Grown-ups get antsy when you ask them about heaven. You know, like whether they actually believe in it. Their eyes get narrow, and their voices get high, and they talk around the question. They say stuff like, “Why in the world would you ask such a thing?” Then, when the answer does come, it’s never much of a comfort. “Well of course I believe in heaven.” Except by then you know there’s nothing of course about it. They might believe in heaven, or they might not believe in heaven, but they’ve got their doubts for sure.
It’s that way with my mom and dad. They say they believe in heaven. But there’s a lot of hemming and hawing, and nervous glances back and forth, on the way to that of course. Even my sister Amelia, who’s starting college in the fall, and who levels with me about most things, wouldn’t come right come right out and say she didn’t believe in heaven—even though I’m about 99 percent sure she doesn’t.
Lonnie, on the other hand, got right to the point: “How the hell should I know if there’s a heaven? Use your brain, Julian! The only way I’d know would be if I was dead, which I’m not.” He balled up his fist and punched me in the arm. Not hard, just enough to get my attention. “You see? If I were dead, you wouldn’t have felt that. But you did. So I don’t know the answer.”