Heaven Might Be Anywhere

One of my greatest fears in life is that this life, this practice life, will be our only life, and, of course, one doesn’t hear the punch line. This moment of truth, this day of reckoning, this day of judgement, is the religious revelation of the existence of evil and the evil dominion of bête noir: The introduction of fear as consequence of a wayward behavior in this life.

What if the moment of truth, the day of reckoning, and the day of judgement were all about the earthly presence of beauty, of grace, and of winsomeness? What if in your minds eye you were witness to all the mystical magic of earth? What if the magic of life was overlooked because our treasured gift of life was fettered away in a foolhardy gaffe to get somewhere-anywhere, because somewhere-anywhere promises joy and laughter and intimacy and beauty which is sorely missed from right where I am.

What if the hereafter punch line was: Heaven is right under your nose?

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Just One of the Things I’ll Miss

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When you live in Chicago and drive, you live in your car. With so many people living in an urban and cosmopolitan city you’d think that public transportation would be a practical choice. And for many it is: Except they leave their parked cars at home like their two German Shepherds. A car is a car is a car. The streets are so congested that many neighborhoods allow cars with the proper permit displayed on their windshield may park there. Oh, and out-of-town guests? 1) Bone up on your parallel parking skills and a good sense of the length of your car; 2) Expect your host to hand you a temporary parking permit that you must affix to the right hand side of the windshield; if you’re a little light in the ingenuity department be sure to ask a friend your right from your left. Chicago Police are unsparing when it comes to the City‘s parking violation revenue.

aaacitySo, there are people who own cars but only drive them on the weekend. Which is precisely the same days the suburbanite wish to drive into the city for a game, a museum, or a pizza. Now we’ve got a city constipated by cars, like constipation, all want to go someplace but every street is clogged worse than my drain last week. We call it gridlock. That’s when people headed north, south, east, and west think they should go first and so we have intersections obstructed (which is worse in both metaphors) with the righteous, the immovable, obstructed, and constipated SUV brimming with 8-10 year olds from some sprawltown.

Urbanites never, ever drive on the weekend. Why? Because you’re not driving, you’re sitting, and that I could accomplish without Jenna’s car sickness, Stevie’s allergies including eggs, and guess what Jenna had for breakfast. . . .

Just think, thousands and thousands of cars and SUV’s dealing with the same degree of calamity and torture that the entrepeneur or the cubicalist for a ventriloquist’s thought as they’d left their respective offices on Friday evening. “Two whole days without urgency!”

That’s one of the thing’s I’ve already begun to miss about my older brother, Rick, who died recently. Day or night, long or short trip, I could aaacellphonelaughingcall Rick and we’d gab like a couple school girls. We were the best of friends, which is rare, especially with our current pace of life. But thank God he was a homebody because the odds were in my favor that he’d answer.

But now I simply sit silently as though I’m sitting in a nondescript doctor’s office. I don’t play music as I find it irritating ever since my breakdown in 2008. The only thing I cared to listen to was his voice and old, old jokes which we both laughed at, certainly not for their humor content, but because we’d laughed at the same stale loaf of humor year after year after

Produced and released by Warner Bros.
Produced and released by Warner Bros.

year. There’s something cherished in that degree of comfort: You’re allowed to belly laugh free of reprisal. Chevy Chase‘s “Christmas Vacation” produced in 1989 is a goofball, slapstick comedy of chaos, catastrophe, dickies, and eggnog moose mugs which is cued-up upon our arrival. Maybe it’s Clark’s (Chevy Chase) millstone to produce the Griswold’s primo holiday celebration ever!  AND which ties all of us together, because we’ve all felt a similar degree of disappointment that Clark Griswold felt.

Or when I’ll never again, upon answering the phone, hear his voice say , “Hey, buddy . . .”

Rich Didrickson (1955-2013)

“Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.” — Herman Melville

It sent me back on my heels and against the ropes.

I was so surprised that time stopped.

It’s disappointment struck like a head-on collision.

When I answered I heard the life expectancybut I expected a little empathy;  not the credibly, relative destiny. 

It was a bombshell aimed dead-center to insure the greatest damage.

It was the end of one of several episodes.

It was the start of a new episode.

It was colorless. Soundless. Sightless.

It’s coldness remained near me, like walking out of a freezer.

It underestimated its infliction of cruelty.

Rick had the courage and nerve and right to refuse pain medications, food, and finally liquids. His pledge to himself guaranteed freedom from his hellish suffering that heroic measures caused, and found his real life patiently waiting at the gates of heaven on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at precisely 1:00 p.m.

It’s impossible for me to estimate the number of people who now have holes in their hearts where Rick used to be.