I often wonder about Heaven. We're given this image as children of angels sitting around on clouds playing harps. I know hundreds of stories and jokes about Heaven as a place (yes, you'll probably hear a few of them if you stick around).
But more and more over the years, I've come to think of Heaven as more of a state than a physical place. For me, Heaven is a state of pure joy in the presence of the Lord. I think there are times on Earth when we can feel a foretaste of that joy.
And if Heaven is a state which we can feel here on Earth, if only for fleeting moments and imperfectly, when we say that God is "in" Heaven, does that mean that if we're looking, we can recognise Him in those moments?
I also have another way of thinking about Heaven. Imagine the unborn child in the womb. All it knows is darkness, warmth and comfort. Occasionally muffled sounds intrude from outside, but in the womb it is cushioned and protected. It receives everything it needs through the umbilical cord. Obviously, at this stage, it's not able to rationalise things as we do, though it is able to feel pain and to be soothed by its mother's voice.
Then, after it has started to get a bit cramped in its little world, the child is squeezed out into a narrow passage and the cord which has been its only source of sustenance is cut off. It emerges into a world of richness, variety and colour which it could never have imagined, and over the remaining years of its life it grows physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
If it was able to rationalise the way that we do, I imagine the child in the womb would be terrified when this process of change began, and might even want to stay where it is (as imagined by Bernice Reubens in her excellent novel, Spring Sonata). It has to die to its previous life of dependence on its mother (by the cutting of the cord) before it is able to grow in its new life.
If we see death as a new birth into a new level of understanding, and Heaven as a new home where our Father is waiting for us, how can we be afraid of dying? We can't imagine or understand what Heaven is like, or what form our new life will take, but we trust in God and know that we must cut the cord with Mother Earth and go on to something far better and richer than we can ever know in this world.