Are You in Heaven or Hell Today?
(aka Dennis P. McGeehan)
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
I don’t know when I first heard that quote. I was in my teens or early twenty’s I think. When I first heard it I thought, ‘That’s depressing!”
In my youth I often identified myself as a pessimist. My attitude was, Expect the worst and then you’ll be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen. Espousing an optimistic attitude was like a game of Russian Roulette to me, with time something BAD was bound to happen.
Back then I was Spiritual but not really Religious. I had drifted from the practice of the Catholic faith. I wasn’t anti-Catholic at all but rather I saw myself as Catholic and also open to other spiritual realities. I listened to some Protestant speakers and was blown away as they quoted the Bible from memory. I read books on Buddhism and saw in them hints of things that I was taught as a child in Catholic elementary school. I like to make connections. In High School I tried to take an English course called The Bible as Literature but the course was canceled due to lack of interest. That was sort of a general theme throughout my life, I was the oddball, interested in the more obscure less popular things. In College I took History courses focusing on Islam, I found them very confusing. Also in college I attended a Christian fellowship meeting and was ambushed by the group when they found out I was Catholic. They insisted I needed to become Christian and be saved. I knew enough to know that I was Christian, that I believed in Jesus (despite their protests to the contrary) and I was already saved by Him. I also tried to explain to them the sacraments were there for my help, if only I would choose to use them (this brought about a frenzied ridicule). I attended two meetings of this group and quit.
As time went on I married and became a father. That was the most life changing experience to date. Holding that new life in my arms I wanted to protect her from all the ills of life. Over time I got more serious about everything; Seat belts, car seats, life insurance, staying healthy, working hard, etc. My life wasn’t my own anymore, my daughter depended on me. Later my daughter and seven sons depended on me, plus my wife.
It hit me, today was the first day of the rest of their life. By this time I had got my butt back into Church every Sunday. I was very serious about where my soul and their soul would end up for eternity. I tried to model and teach good behavior. Do I need to tell you that some times I was an epic failure!!!!!
Then one day I heard a very wise Priest on television state the obvious, “Today is part of our journey through eternity.”
My mind leapt to a scene of my soul a billion years in the future. I was recalling scenes from my mortal life, the triumphs and difficulties. I realized that if I was gifted with Heaven, nothing in this mortal life mattered (as long as my family was with me in heaven). I also realized that if I ended up in Hell then my mortal problems would pale in comparison.
Then I had an aha moment. Was I living my life as if I was in Heaven or Hell? The answer was, “Both.” Some days I was on top of the world even if life wasn’t a bed of roses. Other days I was in the pits even when life was good. That was the beginning for me of trying to live my life in a new manner, an effort that is a work in progress.
My goal is to live each day as if I am at least journeying toward Heaven, with the scenery and experiences getting better and better. To give a movie example, think The Lord of the Rings and Frodo’s journey to Mount Doom and his return journey to the Shire. Both journeys have their challenges. Our response to the challenges determines if our lives are heavenly or hellish.
In Eastern mysticism it is described as the calm in the eye of the typhoon. In Catholicism they talk of the Dark Night of the Soul and the Ecstacy beyond. My present is a distinct moment in my existence that I believe will continue for eternity. Keeping that in mind I endeavor to find the positive in each event and journey forward to what I hope is a brighter future. I guess I have become an optimist. It’s not that I expect things will turn out good but rather I will make the effort to find the good in the bad. I still get scared, angry and disgusted at times but those feelings are passing. I wash them away with memories of all the wonderful blessings I have in life. I strive not to mourn what I don’t have but appreciate what I do have. As I said, it’s a work in progress. Stay tuned for updates!