Is This Heaven?

John O'Leary

John O'Leary

Inspiring Story of Overcoming Challenges
Papa Joe and Jack, Questions about Heaven

Papa Joe and Jack

Helping My Children Understand Life After Death

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." - Confucius [Tweet this.] | [Share on Facebook.]

Unfortunately, almost every family has suffered the cruel diagnosis of cancer.

My wife and I have experienced it several times as friends, neighbors, nieces, uncles, aunts and grandparents have been diagnosed with it. We also went through this brutal journey with her father, Joe.

Upon diagnosis, we were crushed to learn he had pancreatic cancer, it was inoperable and it was terminal. During the six months he was treated for it, we tried as frequently as possible to get together as a family. We wanted to be more present, to spend more time, to hear his stories and to share our love.

Throughout the months of treatment Beth and I also spoke a great deal with our children about his cancer, about the gift of life, about the reality of death and about where we believe we go when we die. Although our kids were young, we didn’t want them ignorant of the approaching loss of their Papa Joe. We also wanted them to know that there was reason for hope, basis for peace and even cause for joy during this incredibly difficult time.

Heaven, as Understood by a Child

A few days after Joe passed away, we gathered as a family to celebrate his life at a funeral parlor. Before the doors opened for the community to say their goodbye, Joe's mom, his five siblings, his wife Mary and their four kids gathered. Surrounding them were in-laws, grandchildren, cousins and extended relatives. The place was already packed and the doors to the public weren't even open yet.

Joe's good nature, playful personality and continual generosity always brought people together while he was alive. He was proving he could still do that even in death.

After a beautiful prayer, we sat in the chapel in total silence and with a great deal of sadness.

As the silence intensified, I felt a little pull on my suit coat. Looking down, I saw my oldest son looking back at me. Jack, just four-years-old, wore a clip-on tie, dark sport coat and khaki pants. His blue eyes sparkled, but his face exhibited confusion.

"Dad, can I ask a question?" He whispered, but with a decibel level causing it to echo throughout the hushed room.

I bent close to him, put my left arm around him, and responded, "Sure buddy. What is it?"

Looking around the room, then back at me, he asked, "Dad, is this heaven?"

We always told the kids that heaven would be an indescribably beautiful place where they would go when they died, be with God and be surrounded by all their friends and family.

I looked away from Jack and noticed the candles burning up front and flowers all around. There was an open casket centered in the room. Papa Joe was there and the room was packed with family and friends

I realized we had chatted so much about his Papa now being in heaven, that for a little boy, looking at a casket, still seeing the Papa he loved there, this was incredibly confusing.

I pulled him a little tighter to me, smiled at him and said, "That's a very good question. But, no, Jack. This isn't heaven; this is a funeral parlor. And that might be your Papa's body, but the best of him, the real him, is already in heaven. You can't see him, but he sees you. And he still loves you very much."

Jack, appearing a bit relieved, looked at the casket, then back at me, and responded, "Good. Because I was sure hoping heaven would be better than this place."

So, What is Heaven?

Almost a decade after Joe's death, my wife and I still talk to our kids about his life. We frequently share our favorite memories of their Papa Joe.

And we talk about the gift of life, about the reality of death and about where we believe we go when we die. We share that life is not always easy, but that the best is yet to come.

We believe that there is a heaven, that we'll meet God there and that once there we'll be surrounded with friends and family.

And we believe it will be a heck of a lot better than some funeral parlor.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

 

What happens when we die? Is there another life? Why are we here? These are questions we've wrestled with since the dawn of humanity. I've had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people who have had near-death experiences. Many share similar stories of the peace they felt, the experience they had and the hope they now have.

One of the most documented cases is that of a neurosurgeon named Dr. Eben Alexander. He was Duke trained, taught at Harvard, clinically driven, incredibly bright and agnostic spiritually, but his experience spending a week on life support with limited brain activity changed his life. In fact, Dr. Alexander believes he experienced heaven. I interviewed Dr. Alexander on our most recent Live Inspired podcast to learn about his experience. Although some of his ideas are radical and differ a bit from my understanding, our Live Inspired community is all about believing so strongly in our own personal beliefs, that we freely listen to others who have different beliefs. It's a fascinating conversation. So, what does a neurosurgeon believe heaven looks like? Listen to Eben Alexander's story to find out.

The post Is This Heaven? appeared first on John O'Leary.

Live Inspired Podcast: 3 Lessons from Magnolia Trees (Monday Moments ep. #135)
John O'Leary celebrates spring with three lessons he’s learned from magnolia trees on the Live Inspired Podcast.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration on our "Monday Moments" segments.Today, my friends, we are stepping into spring! Nature is blossoming in front of us; offering a reminder that the best in life is yet to come. Today...
Read More
The One Question
John O’Leary shares one question that could be your first step to recovery and overcoming addiction.Is it possible to make massive change in your life?How do you take the first step in a new, life-giving direction when you are buried by debt, addiction, iciness in marriage, stress in a job or “to-dos” on your calendar?The answer could be answeri...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Have you had enough? (Addiction with Fr. Tom Hoar #134)
John O'Leary welcomes Fr. Tom Hoar to the Live Inspired Podcast to discuss overcoming addiction."You can't imagine your life without it, but you desperately want to let it go."This is addiction as defined by today's guest, Fr. Tom Hoar, President + CEO of Enders Island Retreat Center, a treatment facility that helps addicted adults. More than se...
Read More
The 5 Surprising Gifts of Struggle
John O’Leary shares five gifts that can be found during struggle.Heart-ache from isolation and not belonging.Intense grief in the wake of loved ones dying due to accidents, illness and suicide. Great tension from financial insecurity. Destruction of our family home to fire. Twice. Total loss of physical health. Absolute lack of confidence, extre...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Monday Moments (Sneak Peek of Fr. Hoar ep. #133)
John O'Leary shares a sneak peek of Thursday’s Live Inspired Podcast guest Fr. Tom Hoar.Join me every Monday for a quick burst of inspiration during Monday Moments. Each week, I'll cover a different topic that will spark you to live more inspired.Today, I share a sneak peek from upcoming Live Inspired Podcast guest Fr. Tom Hoar and, his poignant...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Making Peace with the Unexpected (Michele Cushatt #132)
John O'Leary is joined by Michele Cushatt to discuss making peace with the expected on today’s Live Inspired Podcast.Michele Cushatt is a self-proclaimed expert of trauma, pain and the deep need for human connection. As a three-time cancer survivor, mother of six, author and speaker, Michele’s warmth, strength and transparency will remind you th...
Read More
IN STUDIO - Webcast #23: Owning Your Life: 3 Critical Elements to Ignite Freedom in Your Journey
IN STUDIO – Webcast #23: Owning Your Life: 3 Critical Elements to Ignite Freedom in Your Journey REMINDER: Mark your calendars for our next live webcast#24: The Power of Hope, on Monday, 4/15 at 10:30 AM CDT! If you are unable to attend live, you can access the video, audio downloads & ongoing discussions here 24/7. […]To access this In Stu...
Read More
Do They Know?
John O’Leary on the importance of expressing gratitude.“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”– GB SternHave you ever had someone make a big difference for you?Better question: Do they even know?Frequently we so quickly move on with our lives that we miss the opportunity to share our gratitude for all someone else did for us. Let me explain...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Monday Moments (Listeners' Questions on ep. #131)
John O'Leary answers listeners’ questions on the Live Inspired Podcast.Every Monday moving forward, join me for a quick burst of inspiration during Monday Moments. Each week, I’ll cover a different topic that will spark you to live more inspired.This week, I answer questions submitted from three Live Inspired community members. Tune in to hear m...
Read More
Live Inspired Podcast: Reach Your Next Summit (ep. #130)
John O'Leary is joined by business leader + adventure seeker on tips to overcome your challenges on the Live Inspired Podcast.During his eleven years as a business leader at Build-A-Bear Workshop, Manley Feinberg implemented solutions inspired by his extreme outdoor adventures in the Himalayas, Uzbekistan and El Capitan in Yosemite.Today, Manley...
Read More