Dear Rev. Know it all,
My husband died 17 months ago and I still have trouble dealing with it. I was sixty-one. I work (which is good) but at night I think and think and think!! Is my husband in heaven .. or will heaven be on earth. Therefore is he just devoid of any consciousness (asleep in Christ)? I want my husband to be aware of me and remember I was his wife on earth. And when I get to heaven, I don't want him to love everyone just the same as me. I want to be special to him, and our kids special. He can love everyone, but not the same!! Otherwise, what were we married for? Am I just supposed to forget he existed on earth and move on to the next????? I am so unhappy.
I am so sorry for you. You are asking two separate questions. I think the Bible and the Faith answer both very clearly and simply.
First, is my husband in heaven, or does he sleep? The Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about something called soul sleep. They claim that we await the final judgment. Until then we have no consciousness. I don’t think this is warranted by the Scriptures, nor by the Faith of the Church. The Bible says that “...we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last judgment.” This can be made to sound like we don’t sleep or it can be made to sound like we wait for the last judgment, and by implication, the resurrection. Well, which is it? The Bible also says, “...it is appointed for men to die once, and then the judgment.” That sounds pretty immediate to me.
A couple other verses answer the question as far as I am concerned. “He is the same yesterday today and always,” and “We are children of God, but what we shall be has not yet come to light, but we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” In other words, we may think in terms of yesterday, today and tomorrow, but the moment is coming when time and space will have no longer have the same meaning for us as they do now. We live in time, but are created for timelessness. Remember that eternity really means timelessness. Think about it. You are a timeless being. Time is just the way that we limited beings sort things out.
Look in the mirror. You said you are 61. You look and see a woman, but you are the same person who was the girl who met and fell in love with your husband. There is not a new “you.” The “me” part of you can’t be seen or touched. It does not age. It is timeless and spaceless. Scientist keep trying to find the self in that fold of the brain, or this lobe or gland. I don’t think they will ever find it, because it is nowhere but in the mind of God. Certainly we experience both timelessness and time.
The body diminishes, or in my case increases, but as I look at the old stranger in the mirror I am still me. I experience time and timelessness at once. Time is just a way that we have of keeping things straight. The Maker of all things, infinite and eternal has no such limits. He is always now and is always here, never then and there. All things and all times are present to him. St Paul said that we see as in a mirror darkly. Then we shall see clearly. So if the question is, “Do we go to heaven when we die or do we wait for the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment?” the answer is “yes.” What do you mean “yes?” I mean that if St. Paul is correct in saying that we shall be like Him, then we will experience things as He experiences them. It will all be “now”, never “then.”
The second question you ask is, “Does he remember me? Will I still be his wife in heaven and will the kids and I be special to him?” The answer to that is very simple. You will be more special to him, more than you can ask or imagine. It is interesting that you use the word “same.” “I want to be special to him, and our kids special. He can love everyone, but not the same!!” Think about this. I am a very little person with a very small heart. I can love only a few people at a time and that is with a lot of effort. God’s heart is infinite. He loves infinitely. You can’t have more or less infinity. That means that God loves me, a pretty self absorbed and irritating fellow, as much as He loves Jesus, His only begotten Son, and as much as He loves Our Blessed Mother, conceived without sin. He doesn’t love me the same as He loves them. He loves me uniquely and individually, but infinitely. He’s just that kind of person. And remember, someday, if I accept and cooperate with His grace, I will be like Him, loving infinitely and individually. You seem to have this beige idea of Heaven. Everything the same, nothing special, God is not playing favorites. It is quite the opposite. Everything and everyone is special, infinitely special. He will be your husband and better. He will be his children’s father and still more.
“Why did I marry him?” Good question. Our generation got married because we were in love. That’s nice, but alone, it isn’t much of a reason for marriage. We used to believe that marriage was a vocation, a calling from God. We moderns get all nervous when we think of death. We changed the words in the ceremony from “ ‘til death do us part” to “all the days of our life.” but death is the only thing about life that is absolutely certain. You didn’t just marry so you could have a good life. You were called by God to be married in order to get one another and your children to the happiness of heaven.
Perhaps you’ve heard me speak of people I’ve known who died and lived to tell about it. I remember one fellow who stood before God’s throne and heard his wife’s prayer to have him come back. He woke up on the emergency room table and yelled, “Why didn’t you leave me there?” He was so mad that he wouldn’t talk to his wife for three days. I remember the story of a woman who had a vision of her son who died prematurely. He told his Mom, “you have no idea how wonderful it is here.” It is more than we know and life is bigger than we can even conceive of. It isn’t just a bunch of chemicals or time schedules. It is more, in the words of St. Paul, than we can ask or imagine. I believe your husband loves you more now than he ever did, because, if he died in the Lord, he is in the process of becoming like the Lord.