Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pictures of Heaven

This morning I walked downstairs with dread in my heart. The kids were already up, but it was quiet...too quiet...eerily quiet.... I held my breath as I entered the kitchen, expecting the worst...but Maggie and Andy were only coloring peacefully at the kitchen table. Miracle of miracles.

Not only that, but Maggie announced that she was painting heaven, using water color paints. Naturally I took a look. Here is what she had painted:


Yes, that is white water color paint on black construction paper. As 5-year-old Maggie explained, the large smiling figure in the center is Jesus; the souls of the dead hover on the right side of the paper (those would be the short white lines). The arch above Jesus is a rainbow.

I asked her why she chose black construction paper. "Because heaven is dark," she said. Okay! Never let it be said that my daughter let artistic convention or theological tradition hold her imagination back. (This is the same girl who once imagined a sky full of sunflowers for stars.) Personally, I think this heaven is black because the black construction paper was on top of the pile.

She followed up with this:


Again, we have the central figure of Jesus, under a rainbow. The vertical lines are "the arms and legs of the dead people." Most interestingly, the orange tree in the upper right-hand corner is supposed to be "the Tree of Love." I wonder whether she lifted this from the image of the Tree of Life in the garden of Eden, but I'm not sure.

Andy, seeing all the attention Maggie was getting with her pictures, whipped up the following (exclaiming at one point, "Darn, I messed up God!"):

Yes, it's somewhat derivative: you have the figure of Jesus, the rainbow--but with the ocean at top (represented by the wavy blue lines) and a house to the right. "All the dead people are sleeping. They live fifteen people in each house."

In my past life as an editor of Catholic religious education materials, this is the sort of activity I would see prescribed for older kids--"draw your image of heaven." I'm not sure, but I doubt that you'd get anything near as imaginative from 100 older kids.

Later, during Mass, I smiled to hear that both of the readings were about heaven, including the Gospel:
Jesus said to them,
"The children of this age . . .
can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out 'Lord, '
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive." (Luke 20:34, 36-38)