Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thoughts about the Afterlife

Tomorrow, March 21, would be my father’s 95th birthday, had he not passed away in the summer of 2007. Even though it has been more than two and a half years since his passing, I still miss him. And I am surprised at how often I dream about him, including a dream in the last week. They are always pleasant dreams of us talking and doing things together.
My father was a “common” man; he had no formal schooling beyond high school and spent most of his life working as a farmer. He lived his life in modest houses and indulged in very few luxuries. But he lived a good, fulfilling life.
Hollis Seat, my father, was an active churchman most of his life, especially in the sixty-plus years after moving back to Worth County (MO), where he was born, in the fall of 1945. While farming was his occupation, and he was a good farmer, he spent a lot of time and energy serving Christ through the church; for decades he was a deacon and Sunday School teacher. Through the years he joyfully gave a tithe of his income, and more, for the work of the church.
If anyone goes to Heaven when they die, I have no doubt whatsoever that my father did. But in the time since his passing, it has seemed somewhat strange that I have found little “comfort” in thinking about my father in Heaven.
Maybe it is because it is so hard to visualize exactly what kind of existence a person has in Heaven—there surely are not literal streets paved with gold and gates made of pearls there. Maybe it is because there is so little talk about Heaven now in the society in which we live or even at church. But for whatever reason, I have been surprised in these last two and a half years that I have not found more meaning in thinking of my father (and mother, who passed away in February 2008) in Heaven.
More than being “comforted” by thinking of my father (and mother) in Heaven, I find significance in thinking about the positive influence he had not only on the lives of his children and grandchildren, but on many people in the churches he was a part of and in the communities where he lived.
Maybe Heaven is more meaningful for the loved ones of those who die much younger than my father did or of those who have not lived as good a life as he did. At any rate, as I think of my father now, more than enjoying comforting thoughts because of belief in the afterlife, I find solace in, and am grateful for, the memories of his long life well lived in this world. 


  1. The description of your father sounds very much like my experience with my grandfather. Equally, the feelings you expressed concerning Heaven have been mine as well over the past several years. Yes, there is very little talk about Heaven, both in Church and in secular conversation. Perhaps part of it is an attempt to avoid a consideration of Hell, theodicy, a Loving God, and all the other issues that an increasingly cynical world raises when we shift the focus from the immediate to the ultimate. I also think that heaven makes more sense to those who live without the Internet, anesthesia and without any promise of a tomorrow. Those who truly do live day by day find hope in Heaven. Those who live in the soul-numbing stasis of the moment find all hope melting away. Your posting has given me something to reflect upon...

  2. I appreciated your post about your father (my Grandpa Seat). I think about him and Grandma Seat often, and I have had dreams about them, too. Thinking about them gives me a feeling of "sweet sorrow." There is a sweetness in remembering their gentle presence in our lives, and sorrow knowing they are no longer with us.

  3. My mother had a devout faith and belief in God. To her, being with God in Heaven was the ultimate transformation that Christians live for and they must be happy about that whenever in life it comes...young or old.

    I find it hard to share that view. As I get older I find it most difficult to envision that we'll all be walking around in flowing white robes on gold streets at a constant 70 degrees.

    I think for some who have a terminal illness as my mother did the last six weeks of her life, the thought of Heaven becomes a powerful comfort. As a young person, I don't want to end up there any sooner than I have to.

    Reflecting upon the life my mother had, the influence she had upon me and the witness she provided others is much more comforting to me now than thinking of her in heaven, reunited with my dad, her parents and brothers, and other friends.

  4. In addition to the comments above, which I appreciated, I am also happy to share the following comments received by e-mail:

    Dr. Glenn Hinson of Kentucky wrote, "Your father sounds like what I call an 'ordinary saint.' I thank God each day for some of those in my life."

    Dr. David Nelson of Kansas City said this: "Your comments about your Father are precious and I am grateful that you invited me to think about my own parents. I have let go of most literal ideas about heaven. I do trust the Creator of the universe who gave me life and receives me in death. I know that death ends a life but not a relationship. Your parents like mine, remain a part of our lives today and tomorrow."

  5. Heaven ceases to be particularly meaningful to me, too. Rather, the idea of "rest" after death is far more desirable. As I think of my 95 year old father whose thoughts and words, due to the natural mental degeneration that often accompanies aging, are a jumble of confused memories and stock verbal responses, I only wish his weary mind could get some rest. Rest seems to be the best reward for a life of diligent service and dedicated work. Rest is the biblical image of the land of promise; rest is the metaphor of the Solomonic age; rest from all battles and enemies that have withstood from all around. If there is a resurrection, that, of course, is in God's hands. Rest is the balm for those spirits whose otherwise joyous lives come to a wearying end.

  6. It may be prefereable to think that we can go through life and have no ultimate, eternal reponsibilities.

    So, no one talks about Hell anymore.

    But it doesn't matter what you feel about it.

    It still exists.

    I know.

    "Been There"

  7. It seems the prevailing knowledge about heaven and afterlife and the truth of the Bible and so forth these days is that we just really don't know so we should be realistic about what to believe. To be intellectually with it seems to mean I need to curtail steadfast belief and allow doubt or at least questions to come to the fore. I think that just because we can't know doesn't mean its not all as wonderful and holy and lovely and magical and full of grace as it has seemed to be by way of what has been taught us since our learning began. Since most is actually beyond proof, I'll hold on to my perhaps childlike faith.

    To the contributor just before me, I will give a nod to those who suggest we don't know where Hell is - it could be what we're living right now for example - but like you I know it exists.