Prayers and Heaven, to Believe or Not

I suspect that, if you knew me, you would never believe that I pray. I just don't seem like the type. But I do. Every night. It started around the time my mother died, 19 years ago. No one that close to me had ever died before, and I began talking to her at night, silently, tucked in my bed. But after a while that wasn't enough and, one by one, more and more souls started joining her in my prayers.

You probably also wouldn't think that I believe in heaven, but I do. It's where my mother is. My version of heaven sits far above us, past the moon and the stars. It's even beyond our galaxy. I believe that when your soul arrives there, you choose the people you most want to see, and then you get to be with them. Even pets. My heaven is a 24/7 party without any worries. A place of love and positive energy. My mother definitely picked seeing her own mother first, as she died when my mother was only three.

Heaven is getting crowded with the names I recite to myself each night. It's always Mom, God, Aunt Mary, and then Grandma and Grandpa Carswell, and Grandma and Grandpa Kirby. There are my friends Marisa, Kim -- who was killed in a car accident in her 30s, Karen, who died by suicide, and the legendary gay editor Sarah Pettit, who believed in my writing abilities and died at just 36. And of course, there's cousin Marge, originally from the Deep South, who worked in the kitchen at the children's home where my father also worked and where my family once lived. She and my mom used to clip coupons together from the newspaper on Sundays. I talk to every one of these people individually, always remembering something special about them.

Sometimes I'm in such a rush to get to sleep that I only have time for my mom, Aunt Mary, and God. I hate being rushed with my evening prayers. Sometimes people say, "I'll keep you in my prayers," but do they? I know I do. When I say it, I mean it, and I have all kinds of guilt if I forget. As Joni Mitchell so famously sang, "Rows and flows of angel hair, and ice cream castles in the air, and feather canyons everywhere..." I believe she speaks of the heaven I know, or at least dream of.