“Is this heaven?” asked John. Ray paused and answered, “It’s Iowa.” “Iowa?” responded John as he started to walk away. “I could have sworn it was heaven,” “Is there a heaven?” asked Ray.”Oh yeah,” responded John. “It’s the place where dreams come true.” Pausing and looking around, Ray said, “Maybe this is heaven.”
So went the powerful scene between Ray Kinsella and the ghost of a young version of his father, John, in the 1989 hit Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner. Such a classic moment. Check it out here.
Sitting under the lights of Victory Field in Indianapolis last night, I couldn’t help but think of that movie and John Kinsella’s question, Is this heaven? Surrounded by my own family and our extended Northwind family, my face hurt from smiling so broadly for such an extended time. “I love that sound,” came the voice next to me. Tuning back in to the moment, I gave him a questioning look. “The snap of the ball hitting the glove,” he responded, smiling and pointing toward the pitcher warming up mere feet from our baseline seats.
Earlier this week, I asked a friend about a loved one who I knew was suffering from Stage IV cancer. “She is feeling well enough to attend the wedding in a few weeks,” she responded. “What a miracle,”‘ I said, knowing that the circumstances are very fluid and each additional moment is a gift – a small glimpse of heaven.
We’ve entered September 2023, the season is showing signs of change, and our move toward the next is beginning. The year has delivered plenty of loss in the form of friends, loved ones, colleagues, and celebrities who have passed out of our lives; and loss in the form of struggle, suffering, and heartbreak. We move toward yearend knowing that more will come.
And yet, it has delivered plenty of gain as well. New life. New friends. New starts. New deals. New hope. The beat goes on.
Watching my grandchildren run up and down the steps of the stadium last night, waving their miniature bats, laughing and talking to complete strangers as they made their way, I was reminded of the glimpses of heaven we get through it all. My face hurt from smiling as I watched them, and I recognized the gift in the moment. The glimpse was easy with a cold beer, a perfect temperature, and not a single worry other than the persistent tripping on steps by the 2 year old. Each crack of the bat marked the moments with an emphatic call to focus on the brief glimpse.
There was no voice telling me to build it and they will come or to go the distance, but I did hear a reminder to savor this moment.
Such moments are easy to savor when we pause long enough to recognize them. We can almost step out of our own heads and see it for what it is, a real glimpse of heaven. A place where the stress and the strain fade, lost in the effortlessness of awe and wonder, of simply being present in the moment and letting it be. A window of time in which the waters of our life are moving us in just the right direction, at just the right speed, and it is joyfully easy.
What about the moments that are not so joyful or effortless? Talking to some who have gone through recent job loss, i’m struck by glimpses of heaven found in the work of moving one. Relief. Hope. New life. The loss is pretty much always a gift – a push to something different, something new, something more.
Even death, the sad ending to what was, in such a way as to overwhelm us in the what we can’t know and the where we don’t want to go, brings its own glimpse. In What Sara Said, Death Cab for Cutie sing that “love is watching someone die.” Being present at the end, at the moment of transition, is its own excruciating gift…to all involved. To feel so deeply is to glimpse heaven through a depth of love that brings us near selflessness even as we feel the piercing hurt of complete abandonment. Such a moment is an acute transition for everyone involved.
Ease his pain says the voice to Ray Kinsella as he laments his own struggles. Whose pain he wonders? Following the signs, Kinsella finds that turning his heart and soul toward that bigger mission ultimately eases his own pain as he surrenders to something beyond himself. Beyond his understanding. Beyond what he thinks his life about.
Watching the messiness, suffering, struggle, and then moments of joy within my own life and the lives of those with whom I share this journey, I finally see it. Like those distant stars high in our nighttime skies, we realize that there are some that we’ll never see by looking at them directly – we need the right lens, circumstance, point of view, and prompting to notice. That is the gift. That is Grace. That is a glimpse of heaven.