Eternity does not start with death. We are in eternity now.
- Norman Vincent Peale
Caring for dying patients, I am often asked the same questions. “My father’s face is just glowing when he speaks about heaven—why?” or “One day when my mom was telling me about what she was seeing with her glimpse of heaven, her face became so soft—how does that happen?”
It may be a wife or husband asking the question as they are with their loved ones just as they die. Their skin seems to glow like the sun or become very youthful again. It may be a brother or sister who watches the face of their loved one change into a countenance of radiance and peace.
When you see it, you cannot deny what you are looking at. I once was caring for a mother whose son was in the service. He stayed with her the night she was dying and when he called to tell me she had passed he said, “She looks as young as she did when I was a little boy, like a shining angel.”
This week at morning Mass, the scripture about the Transfiguration of Christ was read aloud and explained. The priest reminded us that Jesus went up on the mountain, now called “the Mount of the Transfiguration,” with Peter, James and John. While there, Elijah and Moses appeared for all to see, and Jesus spoke with them.
Out of the clouds came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son on whom my favor rests; hear him.” The scripture reflects that Jesus became radiant before them and His clothes turned dazzling white. He said this happened because Jesus was listening to the voice of his Father in heaven at that time.
I could not help but think about the patients in my care, who on their deathbeds, were telling us about heaven, seeing Jesus, angels and those who had died before them; now they too were radiant and beautiful. How often in after-death experiences people tell you their loved ones wore a “white” we have no word for or that they were radiant as the sun.
Perhaps when you are with God, your countenance reflects the beauty and radiance of heaven itself. St Thomas Aquinas said that the Transfiguration, among other things, reflected the perfection of heaven.