Dear Dad. Is Heaven Fun?

Dad & me
My dad died a decade ago—on the sixth day of the six month of the year ’06. Before his service, the funeral director took my two sons aside and invited them to write letters to place in his coffin. It was a way to give kids closure he told us.

After the service the funeral director secretly slipped us photocopies of their letters. My husband and I never peeked at them, knowing it was wrong to read the private correspondence between our children and their dead grandfather. But now a decade later, I retrieved the letters from the bottom of our filing cabinet and read them with their permission.

My younger son, who was 10 at the time, ended his letter telling my dad that he hoped that he was “having the best after-life.” Perhaps he thought of death as a sort of after-party of the main event, like at the Oscars. His older brother, who was 12, ended his letter with a P.S. in the form of a question: “Is heaven fun?”

My children never cried when we told them that my dad had died. They didn’t miss school, or tell their friends. His death was not sudden so it was not a shock. They had seen how the cancer devoured his body (but never his mind or spirit) over the course of a year. Perhaps they were too young to grasp the permanence of never again playing backgammon with him, driving the motorboat at his cottage, or seeking his help with their science projects.

Or maybe it was something else. I didn’t cry much either. It didn’t feel like my dad was gone, his presence was so strong. My children probably felt this too. They say energy doesn’t die, it transforms. My dad knew about energy, as his early vocation was as an electrical engineer. And he knew about transformations too, having gone through many in his lifetime: starting a new life in Canada, after escaping Hungary; moving cities as his career took him from Montreal, to Ottawa to New York, and back again; marrying once, and then again, and finally falling madly in love one last time.

Death was just another transformation, and my dad had always been an exceptional problem-solver. He probably figured out that if he could no longer use his physical being and words to connect, he would have to apply his energy in more creative ways. And he let us know that he was still around in ways that were characteristic of him.

So many unusual things happened after his death that even the most skeptical members of my family conceded it was weird. I forgot to light a candle on his birthday a few months after he died, and my basement flooded. It had never flooded before but my dad was always very sensitive about his birthday or Father’s Day, and was known to pout if we didn’t make a fuss. In his last year of life, he was working on a patent for computer software and gave his computer to his sister. My aunt, a computer scientist, created a new password but it refused to work. After many attempts, she decided to try his name on a whim—the computer sprang to life. And then there was the box of old electronics that started to buzz as my cousin transported it from his house to hers. And these are just a few examples.

Slowly the energy faded, bit by bit until there were no more unusual incidents. My dad had left this earth.

Dad, is heaven fun?

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