Ten years ago, I bought a puppy. The seller charged me twenty-five extra dollars after watching the pup stroll across the dog infested room straight to my feet. He chose me. I picked him up and paid the fee.
I was nearly three months pregnant when I took this pup, now named Sam, to his new home. Six months was too long to wait to start mothering. One week into Sam’s parentage I learned that my unborn son had an unsurvivable genetic disorder and time would take him from me.
Sam’s status within my otherwise empty arms grew exponentially.
After losing my son Noah to stillbirth in 2006, I reeled into myself shielding away the platitudes and soothing words; well intended, but unhelpful, everything sounded too cliched to count.
Four years later, Todd Burpo, a man from my hometown, published a little book called “Heaven is for Real”, which I heard about and ingested as acknowledgment that the world in which my Noah lived had been witnessed and here was proof. Of course heaven was real, it absolutely must exist because that was the only chance I had to hold my boy. So thanks for that and hey, he’s from Bartlesville? Cool.
No less than half a dozen copies of this best seller crossed my palms. Two were gifts, with explicit instructions to read it, it would help, did I know the Burpo’s too had lost a child, their story would be soothing, and still I steadfastly refused to open the front cover.
The other four copies I shoved with unfounded conviction into various donation boxes.
I clung to my dog and moved forward.
Then. Years later. A movie was in production, a movie based on the story I’d eschewed for so long. Great, I thought, good for them, it will inspire others.
But. I learned that Greg Kinnear would star as Todd Burpo, the father of the boy who’d seen through the curtain into Tomorrow.
I must tell you I am a huge fan of Kinnear. I’ve seen all of his movies and always thought he was under appreciated for his inordinate acting skill. And his smile, that’s pretty special, too.
But dang, it was hard to waller, and waller I did, in my ignorance of this little boy’s whole story. I fought the pull of this cinematic venture. When ads aired on tv, I turned the channel. I ignored internet touting, interviews, movie stills, all of it.
A recent Redbox Friday turned my tides.
Something made me rent it — I travelled to three different Redboxes to get a copy, three, which is no small feat when living in the Out There – and Someone made me watch, in three installments because I hoped quick partial exposures would lessen the inevitable tears.
To finally get to my point: while watching the film, one particular character unnerved me. She was bitter, angry, and I wondered at her vitriol; she was so judgmental and mean. How could she not believe in heaven when once I thirsted for it’s presence? Then I realized I disliked her because she was me. She had lost her son and was furious at God, I understood that completely, but she was jealous of Todd because his son had lived while hers had not.
My brain was illuminated. Unlike the movie character, I wasn’t jealous of Todd for his son being alive, I was jealous of Colton, the four year old boy who saw Heaven. He was privy to a glimpse I’ve begged for for ten years. I crave seeing my son. I want him to know how often I wish for him, that I hope he isn’t angry with me because I didn’t handle losing him. I stepped forward, I handled nothing. I was a coward.
To see Noah, to hold him, to talk to him, for that … I was jealous.
Colton’s experience is beautiful. It broke my heart along old fault lines but healed the fractures with a new hope, a reborn faith that my little one is okay and please oh please not mad at his mama for needing to let him go, for not going with him, for living, and for holding on to a canine as a tether to Now.
After the movie I sat and sobbed, and as I did, two tiny paws touched my leg until I finally stopped to stare into the understanding, we’ve-been-here-before eyes of my sweet Sam. Full circle.
Egads! What a heart rending day, and I owe this new clarity to Greg Kinnear.
Yes, and to Todd and Colton. But frankly, mostly to Greg Kinnear.