I honestly had forgotten my childhood brush with the heaven bound. We have the current Rapture ranter, a depressed woman who smothers her six-year-old and wants to die so the two of them will be together, and who knows how many terrorists who believe that their religion will guarantee them eternal bliss for dying while blowing others to pieces.
If you were inclined to ecstatic paradise and personal identity after death stuff, the believers acting out in front of you should give pause.
Nevertheless, back when I was maybe 8 or 9, our family got a personal taste in Danville, Virginia. Our weekly cleaning lady showed up at our mother’s office to take her to heaven with her.
Our divorced mom, Wanda, worked long and hard running the Red Cross chapter as well as raising two kids solo. While it bothered her not to also handle all the cleaning even with the meager help of her elementary-school children, she accepted that she needed someone a couple of afternoons a week to take care of laundry and such. Lena was that person.
A young, married woman with two children of her own, she was a cheerful presence. She had a family support system in town to help her with her kids and worked for several folk to supplement her husband’s income. We got along well.
One afternoon though, Wanda returned home distressed, which was unusual for someone so together. She told us how Lena had died.
I don’t have time today
She was at her desk, managing away, when Lena appeared. The normally calm Lena was instead both agitated and smiling. She announced that it was time to go to heaven. She said that of all the people she knew Wanda was the one deserving of joining her.
My mother said she explained that she had a lot of work to do and wanted to take care of her children. She really did not have time and was not in a position to go to heaven that afternoon.
She said that Lena accepted that and calmly left the office. Lena then went a few blocks away, waited for the bus, and threw herself directly in front of it. She died on the spot.
We were also Christians in our apartment. We had the behaviors as well as, attending both Sunday School and church ever week, taking communion, believing in personal salvation through Jesus, and planning on heaven (eventually). I also had read the whole KJV Bible and had favorite parts.
Yet, even as young kids, my sister and I did not go for suicide. Wanda had made us far too pragmatic and fix-it for that already.
Of course, in retrospect, I figure Lena had been mentally unstable for quite awhile and had had a break, a psychotic episode. We didn’t know those terms yet, didn’t know depressed or bipolar people yet, and no one in our family was a fundamentalist religious sort of any flavor.
I recall though asking about Lena’s husband and kids. Why didn’t she want them to go with her if she figured she was heading heavenward that day? As it turned out, her husband wondered too. He threatened Wanda and us with death for somehow in his mind causing his wife to kill herself.
He got over that with some discussion with the police. I got over my puerile religion as well a few years later.
Yet, our very human, often emotional needs seem to drive us at the oddest times and with the great power of a surging, swollen river. I like to think I am immune to such relentless forces. I can’t be positive, but I’m not buying into rapture today.