Dear Jack: My Grandma is in Heaven Now

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: My Grandma is in Heaven Now

Dear Jack,

Last weekend, our family traveled to my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama so that we could attend the visitation and funeral for my Grandma; Delores “Lola” Gonzales Metallo.

Our family most recently visited her just a few of months ago in July, which made the 2nd time she was able to meet Holly.

Then the following month, while you were staying at Nonna and Papa’s house for a week of “summer camp,” you visited Grandma again.

I’m so glad you got to have that one last special visit with her. Nonna sent me this picture of the two of you, which she took with her phone:

“Special visit with Grandma. A sweet bond between a 5 1/2 yr old Great Grandson with his 81 yr old Great-Grandmother. Grandma had an old movie playing on her TV and Jack loved it. Grandma was soooo happy. She loved hearing about Jack but especially the movies he was getting to go see.”

But as of last Thursday morning, at age 81, she passed on to Heaven. No more pain or suffering for her.

One of the first things that came to mind when I heard this was the children’s Bible I read to you each night before you go to bed.

Grandma gave it to me as a Christmas gift in 1988, nearly 30 years ago. In the front of it, she wrote, “With all my love!”

Dear Jack: My Grandma is in Heaven Now

Grandma was known for her love of dogs, her ability to perfectly iron a shirt, her obsession with possible upcoming bad weather, and her fascination with anything Biblical.

She undeniably had a great effect on me developing my faith in Jesus. I think it’s so cool that I get to teach you from the same Bible she gave me.

During the visitation the day before her funeral, I really enjoyed hearing the stories from people who I didn’t know well, but who knew stories about her that I never knew.

It was much more a time of celebration than it was a time of mourning. She lived a long, full life. She got to meet all 4 of her great-grandchildren before she passed, of which your the first.

I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for her influence on my life. She was there every birthday, every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, and every time our family got together; each year of my entire life.

Dear Jack: My Grandma is in Heaven Now

She meant a lot to me, obviously. And I know for a fact that she really loved you a lot.

We will see her again, though. This is not goodbye.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: People and Animals and Life and Death and What Happens Next

4 years, 8 months.

IMG_0982 (2)

Dear Jack,

I wanted to document this day for you because I believe it’s important to document your spiritual journey.

This morning on the 5 minute drive to your preschool, you cautiously asked me, “Daddy, one day, will all the people and all the animals be dead?”

I definitely wasn’t expecting such a deep question from you so early in the morning.

The fact that you even asked me that question shows me that you are processing your understanding of what death really means.

I’ve been curious for a while regarding at what point I would have a conversation like that with you.

It appears your understanding of death is based on what you see on Power Rangers and Disney movies, since someone (usually a parent) dies on nearly every animated Disney movie I’ve ever seen.

I answered your question as simply yet as accurately as I knew how:

“Yes, that’s true. One day, all the people and the animals will be dead. But for those of us people who believe in God and in Jesus, His Son, and if we help other people, then we will live in Heaven together.”

It somehow seems out of place to summarize our religious beliefs into such a small amount of words, but you are already familiar with this from what you hear at home and at church. But you seemed to be satisfied to my simple answer for your difficult question.

For the next few minutes until we got to your school, you were silent as you stared at the window.

As I helped you out of your car seat, I saw you seemed disheartened, so I asked you if were okay.

You put your head down and began crying softly.

I assured you whatever what it was, that we could talk about it; assuming you were sad because, in your words, one day we will all be dead, including the animals.

You looked up to answer me, “I just want Pandy!”

We had discovered last night that you had left one of your favorite stuffed animals, Pandy, at school.

Once we found Pandy inside your classroom this morning, you were no longer sad.

In other words, Pandy is still alive!

Love,

Daddy

New Book: Heaven is for Real for Kids

November 9, 2011 at 10:51 pm , by 

Eleven months.

By now, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the buzz about the New York Times #1 bestseller, Heaven is for Real; or you’ve at least seen this clip from The Today Show where Colton Burpo tells Matt Lauer about his experience:

When Colton was only three years old, he underwent an emergency surgery; during which he claims he went to Heaven and saw his great-grandfather and Jesus. More intriguing though, is that he met his older sister who he never even knew about; his mother miscarried a few years before Colton was born.

As of yesterday, Heaven is for Real became available in a kids’ version. Essentially, the book was written by Colton himself and features illustrations by Wilson Ong.

I like how every time you turn the page, there is a paragraph telling about something else Colton saw, which is accompanied by a Bible verse verifying the validity of what of what he witnessed.

Heaven is for Real for Kids is a perfect guide for parents who want to engage their children in conversations about Heaven. At the end of the book, there is a question and answer session with Colton, as well as, photographs of him with his family.

This is a book that personally, I highly recommend. Because it is based on the account of Colton, it is not merely another piece of children’s fiction. For the regular version of this story to have become a #1 bestseller, there is obviously something engaging and special about it.

dad from day one: He Who Dies Happy in Old Age, Still Dies

Thirty weeks.


Ironically, while waiting for my first child to be born I am accompanied by thoughts of the finality of my own life.  Having a baby is such a huge milestone, such a life-changing event, that my mind skips decades ahead to when my kid will graduate high school, to when I will be a grandparent, and ultimately, to my inevitable passing into eternity.  In my mind, all those big events are strung together like bubbly Christmas lights from 1988.

My wife and I have this agreement that concerning our own inevitable deaths, we will die healthy but of “natural causes” in our sleep, both at age 92, holding hands.  And I would assume that most happily married people would wish for the same thing- to be able to raise their children with their spouse, to grow old with their family, and to pass this life in our right minds – not lonely and suffering in a nursing home.  I don’t consider a sudden brain aneurism, a car accident, or being mauled by a bear while hiking through the woods.  No, you see, I have carefully planned out my own “natural causes” death in a romantic and perfect way.

And that’s the only way I can think about the end of my life- with optimism.  Assuming I will live a long, happy life, giving all I can to my family.   It’s the only way I can think, because even now, two months before Baby Jack is scheduled to arrive, I am responsible for another life.  I have to be here to take care of him.  And my wife.

I truly am incapable of trying to fathom how so many people in the world don’t have a solid understanding (or at least some kind of basic perspective) of what happens after this life, and that they don’t think about it on a daily basis like I do.  How the afterlife is completely something to be considered, how beyond heaven and hell issues, this dream of life is the prequel to eternity.  And now, already, a new soul has been created, and I had something to do with that.  I have changed the course of eternity.

This baby is not just a body; he’s got a soul.  A soul that will need guidance for this life and the eternal one.  And I have to be here for that.  Even if these thoughts may seem dark and depressing to some, I refuse to ignore the reality that life and death are intertwined.  As much as I “try not to take life too seriously” like all those stupid bumper stickers and annoying e-mail forwards tell me, I still take life seriously enough to think about this stuff.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

dad from day one: Actor Turned Director

Twenty-nine weeks.

It took me 12 straight days to teach myself to solve the Rubik’s Cube; it was during this time that my wife and I found out we were going to have a baby.  Of course, we didn’t tell anyone until over a month later, but during my “learn to solve a Rubik’s Cube” phase, I had several people crack themselves up with this joke: “If you’ve got the time and patience to solve that thing, it’s time for you to have a kid!”  And they were right.  My instincts were making it obvious that like so many actors, the time eventually arrives when it’s time to dabble with directing.

(Cue the song “In My Life” by The Beatles as the proper soundtrack as you read the rest of this post.  It’s officially my favorite song ever.)

I can look back on my life with satisfaction, knowing that my accomplishments have outweighed my failures and regrets.  I have met all kinds of interesting people from all over the world (most of whom are facebook friends).  I understand the meaning of life.  I am solid in my beliefs on the afterlife.  I have married the woman I am meant to be with.  I can now solve the Rubik’s Cube in two minutes and twenty-five seconds.  And though this paragraph may resemble a goodbye letter to the world as I prepare for my life to come to an end like I’m 90 years old, I recognize that in some ways life as I know it will end, as it transforms into a new one.  A more meaningful one.  From “me” to “dad”.

On top of all this, I’m about a half a year away from turning 30, so yeah, I’d say it’s time for things to stop being about me so much and more about someone else.  I have been the protagonist, but soon I will become a full-time director.  All of life has prepared me to this new role.  The cynic could see it as circular reasoning- that you spend your youth learning how to become a responsible adult, and then once you do, you just do it all over again with modified little reruns of yourself running around.

But I would say the cynic is still under the assumption that life is all about him- that life either simply ends when he dies or that hopefully when he dies, he’s been “good enough to get to Heaven” or that at least Hell won’t be that bad, but instead just a big party where the temperature is slightly hotter than desired while Jimmy Buffett plays an eternal concert and the margaritas are never-ending.

If anything, I could see how raising a kid will be a redeeming and cleansing process, helping me to see how little I truly know, helping me to appreciate my family and childhood teachers more, helping me to straighten out my priorities even more, helping me to ultimately give more than I take.  I could see how this baby will ironically make me a better adult.  And how the humility of changing diapers is only a small part of this evolution of my life.

And yes, Baby Jack will probably already know how to solve a Rubik’s Cube before he gets to Kindergarten.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Metaphors in Super Mario Bros. that Taught Us about Real Life

How many lives do you have left before it’s “game over”?

Something that Super Mario Bros. taught us first, more so than any other video game, was the concept of having “lives”.  If you fell in a hole (which means you instantly died; no chance that the hole wasn’t really that deep or that you could have grabbed on to a branch while falling), you lost a life.  If you touched an enemy, you lost a life (which is completely irrational; I wonder what would happen if Mario touched a “frenemy”?…). If you ran out of time, you lost a life (okay, I admit, that concept is somewhat lifelike).

However, if you accomplished certain goals to better yourself, like ate a healthy mushroom(this promoted organic a lifestyle), saved 100 coins (which causes the game to most likely be endorsed by Dave Ramsey), kicked a turtle shell that slid into 10 enemies (illogical and scientifically impossible on so many levels), or jumped to the top of a flagpole (because that’s normal in real life), you actually would get a “1 Up”, which means that you gained an extra life.

But the whole point of this game, despite collecting gold coins (which instantly disappeared when you touched them- could that be a metaphor symbolizing how money is meaningless?) and muddling through everyday distractions (like busting bricks with your fist because you thought there was a steel box with an “invincibility star” inside- choose your own metaphor for life on that one…) was to save the princess from the evil mutant dragon named Koopa.

If you could run under the dragon in the final castle when he jumped up while breathing fire and hammers at you, you instantly touched an axe that caused the bridge to collapse, therefore sending the dragon into the fiery lava pit (poor architectural planning, if you ask me…). In the next room, the famous princess was waiting to be saved from captivity.  In other words, despite being responsible by saving money, despite gaining power, despite becoming a hero to anyone, it’s all really about helping other people.

Cool Retro Sunday School Bonus!

And for those from a Protestant background, the Mushroom Kingdom represents the Heavenly Kingdom, the dragon symbolizes Satan who will be hurled into the lake of fire in the end, and saving the princess symbolizes sharing Christ’s message of salvation and loving others as ourselves, which is the summary of Ephesians 2:8-10, and in my opinion, the meaning of life and the whole point of Christianity.

Blue Skies Eventually Become Outer Space: From the Real World to the Heavenly Spiritual Realm

“Is there a God?  Why is He waiting? Don’t you think of it odd when He knows my address?  And look at the stars- don’t they remind you of just how feeble we are? Well it used to, I guess.” –John Mayer, “New Deep”

Though it may be difficult to grasp, neither the Wild West (in the past) nor Outer Space (in the future) in fictional entertainment have ever really interested me.  In fact, they have actually turned me off from certain franchises.  Back to the Future, Part III was a Wild Western, as was American Tail: Fievel Goes West.  And though it was before my time and marketed to the opposite gender, before being cancelled, the Saturday morning cartoon Josie and the Pussycats went to Outer Space for their final season.  Going into the Wild West or Outer Space both come across as “jump the shark” moments to me.  (Star Wars is an exception because it happened a long, long time ago, which is weird to think about.)

Here in the year 2010, the Wild West has been replaced as modern-day Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas have more trouble with violent gangs than they do misbehaving cowboys or Indians.  However, no matter what year we survive to, there is still an unseen future- and an unexplored Outer Space will always be something we remain fascinated by.  Even if we can shake off the possibility of other life forms out there (see Do Aliens Really Exist?), the scientific fact remains that there is no end to the Universe.  Space never stops; it literally can’t.  The ultimate great wide open.

A cliché idea is that when you look up at the stars you realize just how small you really are.  It’s true.  Even right now if I look up at the sky, I think how if only I could see far enough, I would see Outer Space.  And part of the whole “you realize how small you really are” doesn’t just account for physical size, but also for our spiritual relation to this Universe.

I am not convinced that Heaven is millions of light years away from us, way out there past Outer Space, like I have always unquestionably assumed.  God doesn’t fear that we humans will become so smart and efficient with our space travel programs that we will physically be able to fly to Heaven and therefore force our way in, despite our spiritual condition and relationship with Him.

For all I know, Heaven is actually so physically close we could throw a rock to it.  But our inability to see the spiritual realm prevents us from seeing it now.  Even when it somehow becomes easy to forget the relevance of God and eternity and how everything really is spiritual, Heaven isn’t that far away.  We definitely don’t have to travel past the blue skies into Outer Space to find the place.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on outer space, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one