Skip to main content

AVERYday: Heaven is for Real - Part 22

It's the phone.

The one I was so blessed was forgotten and left at home on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. Avery's phone. I am so grateful to have the 87 photos of our cat and the 20 pictures of landscapes and her friends and the singular photo of us together, smiling direct into the camera.

I watch her videos. There are only a few. In one she introduces the viewer to her brand new trombone. (She only had a few lessons.) In another she proudly shows off her volleyball uniform. (She was so excited to play!) In another she watches Brody play the piano, encouraging him to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star along the plucked out tune. (He had just turned three; it was totally unrecognizable.) In two of the videos she's singing Christian songs I have never heard before. The screen is black, as if covered by her hand, or turned face down on a table, as if to stress to the viewer that it was the words that were most important, not the face of the person singing it. And I hear her voice.

Sometimes a text message will come in on that phone. It's usually an automated message informing her (now me) that someone posted on her photos in Facebook. Sometimes it's spam telling her (now me) that we've won a $500 shopping spree from Walmart. And sometimes, it's Meredith (*not her real name).

I didn't recognize the name. But six or seven times over the last few months there have been short, simple texts; a photo of some younger child and a dog (neither of which I had ever seen before), a few words:  "cuties!" or "my favorite dog!" And then "Hi!" and the next afternoon, "how are you?"

I thought, at first, maybe it was a wrong number, except it couldn't be since Meredith's name had been programmed into Avery's phone. Then I thought maybe they were sent to Avery because the sender had opted to send the message to everyone in her contacts. The messages don't upset me, just leave me with this sense that I can only explain as 'unresolved' although I didn't know why.

And then, tonight, just before I grabbed my coat to head out, it hit me: Meredith is the girl from summer camp. Meredith: the shy, quiet girl who spent a week with Avery at gymnastics camp. Meredith lives several hours away up north, away from our local news, away from the people talking in the street. Meredith doesn't know.

This girl has been texting my daughter for months and getting no response. Granted, there have probably only been seven messages total since the accident... but what if this sweet girl is wondering why Avery isn't talking to her anymore? Wondering why her friend won't send her a simple text back?

It made me think of my own childhood friends and pen pals. Was one of my unanswered letters the result of death?

I can't wrap my head around the fact that Avery is just not here. It's, well, weird. I mean, she would go away to summer camp for a week at a time and I would miss her and think about her and wonder what she could possibly be doing at that same moment I was picking up a tub of cottage cheese off the grocery store shelf. Maybe she's swimming. I wonder if she's eating dinner. I bet they're walking back to their rooms now. It just that, well, sometimes I feel like she's just away at camp but then I can't think of what she might be actually doing.

Like, is there swimming in heaven? Avery loves to swim. I've heard people say that there is going to be singing in heaven and we will feel happy and full of love. Is that all? Just singing? What about swimming? So every time I miss Avery and wonder what she's doing it's always going to be singing and loving? I mean, sure, that's good stuff... but an eternity of it?

People have told me, "but you won't want for anything! You won't even know that you're missing out on swimming because you'll be in heaven!" But, still I think, surely God didn't create all this amazing stuff on earth just to have us forget about it? Wouldn't he want us to still enjoy his masterpieces in heaven? Wouldn't there be a way to sing and love and swim? Plus, the bible talks about rivers in heaven... wouldn't that be awesome to immerse ourselves in the cleanest, most purest waters of heaven?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
bright as crystal,
flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
through the middle of the street of the city;
also, on either side of the river,
the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit,
yielding its fruit each month.
:Revelation 22:1-2

Sometimes I fear all my questioning and wondering boils down to the fact I don't have enough faith in God and what He says biblically regarding eternity. I've got to be honest - a bible is a hard thing for me to read. It's got a lot of characters and I can never keep the historical timeframe straight, and I can never remember if this group of people are the good guys or the bad guys... but, it's just that every single day I see amazing beautiful miracles on earth: a butterfly flitting around before choosing to land on the small hand of a child with full-of-surprise eyes; dew drops on thousands upon thousands of blades of emerald that kiss ankles cool as they're silently walked across; soft breezes that blow and birds that sing quiet -- God gave me all of this - why would he want me to simply forget it?

See, I don't think He would.

I think right now Avery could be singing, sure. Or doing cartwheels across the brightest lawn. Or laughing with friends. Or holding hands. Or asking a million questions of Uncle David just so she can hear his Australian slang. She could swim relaxed in the most perfect waters ever, hug tame lions, and read the most wonderful books ever written.

I think heaven is complicated in its colors and joys and wonders and we have all of eternity to discover new things and new activities and yes, new songs. I think since Avery loved kangaroos and ice cream she's surrounded by them both.

"In heaven I believe there is a place
where each of us will be able to choose and create a sanctuary.
I believe that certain things
will be somewhat similar to the earth
and many things completely different."
- Akiane Kramarik

A couple months before Avery died she started insisting I read a book called Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo. I had never read a book about heaven before; I was always a bit afraid that what was described would not be where I would want to spend eternity. Think of heaven as the ultimate vacation destination! I've heard where people choose to go on vacations and quite frankly, half those places I don't want to go to. What if I want to spend my ultimate vacation in the French countryside and I end up in Tokyo? I don't want to go to Tokyo.

Anyway. I shrugged Avery off. After the eighteenth time of her asking whether or not I read the book I told her she could read it herself and then tell me about it. She looked so sad. "You just need to read it, Mom." "Have you ever read it?" I asked. "No." "Then why do you think I should?"

After she died I went and got the book, of course. Remember when I was in the parking lot having my breakdown and I found the letter to Alphonsine? After that, I ran into that store like a mad woman praying the book was still on the shelf. I read it cover to cover and I thought, man, if heaven is like this then I am so in!

There are so many books out there from people who have claimed to have gone to heaven; but this was the only book Avery insisted I read. From what I know now, that was the book God asked me to read.

Remember the elderly man waiting for me after the funeral luncheon? The man who went to heaven?  After I read the book I fixated on that poor man. I was obsessed. I needed to talk to him. Ask him what he saw. What it was like. I needed details.

I finally saw him at an evening church service right before Christmas. He caught my eye as the service ended and winked. I had no trouble then hunting him down like a mad woman as he grabbed his coat and tried to exit.

"I need to know what was it like!" I blurted.

He smiled a slow smile; the kind of smile that starts from the heart as it remembers first true love. Tears gathered in his eyes. "Oh," he said slow and quiet in his thick, Dutch accent, "it is so perfectly beautiful!" He told me about the colors and the flowers and the peace... and I smiled. "I wish I could tell you more... but I was only there a short time." He looked down at the ground, paused, and looked back up. "I didn't want to leave."

And then....

"This happened a long time ago. Years later, there was a book that was writ - a book that say a little boy, he goes to heaven. I think, maybe I should read this book. I get the book, and I read. And I read the words and say, 'yes! Yes! YES!! This is it! This is what I see! This is what I see in heaven!' Maybe you read the book... it is called Heaven is for Real... and it IS for real!"

It was exactly what I needed to hear. Exactly.


KIT said…
I know what book i need to read next.
Becca said…
Such a beautiful image. I love reading about the wonderful people God has put into your path during this hard time!
Devon Pavan said…
Meredith is sticking in my head. In a panicked way. My heart breaks for this little girl who doesn't know why her friend isn't answering her.
Claudia said…
Look up Akiane Kramarik's Jesus on Google. This is the face of Jesus she saw. And also the little boy in the book Heaven is for Real. Your strength is amazing and inspiring. I don't know you but have been following your blog and just wanted to say thank you for sharing your sorrows and joys and miracles. I feel for Meredith...
What Becca said. Word for word. These connections. The intertwining lives and events. They are so beautiful.
gradydoctor said…
I loved reading this, Bridget. Please keep writing and sharing.

We read that book immediately before I told the boys about my sister. It really helped. I took a lot of comfort in discovering that my boys were truly believers in their own right. And proud.

Will you tell Meredith?
Getrealmommy said…
Just wanted to drop a note to let you know that I have been thinking of you... I am glad you are still writing. :)
Anonymous said…
your posts continue to inspire (and make me teary-eyed/cry while i read--always the sign of an excellent writer.)

you've been reading my blog long enough, so i'm sure you know about how close i was with my late grandma. i really do picture her at The Heavenly Diner (now with my late uncle ben, her baby brother and the ultimate senior citizen LGBT activist--i have yet to write about his passing, tho i plan to)...eating all the salty crap from the salad bar she wasn't "allowed" to eat while she was alive (high blood pressure: OY). it always helps to picture her having a blast, drinking cup after cup of "piping hot" coffee just the way she liked it and *cheese danishes*, the really huge good ones, which of course have zero calories in heaven. i think it's safe to say that your sweet avery is having a blast, too. whatever she loved to do here on earth, she's doing there. us jews don't talk much about the afterlife but i am quite sure that heaven *is* for real. i'm so happy you've had your blog as an outlet. hang in there, mamma. we're all rooting for you and your family. lots and lots of love from bmore xxo
poona said…
Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

Avery Name Badges
praveena puppy said…
Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again

Avery Name

MMMandM said…
did you respond to Meredith???

Popular posts from this blog

The House that God Built

in·stan·ta·ne·ous /ˌinstənˈtānēəs/ adjective 1. occurring or done in an instant or instantly.
synonyms: immediate, instant, on-the-spot

The thing is, she died so sudden.
I didn't have the chance to plead with God, to make all the irrational promises. If he would just let her be okay.... I would start taking better care of my health. I would be nicer to the neighbor that drove me crazy. I would always let someone else go in front of me at Walmart no matter how long the line was. I wouldn't complain. Ever. I would volunteer at the Homeless Shelter. I would clean up after pigs. I would clip the toenails of the elderly. I would do anything and everything He would ask me to do....
There is a box on her death certificate that captures the amount of time between the initial injury and the time of death. It reads "seconds." I wish it read "instantaneous" because she deserves a clever word like that.
Fast forward five years.... definitely taking MUCH longer than "…

Seeing Avery All Grown Up

One day I'll tell you about the freezing cold we left and the heavy bags we lugged, full of supplies and medicines. I'll tell you about arriving in Port au Prince and walking across a cracked concrete parking lot to board an old school bus with a flat tire. How the heat was suffocating after months of below zero Wisconsin winter weather, how the people crowded and walked too close to moving traffic as we searched for a tire shop that was barely more than a couple men sitting on overturned 5-gallon buckets on the side of the road next to a pile of old tires, everything covered in dirt.

I'll tell you about waiting on the bus while they removed the tire and I'll recall the loud explosion that rocked the bus and scared the life out of me and how I was relieved to learn it was just the tire blowing after being filled too far. (They didn't have any gauges.) And then I'll tell you about the fear I felt when I realized we didn't have a tire and we were stuck on th…

When Your Imagined Life is Nothing Like This One

There were so many ways I imagined my adult life would be....THIS is not one of them.
I posted that on my Facebook wall last night. It might have been seen as funny except my choice of hashtags gave me away:
treading water getting nowhere piles of disappointment not many successes worn out and exhausted out of options

I always imagined my life would be thrilling. Full of exciting adventures and people from all over the world. I would dine at Ethiopian, Thai, and Indian restaurants. I would write books, teach English, coach forensics and direct the play. My husband would be charming and funny and not care about gender roles when it came to household chores. He would beg for at least six kids and I would fall in love with him all over again each time I caught him giving good life advice.
I would take photographs and travel the world documenting the people I came across. I would adopt a sibling group of three or maybe four and work on foster care policies because the ones we have aren't work…