What do we do in heaven?


When I was a young schoolgirl, my early education was gained by attending the local Catholic primary school where religious studies were mandatory, as was attending church on a regular basis. Having been baptised into the Roman Catholic faith, I remember attending church (for Sunday services and feast days), a foreign language spoken by the robed priest (which I learnt later was Latin), aromatic clouds of sweet-smelling incense (which instilled a life-long love for it), making my first Holy Communion and visiting the confessional (a requirement which I never quite understood).

I recall in particular an event which took place in class when our teacher, a nun, was explaining that when we die we go to heaven.  Because I thought a lot about death and the afterlife as a child, and because I wondered what we did when we got there, I asked her the following question, “What do we do in heaven?”  She looked at me with a startled expression on her face.  I could feel her bewilderment and fear as she stood there trying to answer my question.  And then I saw that she couldn’t answer the question because she didn’t know what the answer was.

As I sat in my chair waiting, she became more uncomfortable.  She couldn’t tell me, yet wasn’t she was supposed to know?  In my mind, as young as I was, I reasoned that she was a nun; she was meant to understand about God and heaven and all those things.  Heaven wasn’t just a place that people went to when they died, it was a place where other things happened too, and although I didn’t know what those things were, I felt the truth of it intuitively; I just knew.

I felt that I lived in a world that had come from a special place and if that place wasn’t heaven, I didn’t know what was. The shinning people came from that place, it was their home, and on some level I knew that that ‘place’ was my home too.  Was that heaven?  Is that what it was called?  These were the thoughts in my mind when I asked the question, because I knew, again intuitively, that when we died we did something, but I didn’t know what; we didn’t just disappear.  I needed to make sense of my other-worldly experiences and having my question answered would have helped me do that.  But the nun didn’t know, and I reasoned that if a nun couldn’t help me, who could?

Fifteen years later, my question was answered and I understood then why the nun didn’t know; she hadn’t been taught.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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