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Are joys of this world a taste of what is to come?

By Jan Hearne • Sep 15, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Editor’s note: This column first appeared in the Johnson City Press on April 13, 2014. We are republishing it in honor of Jan Hearne, our former longtime Living section editor who died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer.

In the past months, I’ve spent a fair amount of time puzzling over what comes next. And though I have no idea when I will make that transition — as my doctor said, “No one can tell you exactly when that will be” — understandably it’s been on my mind.

When I feel sad about leaving things behind, not now or even next year but sometime as we all must, I think there must be tulips or something even better on the other side. There must be robins perched in redbuds and clouds shaped liked dogs racing toward heaven.

There must be something like a mother’s kiss or a father’s hug, the sound of my sister’s laugh or her voice on the other end of the phone. Surely, something will make me feel as good as when I see my niece smile or feel the touch of her daughter’s hand in mine.

Even if the Rainbow Bridge is wishful thinking, there must be dogs and cats or some other form of unconditional love wrapped in soft fur. There must be the sound of a train at night and the call of birds.

Spring grass freshly mowed, violets springing up out of nowhere, cherry blossoms and daffodils, surely they are a preview of what’s to come.

Surely we will re-experience the rapture of first love — without the ensuing heartbreak. Or perhaps it will be replaced by a peace so deep it transforms feeling.

On the other side there must be bonds as strong as friendship — the love we feel for people we choose as our own. There must be laughter and silliness and teasing, earnest discussions and a great deal of empathy.

Will there be the planting of seeds and the hope it brings? I trust there will be something like it or better, followed by the satisfaction of seeing plants grow and thrive. Home-grown tomatoes? Do I even have to wonder?

Should I expect Technicolor sunsets over the Pacific Ocean or snow on mountain tops? The splash of rain against the gutters and the deep calm of cloudy days?

Will there be fires in the fireplace? Clean cotton sheets? Flannel pajamas? The touch of grass against bare feet?

Will I be able to bury my face in a horse’s mane and feel the velvet of its nose against my cheek?

Music. Of course there will be music — we’ve already seen so many of our best musicians disappear from this plane. If there is any comfort at all in Jesse Winchester’s impending death (as I write this), it is knowing he will be among the heavenly chorus when I arrive. Meanwhile, I have his music and the music of all the artists I love as a foretaste of what’s to come.

Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but I can’t imagine the Earth is the best the Universe can do — though I think it is more than enough. Heaven would be Earth without the greed, corruption, destruction, war, hate, cruelty, falseness and all the other ills humankind is heir to.

And, I have considered, there may be nothing. Nothing at all. But, as someone wisely pointed out to me, believing there is nothing is an act of faith, too.

In the meantime, there is the eternal now for which I am not always grateful. After all, I am human and firmly tethered to this world. It is all I’ve ever known for sure.

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