A sparkle in the forest,
A glimmer of light from afar;
A mere glimpse of eternity,
Of what we have in store.
by Sue Nash
Today my dad would have been 84 years old. He lived a long, wonderful life then went to heaven at 82. Like so many others who have lost a parent, I miss him terribly. In his case, though, the pain from cancer had so consumed him that the final parting he took heavenward brought more relief than sorrow to those of us who loved him. I miss my sweet dad but am happy knowing he finally left his suffering behind and made it safely to his eternal home.
My dad was always very physically strong and energetic. In fact, even a few months prior to his death, he could still split and chop his own firewood. I called him a ‘work horse.’ Because of this, his passing was hard to accept because in the back of my mind, I had counted on him being around for many more years.
After the initial hurt lessened, I thought that I was progressing normally through the grieving process but realized that I was struggling. I had wrapped my heart around the fact that my dad was in heaven but could not seem to wrap my mind around it. Since I am such a ‘visual’ person, I longed to see him there – to catch a glimpse of daddy in heaven.
A few years earlier, one of my nieces shared something about heaven that beautifully expressed that longing. I had the opportunity to hear Don Piper speak at a local church about his book 90 Minutes in Heaven. Since my niece was going, too, I thought it best to prepare her for some of his discussion. She was still rather young and I did not want her to get upset over the details of his death. After I was done, she wanted to know more about his heavenly journey. As I told her some about his book, she listened intently. What she spoke next, I have never forgotten. As soon as I finished sharing, she exclaimed, “Oh Aunt Sue, don’t you wish he could have brought back photos?” My adorable niece was correct. What I needed most to ease my grieving was a photo. Nothing else would so precisely fulfill my longing than seeing a snapshot of my dad in heaven.
Unfortunately, Don Piper did not take his camera to heaven. We have his phenomenal testimony, but he did not bring back a scrapbook filled with photos. I was so earnest in my desire for this glimpse that I began asking God if He would give something like a photo, such as a vision or spiritual dream. I never doubted His Word that since my dad had accepted Christ he was really in heaven. This was not some ‘doubting Thomas’ kind of moment, rather a desire for comfort. I just kept yearning for a glimpse. Weeks and months passed but God never gave me that vision.
Just like our God, though, on one ordinary day while I was dusting the furniture, I came across the photo above. Taken many years before my dad died, this picture is very special because it was of a trip our family took together in Colorado. In this shot, my dad was the happiest I ever remember him. Sitting as he was atop the Continental Divide, his battle with cancer had not yet begun. His literal battles of fighting on the front lines in Korea were long since gone. Of all my pictures of him, this one, taken just before his suffering began, is most precious. My heavenly Father knew all of this. As I walked past it that morning, He gently whispered, “There’s your photo.”
God’s words stunned me since I had already given up on my ‘photo from heaven.’ As I gazed upon it that day, it was as if I were seeing it again for the first time. I began noticing that my dad had on his Saints cap and that he looked more relaxed and carefree than I really had noticed. It occurred to me that heaven is like that – a place where he is carefree and happy, and has joined all the other ‘saints;’ a place with no suffering, and of mountaintops instead of valleys of sorrow. Additionally, only God could have known what comfort it would bring his garden-loving daughter to see him surrounded by flowers! Amazed, I knew that this whisper from the Lord was not simply my imagination. God had given me my photo!
To some, this may seem a bit hokey. I did have a moment where I questioned the validity myself. I got to thinking about heaven and our glorified bodies. From my recollections, my dad had on glasses for the pose and this just did not seem to mesh with Scripture. Upon questioning God about it, He prompted me to go have another look. There was my dad with his glasses, but instead of wearing them he was holding them in his hand! I realize many will dismiss this as mere ‘wishful longings.’ It only takes one glimpse, though, for me to know that I have my glimpse!
My dad is now in heaven. Eternity wrapped its loving arms around him and gently took him on home. Perhaps because I yearned so intently, God gave me a picture of my dad in eternity. Even though I miss him dearly, I smile looking at him, knowing he is now on heaven’s shore! All I have to do is gaze upon the photo to remember that eternity just had better things in store!
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
2 Corinthians 4:17