Shattered Silence

Shattered Silence

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

When I've Died and Gone to Heaven

I often have such vivid dreams that I rarely forget them.
As I slept on the evening of January 28-29, 2016, I dreamed a rather lengthy and interesting dream. When I awoke, the various scenes of the dream were still vividly present in my mind, and weighed down with much emotion and provoking thought about what I had just experienced. I had the desire to record my dream, perhaps in an attempt to discover more meaning in it, if not just to remember it for how unique it was. I will leave interpretations aside, for now, and give the details of the dream as it played out.

My dream began with me sitting in the downstairs level of the house I grew up in; it’s not unusual for me to return to my childhood home in my dreams. In fact, a large portion of my dreams actually take place in or around that house, with its yard, street, and neighborhood just the way I remember it. The room downstairs was the one that my mother used as her sewing and craft room, which had a door that led outside, up some steps, and into the back yard.

In my dream, the light of two Heavenly Beings was shining
from the outside into my darkened room. 
I don’t recall why I was there, but I was comfortable and at peace; the floor seemed to be heavy laden with blankets and pillows and other fluffy objects. It was nighttime, and I was reclining in the soft pile, reading from a book that I interpreted to be scriptures, though they were not like my own actual, familiar set of scriptures. There were bright lights shining through the basement door window from the outside, and I could see the shadows the light cast as it moved through the trees in the backyard.

I knew somehow that the light was radiating from two heavenly Beings who had descended from on high with a special task. The Beings were God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. They were here to cleanse the earth, carry away the righteous with Them into glory, and destroy the wicked who were not prepared for Their coming. This is not the first dream I have had with the theme of Christ’s Second Coming or of the end of the world; surprisingly, I have these dreams frequently, and almost always I am at my childhood home when the last days arrive and the earth all around me begins to crumble and the sky begins to fall.

I was eagerly preparing to meet the Heavenly
Beings by perusing the scriptures. 
Surprisingly, though, I was not scared this time, as I often am during my other dreams of the end of the world. I was anxiously waiting for the illuminated Beings to make Their decision of who would die and who would live through Their culminating visit to earth. I was preparing the room for Them—arranging, cleaning, and straightening things in the room that I remember always being there while my mom used the room for her work.

I expected the Godhead to enter the room at any moment, and I apparently wanted to make a good impression. More so I was preparing myself mentally and spiritually for what might happen next (hence, delving into the scriptures as I waited) as I knew in my dream-mind that the only options were to live to see heavenly glory or to perish in my wicked state at the moment my Father and Savior decided which of the two I was most worthy and deserving of.

As the light increased in the room, still shining from outside, I seemed to hear one of Their voices; it filled my whole body like great, booming thunder, but was as gentle to my soul as a feather floating on the breeze. Whether God or Christ, I do not know, but He spoke of ancient and modern prophecy predicting that the earth would be consumed at the end of days, and that that day was finally at hand. I waited there, listening carefully to the voice, in the sea of blankets and fluff to discover if I would be chosen to live or to die.

Suddenly I found myself flying upward through the clouds
and bursting into a realm of light.
Suddenly, I began to feel lighter, as if I were a balloon swelling with helium and rising against gravity. My consciousness began to slide, and my awareness shifted out of my mother’s sewing room in my childhood home, and into another approaching realm. I was somewhere in between the floor and the ceiling, but continued to rise; I quickly felt no longer present in the room, as if I must be miles into the night sky. My eyes darkened slightly, but only for a moment, when to my view I saw blue sky and white clouds, touched by golden sunshine and bright with light. I lamented briefly, realizing that I must not have survived the cleansing of earth; until I saw myself in a place of beauty that seemed so strange, yet so familiar.

As I flew up through the clouds, I turned again to face downward, where I saw numerous structures, lush gardens with waterfalls, and various people. It seemed then that I was flying downward past all these structures, waterfalls, and people, but not falling. All of these things passed my view numerous times, as if they were repeating on some visual loop. In my mind, some spirit whispered to me that the vastness and beauty I beheld was representative of eternity, both literally and figuratively. 

From the wondrous scenery I beheld around me, I knew
that I must be in heaven. 
The repetition of the scenery symbolized a life that goes on forever and ever, without beginning of days, or end of years, and the vastness and beauty represented the immense and glorious community of Heavenly Father’s children of which I was now going to be a part. This was the place where I would now spend my afterlife, yet I knew that there was even more to come in eternity of which I could not yet even dream.

As I soared to a stop on the ground, amidst a sort of town square with high, white-stone buildings, there was immediately a man next to me whom I had never seen before, but I recognized him immediately—it was the Savior Jesus Christ. I was in heaven. Whether dead or translated in the twinkling of an eye, my spirit lived on, and I was in the presence of the Man for whom I had lived and fought so hard to follow and emulate during my life.

The moment was one of disbelief, followed by a sense of joy and fulfillment that was both unexpected and familiar. I embraced Him, as if He were a familiar friend whom I just hadn’t seen in a while. I knew Him, and He knew me. We were not strangers to one another. He looked different than I had imagined, and I made the remark in my head that I never would have thought he’d look so normal, so average—a human, a Man, just like me.

"Home" by David Bowman
Copyright © David Bowman
The next few moments were quite shocking, even for a dream. Without saying a word, Jesus faced me, closed His eyes, and out-stretched His hands. He did not speak, but in my mind I heard Him say that He was sorry for all that I had to go through during my life in order to make it back to Him. He said He didn’t blame me if I was angry with Him, and that He understood if I wanted some closure in relation to all the pain that He had put me through. 

Then unexpectedly, I realized that He was right; I had experienced a lot of turmoil during my mortal life. I had experienced homosexuality all my life, yet had sacrificed much to be an active Latter-day Saint. I lived with the challenges of Tourettes, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety. I had experienced so much stigma and judgment; people were mean at times, inconsiderate, and heartless. Many times my trials weakened me and made me feel worthless, unloved, and unwanted. I had plenty of reason to be angry with a God and a Savior Who would allow me to experience so much lifelong grief. I wondered why I had to suffer all of that just to be saved. I wondered why Jesus didn’t save me from all of those things, to keep them from happening.

He was right; I was angry! I was angry with Him for my sufferings. It was all His fault. He was the reason! He was the cause! Then all at once, without hesitation or reserve, I struck my Savior. I tore down His outstretched arms; I slapped and punched His face; I delivered blows to His chest and kicked Him, and He stood completely still and suffered it. I wanted to punish Him the way He seemed to have punished me. I wanted Him to feel the pain that I had felt so many times, and this was the only way I knew how. With hot tears of rage wetting my face, I threw my arms and fists at Him almost helplessly until I had not the energy to do so anymore. 

"Safely Home" by Ron DiCianni
Copyright © Ron DiCianni
Slowly, the rage subsided into shame and sorrow. My blows weakened, and so did my body. With immense regret, and still a tinge of frustration, I collapsed into Christ’s chest with heavy sobs. My knees buckled, and I slipped to the ground as He wrapped His arms around me and descended with me into a tearful heap. He held me as I cried, and didn’t say a word. Then the voice came again to my mind, saying that I had suffered in mortality as He had once suffered in mortality. He had taken on the sins of a fallen world in order to succor the weak in their infirmities and offer grace to the souls of men and women who believed on His name and trusted in He and His Father’s ultimate love.

The turmoil, pain, suffering, loneliness, and frailty that I experienced was just a tiny, incomparable portion of what He suffered on my behalf; but through my faith in Him, it was just enough to refine and perfect me, even as He is perfect, so that I could once again be here in His mighty arms. He was beaten, He was struck, and He was pained. He was pierced through, He bled, and He died—all in far more terrible ways than I could inflict upon Him in my selfish moment of resentment. I had survived mortality, and then died and gone to heaven because of my faith in Him. He was the reason! He was the cause! He was everything that I needed and wanted to help me through, and everything I needed and wanted to become. He didn’t save me from my trials, but He saved me in my trials, to keep me from becoming lost on my way back to Him.

During my assault on the Savior, I felt in my mind that this was what all of God’s children experienced when they died and met their Lord for the first time. Each man and woman who ever travailed through life had the chance to confront their Savior and question all that they had ever done to follow Him. The reality of standing in heaven at that moment was not enough, apparently, for me to know that I had succeeded in the test of mortality. I had to confront the reasons for my test of life, and the Man Who made it possible for me to conquer it, and consider whether or not it was all worth it. It was a beautiful message to me, even in a dream state, as it is now. I had to acknowledge that no matter how I felt about Jesus Christ, every knee would eventually bow, and every tongue confess that He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world (see Philippians 2:10-11).

I do not have to wait until I see my Redeemer face to face, and look into His eyes, to know of His divine nature and living reality. And I do not have to wait for that moment to take His hands into mine and feel the scars of the crucifiers nails to know that His life, His death, and His resurrection were all for me. To be sitting there, tangled in the loving arms my Lord and Savior in my unconscious mind, fully and unspeakably grateful for His sacrifice, was something so glorious and almost-tangible that I hope to live my life in every possible way to make that interaction a living reality someday.

"Every Knee Shall Bow" by J. Kirk Richards
Copyright © 2012 by J. Kirk Richards

Here the dynamic of my dream shifted as I realized that if I was in heaven, I had left my family and friends behind. Gone was the previous notion that the earth was destroyed in Christ’s Second Coming. My dreams (probably many individuals’ dreams) do this often—changing directions while holding onto elements from previous scenes on the stage of my subconscious. However, during the next scene I was given the charge and the honor of being a guardian angel for my family, and to watch over and comfort them as they grieved my departure.

Though perhaps a bit macabre or depressing, I’ve often visited my own funeral in my mind and wondered about it—who would attend, what would be said about me, what it would be like. And in my dream, I didn’t want to leave my family behind without them knowing that I was okay. I knew that time in heaven was different, and I was afraid that I would have missed attending my funeral. Like looking at the clock and realizing you’re late for an appointment, I suddenly discovered that because I had died recently, I could still make it to my funeral, where all my family was gathered to pay their last respects to me. 

After I had died and gone to heaven in my dream, I then had
the opportunity to attend my own funeral.
And in an instant (because spirits can travel quickly) I was walking toward a crowd of my family members who were standing about talking just after my funeral had finished. In my dream, no one could see me, but I was interacting with them and they could feel me there and gauge my actions and responses, as if the veil between us were very thin. Everyone looked somber and drained, and many eyes were wet and red from grieving tears.

I was surprised that the first person I rushed to embrace in spirit was my dad. He was one of the first people I saw at my funeral, and I longed to tell him that I was okay. Because my immediate family members are not actively religious, I worried that some of them, like my dad, might be confused and unsettled about where I had gone, and if my death was final. As I wrapped my arms around my dad, he held me tightly and said, “I can feel Wade like he’s right here with me.” It’s strange (as dreams are), but I talked to him face to face, as if he could see me, but according to the unspoken laws of this dream, I knew I was just a spirit, and he could not see or hear me. But he discerned my presence through some special, sweet force that I had been given as their guardian angel.

In my spirit form, I hugged my dad, and reassured him that
I was okay—that I had made it to heaven.
Worried that my dad might not find closure in my death unless he could know that I was okay, the first thing I said to him with my spiritual voice was, “Dad, I made it. I made it.” He smiled, and commented to the others around him that he knew I was in a good place—that I was in heaven—just like I had always wanted. I was so happy that I was able to convey this peaceful message to him.

Subsequently I hugged my favorite aunt, who was also in attendance, as well as my brothers, my sister-in-law, and my oldest nephew; to each of them I reassured them, “I made it. I made it back.” I knew that if I had done anything right in the way I lived my mortal life, then they would know that my greatest desire and goal in my existence, death, and the afterlife, was to go to heaven when I died. And not just to glory and peace, but the highest glory attainable—even the Celestial Kingdom, to live in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ forever. I wanted them to know that I had achieved my goal, and my purpose.

Even in my sleep, I feel emotions so strongly when I dream. I have woken up from intensely emotional dreams with tears in my eyes, or shouting out to people in anger, frustration, or with passion and love. The feelings of this part of the dream were so bittersweet. After seeing all of my family, I was terribly distraught that I couldn’t find my mother in the crowd of attendees at my funeral. My relationship with my mother is one of immense closeness, love, and respect; so naturally, even in a dream (and even in death), she was the person I wanted to see and comfort the most.

The most bittersweet moment of attending my own funeral,
was attempting to comfort my grieving mother.
Finally, I saw her. She came staggering into the area, aided by a couple of unknown people who were holding her hands as if to help her to stand. I ran to her, and stood a few arm lengths away. She was looking at the ground as she walked, as if to be careful of her steps; then she looked up, as if she knew I was there, but she peered into the crowd of others gathered around. She smiled at everyone and whispered greetings, thanking everyone for coming; but her weak body language was that of anguish, and her demeanor spoke of deep stress and pain. 

My emotions were caught up in a rush of empathy and love, and I fell into her bosom and sobbed. Like my dad, she made a similar comment about feeling me nearby, as if I were right there; though, again, I knew I was only there in spirit, she still reciprocated my embrace as if I were there in the flesh. I pulled away to look her into her eyes and I yelled that I was there, that I was with her, and that I always would be. 

Despite being reunited with my Lord and Redeemer only moments earlier—the Man I had lived my whole life for—the next person with whom I felt the most connection and intense love was the woman standing right in front of me, grieving the death of her youngest son while trying to stay strong. It was heart-wrenching. It cut me to my core, even as I slept alive and well in my room, dreaming up the scene in my subconscious mind. It was she who had been the largest contributor to my very existence since I had been born to Heavenly Parents prior to my conception on earth.

I promised my family that no matter what, we would all be
together in heaven someday.
I didn’t know how long I had been dead; according to the conversations I heard going on around me at the funeral, it was just before Christmas that I had passed away. But I thought of the anguish my mother would still have to experience as she cleaned out my apartment and sorted through my belongings. I couldn’t bear to cause her any more pain than she had already experienced in saying goodbye to me physically, but to then have to part with all the reminders of me as well was enough to tear me apart.

As I comforted my mother in spirit, I made her a solemn promise that I would prepare the way to receive her when the time came for her to pass on. I promised her that I would do everything in my power as an angel to put in a good word, save her a seat, and get her ready to spend eternity with me. In fact, I told my whole family this—my dad, my brothers, my nephew—all of my non-religious family members who many people of faith might suppose would not have a place in heaven because of their unbelief. I dreaded so much the thought of being without them in the eternities that I knew I would give anything to ensure that we could stay together. 

I kissed my mother many times before I parted; apparently, my responsibilities as an angel required me to be elsewhere, and I knew that my time with them in that moment was running short. But I promised them all that I would never be far away, and that in an instant my spirit could be with them whenever they needed me, and that I would know of their prayers and be there to answer them, God willing.

I'm not sure I believe that every dream has to have a
meaning; but I believe they can still have powerful messages.
Now, there are many people who put a lot of stock into dreams and their interpretations. I often wonder about the meaning of the common threads that run through many of my dreams—such as that I dream frequently about the Second Coming of Christ, the end of days, and about my childhood home—but I’m not sure I necessarily believe that all dreams have to be premonitory or symbolically meaningful to my current life, or a reflection of my thoughts, actions, or behavior patterns.

Nevertheless, this dream struck me hard. I woke up with an array of emotions that I can feel strongly now even as I type. I am reminded of the life that I live in faith—being gay and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)—and of why I choose to align my choices and actions with God’s laws rather than man’s, by refraining from giving into very natural yet carnal wants and desires. If you’ve read my blog in the past, particularly posts like “The Greener Side,” you know that my example to my family and my desire to serve them in righteousness as a man of faith was a major factor in my decision to return from a life of sexual sin and inactivity in my religion, to living in worthiness before God and Jesus Christ.

My dream of dying and going to heaven was a beautiful
reminder of Jesus Christ's gifts of salvation and immortality.
My dreams are often vivid, colorful, and full of life, and this dream was no exception. To imagine how my new life might be when I finally cross through the veil into the spirit world is something that keeps me in check, not because I fear God or His punishment, but because I trust in His blessings and power. I do not doubt that when I stand before the throne of God to be judged, with Jesus Christ acting as my Mediator and Advocate with the Father, that I will be fully aware of all my deeds and thoughts in life—those that were acceptable before the Lord, and those that were not. 

But I trust that through the application of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, my mortal inadequacies will level out with what I have offered to the Godhead through personal sacrifice, and I will not be surprised by where I then stand in the kingdom of God. The sacrifice of the Savior of the world will make up so much of the difference then as it does now in daily life; at the final judgment, I like to think that it will make up all the difference, and maybe then some.

Over the last few years, I feel that the godly characteristics I have come to know and trust in the most are mercy and compassion. I have learned how to better navigate through occasional transgressions and shortcomings in constructive and meaningful ways that help me to build upon a foundation of repentance and grace, rather than tearing myself down with destructive feelings of guilt and shame. I feel that I am far, far harder on myself than my Heavenly Father ever is on me, and that He is quick to forgive and help me move on in my discipleship, even when I can’t help but obsessively focus on all the factors that caused me to falter. He doesn’t want me to dwell long on failure, but to hold my light and little higher and take the next step on the darkened path ahead. 

I have come to cherish and embrace the overflowing mercy
and compassion offered to me by my Father and Savior.

I believe that God’s mercy is overflowing in its availability, if we can but take the cup to our lips and drink of it generously and let it fill us and make us whole. And as our “cup runneth over,” we can conclude as King David did, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalms 23:5-6). Also, I know that the united compassion of God and the Redeemer is such that Their divine and immaculate hearts swell within their breasts out of love, care, support, and favor for the children of the Eternal Father who suffer, travail, and triumph on earth.

Like Job of old, I can testify of the reality of an afterlife with God, made possible through the merits of a Savior, Jesus Christ, who saved me in the kingdom of God by giving all that He had and all that He is in diligence to His Father’s will:

          “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:         
          “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:         
          “Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my [heart] be consumed within me” (Job 19:25-27).

Importantly, I know also that I will not be without my family in heaven. Though I have never been sealed to my family in the temple, and will likely never have that opportunity while my family members are yet alive, I know that through Heavenly Father’s mercy, compassion, and the ordinances of the Holy Priesthood, I will not be denied the blessing of an eternal, forever family. And though I dread the day when I will have to say temporary goodbyes to those I love so much, I glory in the knowledge that my parting is just that—temporary!

Eternal life and salvation through Jesus Christ the Lord are not dreams or fantasies like the one I recently had during the night. They are a glorious reality that I will one day be part of; and the emotion, the peace, and the power of it all will be far more vivid, colorful, and spectacular than my unconscious brain could ever concoct. The time away from my family members who will eventually move on to that next step of their eternal journey will be so difficult for me, I’m certain. But I know that I will be reunited with them again someday when they come to meet me at the veil after I’ve died and gone to heaven.

"Dream as if you'll live forever; live as if you'll die today."
~ James Dean, American Actor (1931 - 1955)

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