[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on May 30, 2015.]
The last place I wanted to be on Mother’s Day 1999 was church.
We had just lost our youngest child through miscarriage the week before, and I still felt terribly tender. I didn’t want to have to confront people and hear the well-meaning responses that could reopen my hurt.
I never felt envy for those who had been pregnant with me who still had their babies. I was happy for them. But when I heard the baby cry at the back of the church and knew a baptism would take place, it pierced my heart, reminding me of what would never be.
Several things brought solace, but one of the most healing thoughts came in the realization that our baby had taken the fast track to heaven. Imagining our little one shining a light for our family, attaining ahead of us the very thing for which we all strive as believers, left me in awe and hopeful.
In each loss of family or friend since, I’ve been able to rejoice in thinking of our loved ones reuniting with our little Gabriel, whom I believe helped welcome them to the pearly gates.
But while I feel at peace now about his status, there are no guarantees for his five siblings here on earth still in the thick of their journey toward God. And despite all our efforts to lead them to heaven, at times I wonder, will we all end up together in the end?
A friend once shared her thought that heaven can’t possibly be a place worth going to if we can’t have our whole family there with us, and I agree. It’s a difficult reality to reconcile with — that we might not all make it.
And while I’d like to remain positive, the wondering keeps me restless in moments and on my knees often.
This same friend and I were lamenting all this over coffee not long ago. We first shared the different ways it appears we might be failing, at least on the outside, but then, just as quickly, swooped in with consoling words for one another.
“We have to remember that only God knows everything that’s going on in the soul,” I said. I told her about a book I’d read about death-bed conversions that had convinced me that even those who might appear to be a ways off might be closer than we think.
And then my friend said something that brought hope-filled tears to my eyes.
“You know, my mom always says our kids are going to get to heaven on our coattails.”
I sat for a moment in that image and, smiling, pulled it in close. “I’m going to remember that.”
Now, whenever I begin wondering about whether our whole family will make it to the Promised Land, I just turn straight to that visual and let it bring comfort.
Consider this: Even if it appears the world has our children in its grasp, can anything be more powerful than our love for them, not to mention God’s?
The answer is no, and anything short of that is a flat-out lie meant to discourage us. And we know well discouragement is not of God.
If we’ve shown love to our children and done our best to lead them toward God, I believe that when they are faced with that final decision of choosing to live with God eternally or dwell in a place of darkness without us, they’ll make the right choice.
Oh, I imagine there might be some hold-outs hemming and hawing, but at the critical moment, I trust they’re going to grab hold of our coattails and hang on tight, to come along with us to the place where love resides, forever.
A mama’s love is a powerful thing, and in the final hour, our kids will remember that most of all. The best we can do is keep loving them and God, trusting that in the end, all will be well.
Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.