My Son Went to Heaven, and All I Got Was a No. 1 Best Seller - NYTimes.com
The visions children have in near-death situations often have a great deal to do with what they already believe. Culture to culture, these experiences involve bright light, celestial figures and a sense of watching your own body from above and sometimes all three. According to Kevin Nelson, a neuroscientist and the author of “The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain,” adults often have a sense of looking back over a life; young children, lacking that perspective, tend to report “castles and rainbows, often populated with pets, wizards, guardian angels, and like adults, they see relatives and religious figures, too.” It’s hard to convey to anyone who grew up without the idea of God just how fully the language, stories and “logic” of the Bible can dominate a young mind, even — perhaps especially — the mind of a toddler.
To some degree, I speak from experience. When I was not quite 4 — about the same age as Colton Burpo — my own newly born-again parents sat me down to impart the good news about Jesus, the son of God, who was born in a manger surrounded by sheep and donkeys and ended up being nailed to a cross on a hill and dying there. On the third day, he rose from the grave (you could tell it was he from the nail holes), and he did all of this to pay for my sins. If I accepted him into my heart, I would be rewarded with everlasting life in heaven. Otherwise, I would burn eternally with the Devil in hell. So we needed, urgently, to pray.
“Right now?” I said, or something like that. I remember not feeling 100 percent ready to ask this undead man, with his holey extremities, to dwell inside me.
“Well, yes,” I recall my mother saying. “Unless you’d like to spend eternity in the lake of fire, crying out for a drink of water.”
My father laid his hand on my shoulder. “We don’t want that, do we?”
“Daddy and I would hear you from our mansion up in heaven,” my mother said. “But we wouldn’t be able to help.”
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