On November 30, 2018 news agencies in the UK reported the story of a seven-year-old boy who sent an unusual request to the Royal Mail. On the envelope of a birthday card for his deceased father, Jase Hyndman wrote this request: “Can you take this to heaven for my dad’s birthday?” Jase’s father died four years ago and he has not ceased to grieve for him.
What made the request newsworthy was that officials at the Royal Mail responded to Jase’s request with a letter of their own. In his response, Mr. Sean Milligan, the Royal Mail’s Assistant Delivery Office Manager, wrote: “I just wanted to take this opportunity to contact you about how we succeeded in the delivery of your letter, to your dad in heaven.”
The Royal Mail’s letter deeply touched Jase and his mother. That an official of the Royal Mail took time to comfort a grieving boy “restored her faith in humanity.” She also said that Jase was “overwhelmed” and “emotional” by the Royal Mail’s response. It came to him as an “official” affirmation that his father was with God in heaven.
This news story made me wonder. Were the officials of the Royal Mail merely humoring a child by writing a letter—as one would “play along” with a child about Santa Claus? Or, could another dynamic be involved. It’s also possible that even a member of a bureaucracy was compassionate enough to console a grieving child.
But could it also be that death is such a sobering reality that it momentarily shakes us from our materialistic values and worldly thinking? Our typical loss for words before a grieving person is proof of how ill-prepared we are for the reality of death. In the face of death our selfish pursuits are exposed as misguided. And we scramble to come up with adequate answers about what really happens when we die.
Isn’t that what happens every time we attend a funeral? We comfort each other by saying the deceased is “in a better place.” But are we humoring each other when we do this? I don’t think so.
I suspect that the shocking reality of our own mortality forces us to address the hardest questions of life? Is there life or even consciousness after death? It makes us wonder, “How can creatures so god-like, so intelligent, so moral, and so reflective suddenly cease to exist when death comes? Does an artist smash his masterpiece at the moment he completes and perfects it? At the moment we reach the zenith of our wisdom, humility, and love, are we ushered from this life into oblivion?” No. Those qualities make us superbly fit for heaven, not for annihilation.
Despite our attempts to normalize death—by claiming death is just a part of living—death is completely unnatural to us. Our head and heart are wired to anticipate eternity and future rewards for our suffering in this life. Let’s admit it. All through life there remains in us a longing, a hunger that this world cannot satisfy. Is it not then, as C.S. Lewis claimed, rational to assume that we were made for another world? A world without injustice, in which righteousness reigns, in which there is nothing to offend or hurt us? A world in which we are loved and fully at home?
Yes. And that is the world in which God is preparing for those who love and serve Him. We have Jesus Christ’s own word on the matter. “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many places to live. If it were not so I would have told you. But I am going there in order to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, so that where I am, there you may also be” (John 14:1–3).
And how do we get there? What is the road to heaven that we must follow? Jesus also answered that question. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Yes, by receiving, trusting, and embracing Jesus Christ God saves us and makes us His child, fit for heaven.
Dear Lord Jesus, I acknowledge my own sinfulness and helplessness to save myself or to ever qualify for heaven. Please forgive and cleanse me of my sins. Please receive me to Yourself and make me Your child. I trust in You as that sacrifice for my sins and as my Savior and Master. Empower me to henceforth live for You and follow You all the days of my life. Amen.