Visions of Heaven
The news of the recent collapse of an old overpass bridge onto I-75 in Cincinnati, Ohio hit me on more than one level.
For one, I grew up two hours north of Cincinnati and had driven that stretch of road on many occasions, including the winter I had a college internship at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
However, after learning that a construction worker on the project had died, leaving four children behind, the tragedy struck closer to home.
I saw video of the scene less than 90 minutes after returning home following a memorial service for a friend who had died five days earlier in a crash on I-64 in eastern Kentucky.
He too, left four children for his widow to raise. The saddest part of the story is the family was en route to Tennessee, where they planned to start a new life.
A Story of Rebirth
In the case of our friend, just 27 years old, the loss hit hard. Out of respect for his family’s privacy, I’ll call him Larry. He came into our lives via a long road that started began 11 years earlier.
As a cocky teenager, Larry had shown up for a night of basketball our church organized soon after purchasing an old elementary school building. Before redesigning the old gym to accommodate growth, our sanctuary held a pair of basketball goals that served a useful purpose when Sunday morning crowds were best described as modest.
In a sermon two days prior to the funeral, our pastor, Steve, recalled how that meeting was the beginning of a long-term relationship with Larry and his best friend, Trent.
Steve recalled how he “tricked” them into going to see Passion of the Christ, which prompted a long discussion afterwards. At the end, both expressed their desire to follow the Jesus who died such a brutal death on the cross.
Struggles of Life
That was the beginning of a long road, with both suffering relapses, aimlessness, and struggles to find decent-paying jobs. However, nearly two years ago both vowed to live for Christ.
The turnaround in their lives was miraculous. Larry’s very countenance changed and he turned into a caring, responsible father who read the Bible to his kids. As a tribute to him, at his funeral Steve read the entire book of Philippians, which Larry memorized not long before his death.
Meanwhile, Trent not only found a steady job, he expressed interest in one day becoming an evangelist. He has since been on a mission trip to Central America.
During his pre-funeral sermon in which he choked out the words, “I feel like I lost a kid,” Steve shared two amazing stories about Larry.
The first came from his trip to Lexington that weekend to visit Larry’s mother, who was seriously injured in the accident and faces more surgeries.
Steve told of passing the spot where the accident happened and thinking of a verse from that day’s sermon: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’” (John 11:25).
Just then, Steve was filled with an overwhelming sense that Larry had met Jesus, the resurrection and the life, and was safely home in heaven.
The other involved a dream Trent’s girlfriend had after the accident. In it, Larry walked into heaven amid a great noise, comparable to ocean waves crashing into the shoreline. But instead of waves, the sounds came from people applauding Larry’s arrival.
A breathtaking vision, yet one that assures us where he is now. It offers comfort and reassurance—and yet we grieve. Fortunately, we won’t mourn forever.