The other night in a rare moment of solitude for me and Jim, and an even rarer moment of being in control of the remote control, he felt compelled to tell me (during a commercial break for Mythbusters) that no matter what happened, nothing could ever separate us. “Not even death,” he proudly announced. Jim explained that he firmly believes that no matter which one of us leaves this earth first, we will be reunited in heaven, and our marriage will resume. I didn’t know what to say. This sweet, sweet man had done the impossible. He rendered me absolutely speechless.
“Hon,” I answered cautiously as my brain raced to find the appropriate response, “You know our vows cover us only until death. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, and I don’t think that I am, but our vows specifically said ‘until death do us part.’”
“What exactly are you saying?” he asked as he adjusted himself on the couch so that he could look me directly in the eye.
“Well, I was just assuming that when I fulfilled my earthly obligations of the marriage contract, I have free agent status once I hit heaven.”
“A free agent?” he asked in disbelief. “You mean that you want to marry someone else when you get to heaven?”
I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by the tenor of his response, and any other woman might have dropped the whole subject at this point, but we’re talking about me here, so I kept on going. Besides, we’ve never really talked about the afterlife. How can we? We barely have time to fit in a conversation about this life!
“Marry someone else?” I responded incredulously. “No. Never. Absolutely Not. Read my lips--I’d never marry again. Trust me, I’ve been cured of that bug. I was just thinking about dating my way through heaven. No commitments, just an eternity of dinner, dancing, and an occasional movie sounds pretty blessed to me. And a pretty good reward for mortally suffering through loads of dirty laundry, car pools of screaming kids, and years of colicky all-nighters.”
“So you’re telling me that your idea of heaven is just dating, dancing, eating, and a movie?”
“What’s your idea of heaven?” I asked, totally curious.
“Me, you, the kids, their friends running in and out of the house, my family, your family, the craziness, the constant mess…you know I love all this! If I could take all of this into eternity with me, I would know I was in heaven.”
Listening to him, I momentarily thought about taking my life right on the couch, but what if the heaven he was describing really exists? I’d be paddling in the same boat I am now except, like Sisyphus pushing that same boulder up that same mountain, I’d be paddling throughout all of eternity with the promise of no end in sight.
“What?” he inquired as I tried to recover from the shock his words induced. “That doesn’t sound like the perfect heaven to you?”
“To be honest with you,” I replied, “you just described the perfect hell.”
“So you want to, what? Live alone in heaven? Without me, the kids, or our family?”
“No, I don’t want to live alone. Well, not exactly alone. Of course, the dog will be with me. And I’d love to have a live-in cook and cleaning lady. Maybe you can buy a house a town or two over from my condo and visit me. Just make sure you call first. My heaven also has no pop-ins.”
“You know,” he said as he got up from the couch. “If somebody heard you talking like this, they would think you weren’t kidding.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that part of me wasn’t kidding. This unanticipated conversation made me think about our marriage and how long we’ve been together. Jim and I dated eight years before we got married, and we’ve been married for 17 years. That’s a total of 25 years. I should be eligible for retirement and a pension already.
“You want something to drink?” he called from the kitchen.
“Yeah, whiskey. Forget a glass; just bring me the whole bottle. I’m going to need it if I’m going to your heaven!” I commanded.