Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A Renaissance man in heaven

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 3, 2019

My husband was a true Renaissance man. He was a great cook who enjoyed trying different cuisines and artfully created feasts from fresh ingredients, herbs and spices.

Jef made his first batch of wine after a friend showered us with a bumper crop of apples. When we planted a fig tree, he harvested the ripe fruit for wine, and when we grew grapes in our front yard, he made tasty muscadine wine.

He became interested in bees and soon we had two hives in the backyard, which produced copious amounts of honey that he turned into mead.

Ever since childhood, he’d loved drawing and painting, but it wasn’t until he was 40 that he became truly serious about using this God-given talent.

In the next 15 years, Jef created hundreds of gorgeous oil paintings of Middle-earth and eventually became a well-known Tolkien artist. He died in 2015 with his last painting hung on the wall of his studio, waiting to be varnished.

And after his death, I started wondering about heaven and what he would do there. You see,  many images of heaven show people perched on clouds, playing harps—and I didn’t think that would thrill a Renaissance man for long!

Then I recalled Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “From now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”

This means there is wine in heaven, so perhaps there are also winemakers, and Jef could continue his earthly hobby.

Of course, someone might object that in heaven wine could be produced instantly. Perhaps, but even Jesus apparently enjoyed preparation, when it came to nurturing others.

There is that scene on the shore when the Resurrected Christ invites the disciples to join him for breakfast. Since he is God, he could have produced the meal out of thin air, but instead Jesus takes the time to cook for his friends—because this is a way of letting others know you love them.

There are many mentions of the “wedding feast of the Lamb” in the Bible, and we can imagine the array of good food that might be served at this celebration. And perhaps in heaven there are chefs like my husband, eager to prepare these sumptuous delicacies for others.

However, even if Jef kept busy with cooking and winemaking, his deepest joy came from artwork, and I wondered whether there’d be artists in the afterlife.

Recall the times you’ve been in an exquisite church or beheld the work of one of the great masters like Michelangelo or da Vinci. Think of what we say in the presence of breath-taking art and music: “It’s a glimpse of heaven!”

Heaven must be filled with wonders much more amazing than earthly ones, so there could be artists and sculptors and musicians there, who delight in creating beauty.

It gives me comfort to picture Jef happily doing the things he enjoyed on earth. And in my mind’s eye, I sometimes picture him cooking a meal and sampling his latest batch of mead made with honey from heavenly beehives.

On the wall nearby, there’d be his most recent painting, depicting the glorious heavenly gardens.

And I see myself walking in, rushing over to him and hugging him with all my heart. And he joyfully takes me to the place at the table he’s been saving for me all this time.

Little surprise, it’s right next to him, and it will always be that way, as we partake of the delights in the wedding feast of the Lamb, together for all eternity.

Artwork by Jef Murray (oil painting titled “Houses of Healing”). Lorraine’s email address is