sun shines outside. Daddy is laying on the purple bed because he is sick. The blue medicine makes Daddy feel better. Songs make Daddy feel better. I sing music. Let’s hug Daddy.”

There are others, showing stick-figure Yankees and Cowboys – Daddy’s favorite teams. There are homemade Father’s Day cards with crooked rainbows and shaky printing: “I love you, Daddy!” Two pages taped together, titled “My Family” with these words: “My Daddy is good. He loves me.”

And the note that broke my heart wide open. “Daddy, I love you. You do so much for me.”

He did. He really did. He loved her unconditionally and he tried so hard, so very hard, to stay here with her as long as he could.

That’s the kind of Daddy love she knows, and that’s the kind of love she returns. And that’s why she wants to tie a “#1 DAD” gift card to a balloon and send it to him in heaven.

Because to her…he will always be #1.