We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Jess was in his early seventies, married many times with children and grandchildren, some of whom he did not even know. He asked his youngest daughter if he could stay with her while he was dying. Only love could have made her say yes, since they had never met.
A small bedroom was improvised in the family room, with a hospital bed and a curtain made from a sheet drawn across the room. Jess was then loved in a way he had never known about before. It started with six-year-old John. Although there were older children in the home, John took charge, sleeping next to Jess’s bed every night and staying close to him every chance he had. The bond was so special to watch; it reminded us all that, “a little child shall lead them.”
Jess’s daughter was able to find many of the children and grandchildren he did not know, and the party they had one evening was a sight to behold. Step-brothers and sisters, half-brothers and sisters, cousins and more gathered to meet and love Jess and each other.
Unconditional love was everywhere and Jess saw clearly that in spite of everything, God had “made all things work to the good,” because they loved him.
One day as Jess was beginning to die, he turned to me and said. “Trudy, why can I already see my mother and father who died a long time ago while I can still see you?” I explained to him that God had readied his soul to go on to heaven but his body was not yet ready to leave. He understood completely and was extremely peaceful and grateful for everything.
Then one day I received a call: Jess had died with all his family around him. When little John asked how Jess felt now, I told him he could feel him. When John asked what was in his eyes, I told him he could look inside and see. John excitedly said, “I think he sees Jesus.” It seemed natural to him that since Jess was in heaven, he was looking at Jesus –- why not?
Realizing that John was not quite ready to let Jess go, I closed the curtain and left him alone with the man he had come to know and love as Papa. Finishing up all the details that follow a death, I opened the curtain and peeked inside. There was John, on top of Jess’s big belly, arms wrapped tightly around him, fast asleep. John reminded us all of Jesus, who loves unconditionally with compassion and great mercy. John loved Papa into heaven.