There was once a father who loved his son.
When the son was eight years old, he contracted an infection that developed into meningitis. As a result the son suffered brain damage that affected his lower limbs and speech. From that day on his father cared for him and fought back tears.
Because the father dearly loved his son, he nursed him with compassion and tenderness.
Daily he woke and in the quiet darkness of the house, got himself ready for the day. Every morning, before the day began, the father knelt by his bed and prayed for his son to be healed. His heart longed for his son to enjoy life as he had done before he became sick.
Then, each day, he helped his son get up and dressed. As time passed, the father devoted himself to doing all he could to provide his son with the many opportunities afforded to other children his age.
Months became years yet the passion in the father’s voice didn’t fade, as he fervently called on God to heal his beloved son.
There were days when the burden of care was difficult and overwhelming, but the father was determined not to show his son the strain he felt. He continued to dedicate himself to caring, the smile on his face never portraying the heaviness in his heart.
The season changed and the son’s peers grew from boys to men.
They rose up to look the father in the eyes, as they talked of their futures and careers.
The father continued to diligently pray every morning and each day looked down at his son, contained within a wheelchair, dependent on care, limited by stairs and hampered by prejudice.
He fought for the rights of his son to live independently, work and enjoy living; and yet, in faith, each morning he prayed.
One day the father rose to pray, only to discover his son had died. Within a week he was standing by his dear son’s grave.
The brave smile was gone and the raw pain of the last twenty years was savagely exposed.
Amidst the pain and grief the father was comforted by the belief that finally his son was whole. He had so longed to see his son healed, and in his absence he finally was.
He imagined his son running and smiling, enjoying the beauty and eternity of heaven.
For years the father visited his son’s grave, tears taking the same well worn route. Until one day he too was called home and found himself opening his eyes to the beauty of heaven.
His heart swelled at the excitement of seeing his son in all his wholeness.
As his vision came into focus the father found himself gazing into the unforgettable brilliance of his son’s dazzling blue eyes. He held his gaze, not wanting to look away, captured by the experience of being able to look straight across into his sons face; finally they stood as equals.
Smiles grew and laughter echoed as they embraced once again.
It was only as the father slowly withdrew that he noticed he wasn’t standing, but rather sitting opposite his son.
As he looked down his spirit stilled. He realised his son remained in the same old, battered wheelchair.
Like a dawn light sweeping across the land, he began to realise that he too was strapped into a wheelchair.
With confusion in his eyes he looked up again at his son’s face, who hadn’t stopped laughing or smiling. Without a word from his father, the son began to speak.
“Dad, welcome to heaven.
You’ll love it here.
Don’t worry about the wheelchair it doesn’t stop you enjoying all the best of living.
Here we don’t value independence because its all about interdependence.
No one is burdened with care as we all help one another, living as God created us to be; part of one community, his family.
No one is in need because we share.
No one is left out because we are inclusive.
There are no disabilities because they only exist when the world does not accommodate our needs. Our vulnerability is not weakness, but an opportunity for love and relationship.
Everything God loves is here; peace, joy, hope, love and faithfulness.”
The father’s mouth dropped open as he began to look around heaven.
It seemed everyone had a ‘frailty’; a need that was supported by others in the community.
This was a tactile world, alive with colour, smells and noise. Everywhere people were signing as they communicated; there were no stairs, no inaccessible places, no isolation, no burdens too heavy to bear.
All around him he saw serving with laughter and love without limits.
‘So this is heaven, this is healing.’
Graveyard photos by permission of http://500px.com/purplefrog_1999