Over a year ago, I sat rocking my daughter in the dim light of my bedroom. How I wished my grandmother could be around to see this little firecracker, I thought. Then I spoke to Granny in my head, eyes closed, my head rocking gently with the motion of the rocker. “What is it like in Heaven, Granny? I wish I could see you.” I felt tingles over my arms and down my back as a warmth filled me from head to toe. Granny shared the warmth she felt in Heaven and my tears flowed freely. That’s it! I thought. Heaven on Earth.
I grabbed up my daughter and ran to the computer with a fresh idea. (I was nursing at the time and she just stayed there- oblivious to the fact that my year-long adventure was kicking off before her closed eyes).
What if Heaven COULD be on Earth? Sigh. What a sweet concept. I typed in some lines. The energy for this gentle book flowed and soon felt complete. Thirty minutes later I walked away. I told NOBODY about this interaction with my Granny and about the book idea. I knew to hold this near and dear to my heart.
The next day, I took my 6 year-old son to school. From the backseat,
“Wouldn’t it be amazing if Heaven was on Earth Mommy, and we never had to lose the ones we love? Wouldn’t it be great if Earth could feel like Heaven?”
I looked in the rearview mirror and back to the road- astounded. Did I talk in my sleep? “Yes, that would be amazing.” That was all I managed to choke out.
After school, my son came running up to me. “Mom! Mom! I asked God my question and HE answered!” He whipped out a piece of art paper with speckles on it. I looked at the nearly blank paper. “Honey, can you read the note to me? I think it was meant for you.” He looked at me with that, oh poor Mommy needs help look. “Words are invisible in Heaven Mom! God answered my prayers. We CAN have Heaven on Earth!” I hugged him and cried for a moment. My sweet boy.
This was about the time my father, the strong leader in our family- our solid rock, had issues once again with Brain Cancer. Specifically, Glioblastoma Multiforme reared it’s ugly head again (with an average survival timeline of 15 months- gulp). His treatment over the prior year consisted of radiation, chemotherapy pills, chiropractic, and nutritional supplements. As a family, we joined together to support him, in denial that an end to this amazing, strong, tireless man could ever arrive.
Fast forward a few mornings later when I found a sweet note in my son’s room. It read, “God is up in Heaven.” I held the note to my heart.
I stopped editing the Heaven on Earth book and did my part in caring for my father and coping with the impending loss that would rock my world like no other event thus far. I asked my late Granny to hold me close and also begged my grandfather, Nathan for help. (He passed before the birth of my son). As my father’s illness progressed, Pa came through.
My son started communicating with his late great-grandfather in Heaven. How did I know? He started telling me he saw Nathan in his dream, but couldn’t remember what he looked like (this was in the Poconos while I edited my gluten-free book for kids by the light of the dim, tiny television).
Stories continued to unfold as my father’s prognosis shifted to terminal. “Nathan said Pop will die soon and he will be waiting for him.” How does a Mom respond to statements like this? That’s rhetorical. Of course I hugged him and told him how happy I was that Pop would have family greeting him. Inside, I felt both shocked and comforted by his messages. All the way to the funeral, my son reported on events like a news reporter watching a game.
“Pop is sitting with God right now in a room. The keys are upside down in Heaven, Mom. Did you know that? God wants to see the whole story of his life [at the funeral]!”
I went back to my original book and renamed it, “Cloud City” and stared at my contemplative child. So innocent. So sweet. So sensitive to the current events and to messages from above. My son patiently sat through my endless tears with a wise heart and calmness beyond his young years. “Mom’s crying again. It’s about Pop.” He told this to my Mom when she came over.
I rewrote the entire story, thinking about my mother’s best friend. She told me stories about her own deceased father, coming to her in a butterfly. Hmmm, food for thought and a great idea. (You have to get the book to see why).
Yes, Heaven could be on Earth. It’s all how my son (or I) or you choose to look at things- PERSPECTIVE. How do you see your life? Is your life happy or sad? Is your day successful or a waste? Half empty or half full? Forgiveness and love… gifts for others. Yes, create Heaven on Earth!
Feel the pain, feel the sorrow, and let those feelings flow. Avoid judgement. Shift naturally to living in the moment, showing love for those around you today. That’s one way to create Heaven on Earth.
I re-edited the story and set it down again.
Not many people understand the process of creating a book with a small publisher. I’m involved in every aspect of my projects and love it. (I love it all except the part where someone edits my work and I want to put my hair out. ONE. STRAND. AT. A. TIME. ) I told my publisher about the happenings in our house. I pushed her to look at the illustrator I found. Georgia Stylou. (click there for her Facebook page). Georgia Georgia Georgia. What can I say? She is amazing. After seeing her sweet art, how could I not use her? My heart grew larger with love and excitement towards this project and my bereavement cup poured directly into this book.
Getting this book published became my obsession- I believe it was fueled from Heaven- because I needed to complete it or for reasons yet revealed.
I showed the sample art to my publisher, told her the full story, and had her on board in minutes. Just a few weeks after my father’s passing, my book, Cloud City A Child’s Journey Through Bereavement had an illustrator, a strong story, a new title, and a plan for the release the following year.
Each time I received a completed page from Georgia, (sometimes 3 pages at a time) I shed tears, edited the words a bit more by instinct, and moved on. Looking at the completed images just months later, I sighed. In dreams, my father came to me, with messages that he remained near. I put his message on my title page later and edited it to be within the book as a message to the boy as well. To this day, when I read the line about the grandfather always being near, I cry, hearing my Dad’s words from my dream. I continue to process my own grief.
Yes, this book represented a lot.
My heart … my loss … my connection to Granny … my son’s connection to his great-grandfather … my love for my father … my hope … my joy that yes, life continues on … my desire to raise money … my desire to help other people … hope that people would know they are not alone in our loss … and above all else, my hope that others will feel comfort and love.
The story endured countless revisions, as little words changed here and there. In the end, we brought the book back almost to it’s original form- straight from my heart.
A friend and fellow author sent me this feather- sent from my father. I opened up the cover on my computer and placed it near the image in heart-felt thanks.
National Brain Tumor Society. I plan to donate a portion of my proceeds to this organization to help others. If I find another worthy destination, I’ll include that as well. The pain we all endured, particularly my father of course, is not indescribable. I’m a writer and I find words for everything.
It was unbearable.
The loss, the hole in my heart, and the sadness remains. Now to continue to direct it towards something positive.
I look back over the year leading to the release of this book in awe. From an idea sparked in my rocker, to my son’s divine inspiration, and through the heartache and loss, I marvel at the journey. I sincerely pray this book finds a home with families coping with loss- family, friends, pets. (Yes, I mention the loss of our cat in the book!). Loss becomes a journey- one that nobody can avoid.
When I heard about the book’s first award, The Gelett Burgess Award, I sobbed and laughed all at once on the phone with my publisher. Tears of joy, sorrow, pride, and relief.
What is this book about? Well it’s about time I get around to that, right? A boy ponders big kid things in the wake of his grandfather’s loss. “Why do we have to lose the people we love?” A beautiful butterfly lands on his knee and takes him on a magical journey to a place so far, yet so close in our hearts. He brings back healing messages to share to create Heaven on Earth, here and now.
… and now my heart if out there, in print, for the world to see.
From my heart, to yours,