Will There Be Toys in Heaven

I was lying next to Eli, my three old, trying to get him to fall asleep, when he turned to me with panic in his voice.

"Daddy, I'm scared--what if I die and get to heaven and there are no toys there."

Eli, I should point out, is a very sensitive boy, prone to worry. His bedtime prayer most nights, after "Now I lay me down to sleep" is, "God help me have no scary dream."

When he said, "What if I die," my heart skipped a beat.

Like most parents, my greatest fear is that something will happen to one of my children, and I won't be able to save them. There's a reason why in our house, the kids pray "may angels guide me through the night and wake me in the morning light" instead of "if I should die before I wake." I don't want then to even mention the possibility. (I'm in good company--Studs Terkel doesn't like that line either.)

There's another reason--for as long as I can remember, I've been terrified of death. As a kid I would lie awake for hours, turning over and over, trying to figure out what happens next. I couldn't get my head around it--and I could hardly cope with the idea of letting go of this life. Those terrors are mostly gone, but tonight came the premonition that I may have passed on more than my genes to my son.

Before I could come up with a brilliant answer to his question, Eli came up with one of his own. "Maybe God has a car, and he can come over to my house and get them."

He followed up with 10 minutes of instructions for God on how to play his Power Rangers board game (we got it for a quarter at a neighbor's yard sale.)"God," he said, "first you line up the putty patrollers and the aliens, and then you roll the dice and knock them down."

With that, the problem was solved, and drifted off to sleep. Till about 5 seconds ago, when he rolled out of bed and started calling my name. Time for me to say goodnight.


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