"Do you think that we will all recognize each other in heaven?"
She knew that the expected answer was supposed to be a reassuring, "Yes. Why, of course, we will sweetie!" For anyone else, maybe she would have given a half-hearted, glossy answer. But for this girl, this young woman, she could be truthful. There was a silent expectancy more or less oozing from the young woman's pores, pleading for an imperfect answer. So she gave it.
"No." She set her tea cup down gently; her long, wrinkled fingers careful not to let go until certain the china was safely settled on the table. "Well, I sure hope not. I expect when I reach heaven that I will be with God."
The young woman shifted in her seat, apprehensive. "Of course, but don't you hope to see Grandpa?" Neither woman moved, or even appeared to breathe for that matter. The elder of the two cleared her throat and sat back in her recliner. She gazed at the ceiling, memories of her 70 married years streaming into her focus. Duties, child-rearing, worries, celebrations, loss.
"I believe we will recognize the purity of the souls in heaven, but we won't have a name to associate with them. We will be connected in love, worship and peace but we won't have memories of our relationships on earth. Memories are tied to emotion, often negative emotion, and there is no place for that in heaven."
The young woman nodded, weighing the words spoken.
"If you were to be reunited with everyone you've ever known in earthly life--" she paused to give the young woman a chance to imagine this--"and your memories were attached, wouldn't that mean you have emotion? Wouldn't that mean there is a possibility for resentment as well as happiness? I believe in heaven our only emotion, or state of being, will be joy."
Another nod. A nervous sip of tea.
"To answer your question, I loved your grandpa but I do not want to be reunited with him in heaven. Not directly, not as my husband; only as another soul. I want to spend eternity with God, not your Grandpa, not my children, not even my grandchildren. I believe heaven is our reward. My reward for enduring to the end should be peace. People, human relationships, hold us captive to emotion and expectations."
A smile slowly appeared on the young woman's face. She sat forward and placed her hands around her knees. "So, in heaven, we would feel joy from the other souls around us, but we wouldn't recognize the souls individually. . .we would be free!"
"That is my hope. I know others don't agree with me. It brings young people comfort to think that they will be able to see their loved ones again--it's what we tell children before bedtime or after a funeral. But at 92 years old, it brings me comfort to know I will be with the Lord. That's all I need."
"Grandma," the young woman shook her head, "that's probably the most wonderful and reassuring description of heaven I've ever heard! I don't want to recognize anyone either!"
Laughter and another sip of tea.