What Everyone Likes

With a big smile on my face, I cheerfully informed the patient, “Your doctor wants you to get up to walk four times today. You walked 25 yards with me this morning. Now it’s time for you to get up again. This time we’ll shoot for 50 yards.”

The patient made no move to sit up. He grumped, “I don’t know why you have to be so cheerful. I bet you enjoy torturing people.”

As I pulled the bedside table out of the way, I informed him, “Actually, I don’t!” The patient lifted his head and hunched his shoulders forward as if he was trying to do a sit-up. His face contorted into a grimace. I instructed, “When a person has an abdominal incision like you do, it feels better to roll to your side and push yourself up with your elbow.”

Moments later the patient was plodding down the hall with me helping to steady him. His surely mood was still evident. Wanting to take his mind off the pain and the perceived injustice of having to walk so soon after surgery, I tried to engage him in conversation.

My questions only received monosyllabic answers. As we walked past the kitchenet, the warm smell of freshly-popped buttered popcorn engulfed us. I exclaimed, “Wow, that smells so good! I’ll bet heaven smells like buttered popcorn. What do you think?”

The patient stopped walking and for the first time turned to look directly at me. He questioned sourly, “What if a person hates that smell?”

I shrugged and suggested, “Heaven probably smells like things we like, otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven.”

There are many books telling of people who were clinically dead and then were miraculously revived. Instead of falling into a black, empty void, many of them describe their soul leaving their body and being drawn towards a bright light that made them feel loved. Despite these people coming from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, the similarities of what they report is fascinating.

Some doctors have tried suggesting that the lack of oxygen to the brain at the time of death causes fantastical imaginings. However, that doesn’t explain how some of these people have met siblings that they didn’t know existed because they were miscarried years before they themselves were born. How do the doctors explain the lack of brain damage in the revived people? Brain cells die when the heart stops beating and the lungs stop taking in air.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on March second. Lent always makes me think about heaven, where I want to spend my eternity. Sadly, because we know so little about heaven, it is hard to contemplate since we have nothing to compare it to. Most Christian churches observe the 40 days of Lent, leading up to Easter Sunday. It’s a time to prepare for the Resurrection. A time to get closer to God through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and repenting of our sins.

My sister Agnes recently said, “When I was in grade school, each Lent Mom had Rosie and me give up candy. We were given jars to deposit all candies given to us during that time and couldn’t eat any until Easter. Every so often we would take the lids off our jars and sniff the sweet fumes. We so badly wanted to eat the candy! But we were good girls.”

I pointed out sympathetically, “That was really hard to do.”

Agnes answered with a laugh, “Rosie and I decided that every imaginable candy could be found in heaven, and its walls were lined with baskets of sweet-smelling candy.”

My sister’s childhood memory reminded me of the man who didn’t want heaven to smell like buttered popcorn. With a twinkle in my eyes I paraphrased what I’d told him, “Heaven will be filled with all the things and smells we personally like, otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven.

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