Another beautiful day — sunny, a gentle breeze and the ocean in mid-tide.
With neither the tumultuous swells of high tide, nor the languid waters of low, the sea was undulating and inviting.
My 5-year-old grandson looked like some miniature aquatic clown in his sunhat, goggles and a puffy lifejacket. His legs dangled off the boogie board I was towing through the waves.
He looked back to shore and the distance we were from the rest of the family. With a trusting smile, he asked, “Where are you taking me?”
“Out to the horizon,” I told him. “What do you think is out there?”
“The end of the world,” said my little flat-earther.
“And what happens if you go to the end of the world?” I asked.
“Well, there is no food, so I’d probably die,” he said as a matter of fact.
“And what happens to you after you die?”
“I’d go to heaven,” he said, grinning with the assurance of innocence.
“And where’s heaven?”
He paused and then replied, “I think it’s in the ground.”
“Why do you think it’s in the ground?”
With no hesitation he explained, “Well, when Brenda died, they buried her in the ground.” Trying to understand the eschatology of a 5-year-old, I pointed out that the burial was “just her body.”
“No,” he corrected me. “They buried her head, too.”
A couple of days later, I read a piece by Jack Thomas, a journalist with the Boston Globe.
With 70 years on my grandson, and news that he has inoperable cancer with just months to live, he had a somewhat different perspective.
In a measured but moving reflection, Thomas talks about the things he’ll miss. His loving wife and children, of course, but sunsets off Vineyard Sound, sailing on Boston Harbor, friends he has known forever, and the newspaper business that he is so grateful to have been a part of for over 60 years.
In heaven, he hopes he can see his father, have dinner with Julia Child, and hear Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, but he also wants to listen to Bessie Smith’s celestial rendition of “Nobody in Town Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll Like Me.”
In neither earthly memories nor heavenly desires does Thomas mention God, yet there is a palpable Presence throughout.
St. Catherine of Siena said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”
The lessons of a life and a day at the beach confirm that for me.