Heaven. It starts on a mountain. 42 degrees and not a cloud in sight. I’m strapped into my snowboard and Poppy is there to greet me – the first person I knew to die. “Welcome to Heaven.”
I follow him down the mountain. It’s perfectly groomed. Perfectly challenging. I get myself into an invincible rhythm and continue down for I don’t know how long. Music starts to play all around me. Finally, my life has a soundtrack.
Eventually, I meet back up with Poppy at the bottom of the trail. I follow him into the lodge, which is actually an exquisitely decorated house where I see all my relatives sitting around a giant table. They all smile and wave. I hardly recognize some of them because heaven brings us back to the age when we were at our happiest and healthiest.
The house smells like candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pine trees, and burning wood. I see Grandma put a plate of fresh-baked cookies down on the table. She is young and beautiful. She motions to me and I walk over. I follow her to a door which I discover opens up onto a beach. But it’s not just any beach, it’s a Long Branch beach – where Grandma grew up. The sand is warm, but not too hot. The color of the water is a mix of green, brown, and a little blue, just like I’ve always known it to be. It’s refreshing like the Jersey water in early July. I lie down on a towel that never seems to get sandy and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. There’s no sunburn in heaven. (No skin cancer either…no cancer at all.)
I step back into the house where my entire family still remains, sitting around the giant table. They all talk to each other as if they never run out of things to say, and there is always a seat open for me. The table is filled with whatever food might be on my mind at the time – mostly cupcakes.
Poppy motions me over to a window. I walk to him and peer out the window, expecting to see a sunrise perhaps, but it’s earth. It’s all my loved ones still on earth. I am watching them. Poppy taps one of them and puts his hand to his chest. I do the same and suddenly I feel the heartbeat of the one I tapped. I am a part of her, inside of her. And she knows that. She looks up and smiles as if she knows I am watching over her. There’s not much I can do as far as guide her (free will and all that), but she knows I am watching and knows that my love for her remains the same no matter where I am.
I feel a cold air come over me. I look up and see Poppy with his ski goggles on. “Has someone else from the family died?”
“No” says Poppy. He chuckles in that wheezy way I remember from when I was little. “I just feel like going skiing.”
I follow him out and strap into my board. So that’s heaven – snowboarding down a mountain, lying on the beach, being with my family, and eating great food – mostly cupcakes.