Packing for Heaven

What will you take with you to the afterlife?

By John Addyman

I don’t often go to bed thinking about the afterlife, but one night I got tossing and turning with pharaohs dancing in my head.

We all get to the stage in life — maybe you’re there — when you start looking around the house asking, “What the heck am I going to do with all this stuff I’ve collected over the years?”

My kids don’t want my records or my cassettes, the Pyrex bowls I’ve got in the attic, or the quirky flour sifters I love.

My grandsons might snap up my model cars, but I’m unsure they’ll ever drive a car at that point. Who knows what’s going to be on the road in 10 years?

It’s a funny thing, but all these objects I love and have taken care of through the years now make me feel older than I am.

That’s when I got to thinking about pharaohs, because they knew they were going to have an afterlife, so they prepared for it and were careful to choose neat things for those high times in the tomb.

They set aside games (honest), spears and bows, lots of food, clothing, jewelry, and all kinds of jars full of creams and spices and unguents. Sounds like the pharaohs were the first survivalists and doomsday preppers.

I got to thinking about the folks who worked for the pharaohs. When the King died, he went to the embalmers, and so did you. Talk about a severance package. You got to take the deep sleep and greet the afterlife right where you left off — as a slave in bondage. Oh happy day. And if you said, “No, thank you,” you got tossed off a parapet — no afterlife.

So what would I want to take with me to the afterlife, if I could?

Maybe God would secretly reacquire all the stuff that’s going to go to flea markets, auction and garage sales from our house, and have it ready for me wherever I end up.

What would I want to be there to keep me busy for the first part of eternity?

First, I’d like to have all the Star Trek magazines and books I’ve never had time to read but are in the attic. That would take me a decade. I’d also want all my posters, audio books, DVDs and collector glasses.

Second, if I ended up in purgatory, my ticket out would be to finish all the homework I never quite got completed in junior high school, senior high school and college; all the stories I started to write and never finished; or the book I wrote that needs extensive editing. There’s another decade.

Third, I’d like to have DVDs of all the Philadelphia Eagles’, Phillies’ and Flyers’ games for every season, and all my books about those teams, magazines and bubblegum cards. That might be two decades worth of material.

Darkroom please

And I’d like a darkroom. When my kids were growing up, I took tens of thousands of black-and-white photos and printed a tiny fraction of them in an upstairs closet. In my version of the afterlife, you could leave me in that darkroom for years, because that’s how long it would take to get all those negatives printed. I could relive my kids’ childhoods one photo at a time.

Fifth, maybe God would find a spot where he could set the five houses we’ve owned over the years, with a paint supply nearby, so I could finish all the projects I got started and never quite got to the end of. We had a basement to finish in one house; a barn to renovate in another; windows to fix in the house we’re in now, and floors to replace in another house.

Because I have an eternity to finish the projects, I could do them all right.

I think if I sat down I could come up with a list of 150 cars, motorcycles and earth-movers that I’d love to have a chance to drive. You think heaven might have a few Euclid quarry trucks, Ferrari Testa Rossas, MV Augusta Brutales or Shelby Cobra 427s available? I could drive them hard enough to peel back my eyeballs — you can’t die in heaven.

I’d also like to be able to relive all the moments I was with a child — one of my kids or someone else’s — and broke off our conversation to do something I thought was more important. Instead of listening for another minute or two, I got busy with something related to work.

I’d like a chance to go back to every one of those minutes and stretch them out, hear everything the child was saying, and give them the sincerity of my time listening to them.

Maybe there would be time in heaven for me to take my wife’s hand and go back to every moment in our 50 years of marriage when I forgot to tell me how much I appreciate that she did the laundry, planted flowers in the yard or picked up my socks after me.

This time, I’d be sure she heard my thanks. Every time in my life that I forgot to tell her I love her would play back, and I would be able to insert those words into the dialogue and see her smile.

They say you can’t take it with you when your life’s time clock gets the final punch. But maybe the pharaoh’s faith in the afterlife was a picture of what it’s really like, except God is preparing a place for us, rather than us taking it all with us. God has things all figured out. That’s a comforting thought.

Folks who have had near-death experiences often report that friends are waiting for us. I hope that’s true. I hope my dad will tell me what he did with my Lincoln Logs and my mom will tell me what happened to all my baseball cards and 45s.

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