Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

My Very Own Seaside Heaven

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published February 3, 2011

A friend wrote to ask me what I thought heaven was like. Well, I’ve never been there, of course, but I think each of us cherishes a special image.

St. Paul tells us, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor 2:9). Scripture also assures us that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no sorrow in heaven.

If I could design my own heaven, it would have to be Crandon Park Beach in Miami, where my parents took the kids nearly every Saturday.

I can see the whole crew now: my father in his baggy trunks, my mother in a navy-blue suit with a modest pleated skirt. I’m a child again, chubby and brown, with my hair skinned back into a ponytail, and standing, as usual, in the shadow of my big sister.

My dad hauls to the shore a huge picnic basket stuffed with treats for the day: my mother’s chicken cacciatore, loaves of bread, a thermos of chilled lemonade and homemade coffee cake for dessert.

In my version of heaven, my mother, my sister and I are bobbing in the ocean, while my father sits on the shore, puffing on a Cuban cigar and keeping an eye out for sharks.

After lunch, I grow drowsy and flop down on a towel on the sand. In the distance, there’s the familiar, comforting hum of my parents’ voices. When I awaken, feeling sweaty and dazed from the sun, my mother hands me a cup of lemonade.

When I picture heaven, I see my parents forever young. My father is tanned and strong, confident and laughing as he carries the folding chairs back to the car. My mother is healthy, and she will never succumb to the cancer that killed her, here on earth.

Later, we drive back to our humble cement-block house in Southwest Miami, the one with jalousie windows and terrazzo floors. In one room of this house I discover all the pets I ever loved.

There’s Wormy the turtle, Spike the squirrel, all the cats, and don’t forget the herd of teddy-bear hamsters.

In another room, there are my beloved relatives. The aunts, plump and cheery, are rolling out dough for Italian pastries, while my uncles and my husband are playing poker and laughing.

When I look at my images of heaven, one thing stands out: It’s the feeling of finally being home, once and for all. We are physical beings, and so when we envision heaven, we think in terms of oceans, houses, pastries and pets.

But as St. Paul said, there is nothing on earth that we have ever seen or heard that will match up to what God has planned for us.

And I would venture a guess that the greatest treasure of heaven is this: We will be in the Lord’s presence from morning to night. We will be truly loved. We will finally belong.