Heaven: Remembering Candace Fettuccine

Philosophy: All guinea pigs go to heaven, and yes Jack, there are ball pits there.

The first experience I ever had with trying to explain heaven was when Candace Fettuccine passed away.

Jack and Elise each got a guinea pig last year. Ginger, Elise’s pig, is alive and well; Candace is not.

Where he got the name, I don’t know. Jack wanted me to name his brother “Trashbag Milkjug”. I digress.

We called her Candy. Jack wrapped her in a receiving blanket and carried her everywhere. She laid on him while he watched TV, she played with him in his room. Then, one day, I came home from work and realized Candy met her maker.

I braced myself for the inevitable. I was completely prepared for devastation from Jack.  I told him Candy went to guinea pig heaven.

When you have kids, you’re forced to talk about heaven at some point, whether you want to or not.

It’s one of those things I never thought about trying to explain until I had to do it. To use the analogy of Alan Watts, trying to explain heaven is like trying to “bite your own teeth”.

I had my own thoughts and opinions about what heaven is and isn’t and what it’s like, but I never had a reason or opportunity to put the thoughts into words.

I told him Candy went to guinea pig heaven and held my breath for what was surely about to be an explosion. I watched the wheels turning while he made sense of what I was saying.

Then, he asked, “When will she be back?”

Little man clearly had no idea what I meant when I said heaven. I guess he wouldn’t. He was too little to remember anyone dying.

“She isn’t coming back. It’s like Jimmy when he went up to dog heaven.”

“Oh. How did she get up there? Did she fly?”

Here’s where I let it get tricky. I should’ve said yes and been done with it. “No. She has a spirit like we do. Her spirit went to heaven, but her body stayed down here.” I waited for the onslaught of questions. I got…crickets.

“Oh. Does she have food there?”

Whew.

“Yes. She has all the food she could ever want.”

“Does she have water?”

“Sure. She probably has a huge water bottle that’s always full.”

“Is heaven fun?”

“Jacky, if there is such a thing as more than fun, that’s what heaven is, I think.”

“Can we go there and see her?”

“No, not today, but someday, when you go to heaven, I believe you’ll get to see everyone you know that’s there; even your animals.”

“But I want to go today.” The sheer innocence of his inability to comprehend finality – that going to heaven meant dying- made me smile inside.

“I know you do, buddy, but I don’t want you to. Someday you’ll get there.”

“Mommy, do they have ball pits in heaven?”

“Absolutely. There are definitely ball pits in heaven.”

It was about here that Elise yelled at both of us to quit talking about it because it was making her sad. She was a little more familiar with the whole losing pets and great-grandparents and talking about heaven routine.

“But Sissy, heaven has ball pits. It’s not sad.”

And there you have it. Heaven has ball pits. It’s not sad.

I’m not sure which part of this I thought about the longest. For starters, I realized just how much little ones trust their parents’ word. Then again, why wouldn’t they?

It made me realize, in his eyes, I had all the answers. I was prepared for a debate that didn’t happen. He asked, I answered. I knew what I was talking about because I was mom and for now, my word was gospel. End of story.

It isn’t until we’re adults that we require proof of every little thing. It made me wonder when blind trust stops and hard proof begins to be required. Not everything has to be complicated, maybe. Maybe, we need a little more blind trust; a little more faith.

It also made me realize one of the purposes of heaven here on earth. I’m sure there are many. I know there are. I’m not here to debate religion (I’d rather do that with my 6-year-old). But one of the purposes of heaven is to make life bearable.

Life means death and death is hard. It’s final. I think we’re much older before we can wrap our minds around the concept of “final”. I realize there are people who believe in reincarnation or that death is rebirth into the afterlife that would want to argue over finality, but I’m talking about dealing with something you love going away for the rest of your days here on earth.

It’s comforting to the point of almost being necessary to have heaven.

Heaven softens the blow of death for kids. But it does the same for adults.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather believe that all of my grandparents, and all of the dogs I lost, are reunited and playing in a great big ball pit, having a blast, than to think that death was the end-all.

I prefer to believe I’ll see them again; that they’re just passing the time doing all of the things they loved doing here on earth, but without the suffering, until I get there to meet them.

I like to think of death being nothing more than a steward into the next phase of being. Of course, that’s only what I like to think.

What I know for sure, though, is if heaven exists, there will be ball pits.

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