What Does Heaven Look like?

I had a lot of conversations about death with Emilie before she died.  After she lost her Grandpa, she had lots of questions she came to me with in trying to fully understand Heaven.  I tried to answer as best as I could, but the truth was I didn’t have all the answers.  A few months later, after Emilie was killed, my mind once again swirled around the same questions about what Heaven looked like to me.  Since then I have thought a lot about Heaven.  What does Heaven looks like?  What are our loved ones on the other side are doing?  How involved are these sweet angels in our lives?  I have read so much and experienced so much and I have been so uplifted by the shared experiences of so many.  There is power in storytelling and sharing experiences and I have been so thankful for those that have shared those experiences with me.  

For the first time, I want to pose a question to all of you who read my blog.  I want to know what your feelings and experiences are with Heaven.  Do you believe in Heaven and why and what do you think it looks like?  

Until now I have not allowed comments on any of my posts, but I wanted to turn the comment section on just this once.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, since it is near and dear to my heart.  Thanks so much!  

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120 responses to “What Does Heaven Look like?

  1. Alissa, I so enjoy your blogs and photos. What a gifted photographer you are and your family is beautiful. With respect to heaven, our church did a sermon on this once and spoke about how huge the city would be. While I don’t remember what scriptures were quoted, I do remember that it was larger than anything I could get my head around. And that was just the city portion. I could well imagine there was a rural area as well. One thing I’ve always thought is those who go before us do not have thoughts of us as heaven is a joyful place with no pain or sorrow and thinking of those left behind would be too sad. However, I often dream of loved ones who gave passed on and wonder if it’s somehow their way of letting me know they are happy and well. My heaven will have to have flowers, plants and animals, beautiful mountains and streams and music. I think heaven has no sense of time and just a lot of happiness and laughing. I know there is nothing that will ever fill that hole in your heart and soul, but I believe that your sweet daughter is happy beyond measure and loved by those relatives who were there waiting. You are loved by those of us who are sharing the journey. Jan Lewis

  2. LOVE. Heaven must be love because God is love. (1 John Ch. 4). Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Heaven is home where our loving Heavenly Parents wait to embrace us.

    The times in my life where I’ve felt a glimpse of heaven have been where there is the most love…. For example, when my husband and I were married, and the birth of each of our children, and visits to the temple. I imagine the love we feel here on earth to be like a candle in the dark and when we get to heaven, we will see and feel love bright and warm and powerful as the sun.

    Also, the times I have felt my loved ones who have passed on, I have been contemplating my love for them, and have felt their love for me as well.

    You and your family, including Emile, are in my prayers. I’m not sure Emilie actually needs my prayers, because I’m sure she is surrounded by love and beauty and light and truth, but I pray for her just in case!

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  3. Alissa,
    These very thoughts have ran through my mind a million times.
    Jayden and Sierra have both asked me lots of questions like this and I believe/hope it is a place where everyone is running around playing and just having a grand time. That my daughter is bring smiles to a lot of faces because to be honest a world without children would be sad. I think about all the times I can be in a bad mood and how quickly it changes when a child is around.
    So I hope our daughters are up there putting smiles on a lot of people’s faces. Who knows maybe they are friends.
    So yes I believe in heaven and to be honest it’s because I can’t image never seeing my loved ones again. Plus there are too many random things that have happened that makes me know my daughter is around when I need to know it the most. 🙂
    Sincerely,
    Alysa

  4. No , I have never suffered the lose of a child but I have had my share of loss. I have found that grief is something we never truly get over. We just tend to learn to hide the hurt.
    I too have wondered about heaven. I try to talk myself it is a place that is truly beautiful. There is no pain, no suffering, our bodies are made whole again.. All of our loved ones are waiting for us. I also believe they are able to watch down and see that we are ok. I believe when they see us struggling that it then that they send us a sign to let us know they are with us.

  5. I believe and KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that Heaven is real and beautiful and peaceful and full of love! Someplace that we would all love to go. I think our loved ones in heaven are definitely aware of us and our struggles and are pulling for us to make good choices so that we too can join them. I LOVE your blog and I pray for your cute family often. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  6. Hi Alissa!
    I do believe in Heaven!! It is where we go when our bodies die. Our souls are reunited with God and we remember that we are love. It is a place filled with the greatest amount of love one cannot even imagine! Being there with God feels like so much love… Like the immense unconditional love from the ultimate nonjudgmental all forgiving never-leaving-you-no-matter-what-parent… There is only love and joy!
    I grew up in an intense Christian Faith. I learned that God judges and we pay dearly for our sins. If we don’t dress right, fast properly, confess entirely, attend services, respect elders and never ever question anything, well, watch out. Hell awaits. But that teaching never sat right with me. I struggled to live a life where I was never good enough, never kind enough, never a good daughter, sister, friend… And inside I was so lost. And so sad! I am a kind person. I believed in God. But I did not have faith… The kind that is a safety net for you when you move forward and act believing you are loved you know? Anyway, I struggled because I just didn’t understand that God could be a loving, kind, forgiving God. Well when I saw Robbie speak about forgiveness I was so immensely moved. It just felt right or even familiar. I can’t really express it right but it just fit for me with the way I felt God would want me to live my life. I am not sure if that makes sense but I hope you can understand.
    I worked with Robbie at the hospital then and passed many chances to tell him how pivotal that was for me. I could never find the right words to share my truth! But right now, I just want to tell you BOTH thank you. Thank you! You both renewed my belief in God and began my path of awareness. It was not overnight but over the past 2 1/2 years I have developed a relationship with my Higher Power and have faith because of yours and Robbie’s strength. I know it has not been easy or even strong all of the time. But Robbie’s statement being one of forgiveness and your own super amazing strength in writing this blog and sharing your painful and honest truth has been so inspiring to me. I am often envious that your truth is all you speak! I strive to be that way and sometimes think if Alissa can do this, well i can certainly try. I pray for you and Robbie, Samantha and Madeline, and of course, for sweet Emilie. I believe she is there in Heaven, filled with all the love we can imagine, esp the love you send her, and she is sending it right back to us whenever we need it. 🌸
    Sending you a great big hug Alissa 💖. I wish I had gotten to meet you!!
    Lots and lots of love, Leeza McKean

  7. I do believe in Heaven. I believe it is a beautiful place where all our loved ones (pets included) are found. A place we can be near our Savior and Heavenly Father.

    I really enjoy reading your blog. I am so sorry for what you went through but I hope you can continue to grow from your experience and continue to share the love of your children and the Lord.

    Raegan Schultz (Steven Schultz’s wife – Brad Schultz’ sister-in-law)

  8. Oh Alissa, Our wonderful Father in heaven is waiting with open arms to greet us….but especially children. He has the children gathered around him in joyous harmony with not one bit of sadness in thier little hearts, no fear, no hurt, no questions. They are new again and we each have a room waiting for us. We enter heaven and see Jesus sitting at the right hand of our father and I picture angels to be sounding the trumpets with every new arrival. We have no imperfections, no pain. I agree with the other person on here said, I dont’ believe they see us because that would make them sad to see us sad, however I do beleive they breeze through and let their presence known at times. Don’t be sad for Emily, it is us who become sad trying to deal without them. You will be united again and your time on earth will seem like eternity, but in Emilys ‘heavenly time’, it will seem like a day. On another note, my sisters husband died at 50 years old. My sister had a tough time dealing with that until one night she had a dream. In her dream, she was sitting in the living room and her husband came walking down the stairs. She was sooo happy to see him and told he she missed him. When he said he had to leave, she begged him to stay but he said he wanted to go back. He said ‘i just can’t explain it, the happiness, the love, I just cant describe how beautiful it is. And he left. My sister said that gave her comfort and I beleive that was God letting my sister know he’s okay. Bless you, and your family. Praying still…for God’s loving, comforting arms around you all. xo Nancy Matera / Milford, CT

  9. I am so anxious to read what other people’s responses are on this topic, but before I am influenced by others ideas of heaven, I wanted to make sure I included my own that was purely just me. I am a watercolor artist that is working on a series of portraits of people who meet Christ for the first time in the afterlife. In all of my pieces, the focal point is the individual and their face. There are no dreamy castles in the distance, or billowy clouds. The background is completely blank. I am not suggesting that heaven is blank and full of nothingness. But I think what I am saying is that our spirits conceive whatever we allow it to. Clouds and castles are the ideas of other people and their own ideas of what heaven may be like. And perhaps heaven is that way to them. But because our mind’s experiences are all different, heaven will be perceived as something completely different based upon the individual. Heaven to one person could be a fantastic waterfall oasis, while another would never consider that heaven, and instead see formations of stars and galaxies, or another could see two dimensional etchings. What is in our minds is what heaven is, because I feel heaven can be a part of us, as we are a part of it. We are all individuals, yet we are also a collective whole…I think the idea of heaven goes far deeper than anyone imagines on this earth, and it is impossible to describe, except what you see when you see heaven for yourself. What I also feel about heaven is that it is a place where people can rest from worldly hardships, negative influence and pain. I think they can still experience sorrow for another person, but there is hope for a better future, since the future of a spirit is endless. I think heaven is a place of peace, and the feelings of that peace and comfort are purposely magnified to allow a restful state. I think heaven has happiness and love, which enables us to continue our quest for understanding and expansion without evil or negative hindrances. But most of all, I feel heaven is a place where we can see our families and ancestors, and together we can walk towards a stronger and more confident future knowing we will never have to be separated by death again. I don’t think heaven is the end, but it is a gateway towards the expansion of one’s self, whatever or wherever that may be.
    I know you will see Emilie again. And I know she is loved, happy, at peace, and hopeful to see you all again. Her family, her mom and her dad. Until then, she is your personal angel. ❤

  10. Dearest Alissa, I’ve been following your posts since the first one. I have had a lot of loss in my family, several suicides that according to some religions says they won’t go to heaven. I believe as God said he forgives all. He has made our paths before we were ever thought of by humans before their birth. My soul mate husband passed from lung cancer in 1989, that minute the smile came back to his face, he was at peace and in no pain. My daughter in law passed Aug. 3, 2015 from cancer everywhere, she fought for almost 6 years to make ‘mommy’ memories for her daughter, who just turned 10 the 19th. The smile came back to her distorted face right after passing. Heaven is all the beautiful things we can imagine, we’ll meet our pets again, our families who I believe look down on us. Our children we gave up to God will be grown and awaiting us with open arms. Heaven is a place of peace and serene beauty. We will find music and dancing and singing, much joy. God bless you and I pray you’ll have peace.

  11. Dear Alissa, I value your postings and have cried, laughed and enjoyed your moments of wisdom and the strength that you share. You are one amazing wife and mother. I believe in heaven, a place of unending love reuniting us with those who have gone before and basking in God’s great love for all he created to be with him forever. My address when I was growing up was 1221 Virginia Street. There has not been a week that has gone by since both my parents died that I will randomly check the time only to see 12:21 displayed. I believe my mom and dad are just checking In to make sure I’m doing OK and letting me know they are also. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I cry, sometimes I ask them to pray for me or others in my life who need prayer, sometimes I get caught up in memories, sometimes I ask for forgiveness, sometimes I thank God for the reminder that there is a better time to come. I think of Emillie and the other children being so well cared for by God’s Angels one of which would be my mom. A great friend of mine died a few weeks ago after a long illness. The day he died there appeared a beautiful rainbow after a storm. After attending his funeral three days later there appeared a double rainbow, one for him and one for his daughter whom they lost when She was six weeks old. I believe God gives us the grace to make it through the rough times in our lives with signs and wonders, giving us a glimpse of things to come to help us overcome the tragedies in life. While our loved ones are not physically present with us, their Spirit is and I pray for you and your family to know and feel Emillie’s presence when you need her the most. She is one loved little girl. God Bless Pat lee

    Sent from my iPad

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  12. I read a book called ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’ I recommend it, it really helped to put my mind at ease about death and my loved ones that have already passed. xx

  13. Alissa, Thank you for your blog and wonderful pictures. You are brave and beautiful and I am amazed at your courage. You and your family honor Emile the way you live your lives. You are loved. I am certain there is heaven though I have not thought about it in a long time. It is a place of joy, and peace and without any pain or suffering. It is light so bright but it does not hurt your eyes. It is pure happiness and laughter and love. It is the absence of anything bad or hurtful or evil. It is a place infused with the love and the presence of our loved ones. It;s a place of all of the happiest most joyful moments that ever made you feel loved with all of the people you love together. It is wonderful. Our loved ones are there together waiting for us but in peace and joy.

  14. Alissa, thank you for allowing me to comment. I also question heaven. Not of it’s existence but what is it like. I am also a mom who has lost a young child. I have read or heard stories of the belief of what heaven is like. For me though I can only keep those images in my mind to feel that my child is in a safe beautiful environment with only goodness surrounding them. For me that is what I need to do to balance the sadness and ache in my heart. Thank you again for sharing your raw feelings with the world. As I go through my journey I have felt that the power of communication and sharing your feelings with others is powerful in the healing process. Peace to you and your family.

  15. Dear Alissa, I’ve read every post several times and truly enjoy them. I too have so many questions about heaven. What I pray for is that it’s a loving and comfortable place and that when someone young passes, that they are greeted by one of our relatives. I pray that our Nathan (6 months old) went directly into the cradling arms of my father-in-law, getting the same or more love then we could give him here. I also pray that he is aware of all our love we continue to send him. I think of you, Robbie and your girls often. Maybe I shouldn’t even respond to you because I’m aware I have many more questions then answers. Thank you! Love, Sandy 🙏 💕

  16. You are always on my heart, never far from my mind. I am not sure what I believe anymore about heaven or God but I want to believe that you and Emilie will reconnect somewhere somehow. More than that I believe her spirit is closer to you than you can possible imagine right now, in this minute and always. When your time comes to cross over, whatever there is to crossover I believe you will instantly see how close she has always been right there with you and her sisters and dad and all that she loved. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You are loved by people you will never know. betc griffith

  17. I have followed your blog faithfully since Emilie passed. I promised myself to not remember the shooter…..but to remember a victim. I chose your Emilie because of her beautiful face…..she touched my heart. All the kids that day did. In respect to heaven…..I believe it is a place where there is constant music/worship in tunes our ears have never heard. It is a place of colors we have never seen. It is a place where there is constant peace and love. A hundred years will feel like one day. I believe those that suffered from disabilities are whole, new, and running, dancing…healed. I believe that we will be surrounded by the presence of the Lord “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. He will be everywhere….the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of heaven. We will hear shouts of praise and worship. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord….I do believe angels are among us as well. I have had two experiences where I knew an angel was nearby. It was life changing.

    I miscarried my first child at 5 mo’s. I have always wondered…when I get to heaven….will he be a baby? A grown man? I read a book called A Divine Revelation of Heaven and they say that babies that are miscarried, aborted or died from SIDS…their souls are carried directly to the throne of God by an angel and God himself completes the development and creates a perfect, whole human being. The perfect reflection of who they would have been. I don’t know for sure if that’s true…in my heart I do believe that my baby is in heaven and if he’s been completed by God, he’s beyond perfect. I hold that in my heart until I see him again someday.

    My dad died in 1992. I have had two dreams about him. In both, he looked beyond perfect. He suffered with a lengthy illness that left him a shell of who he once was. In my dreams, he was the way he looked before he was ill. Strong. Healthy. Handsome. He looked and was perfectly content and happy….healed. He was different in a way though…a good way…….and the only thing I can rationalize in my head was he was different because he’s been with Jesus. Who wouldn’t be different after that?

    What I do realize is when I try to imagine heaven or try to describe how i think it will be, my finite understanding doesn’t even begin to be able to adequately find the words to illustrate what I think we will see and experience. What a gift we are given as believers to know that someday, this will be our reward.

    Someday we will be with them again. Forever. There will be no more pain and suffering. No tears. Just constant JOY! I pray for your family often.

  18. I am a nurse and was taking care of an elderly man who decided upon a DNR as he was terminal.One night both his wife and daughter were visiting him in his hospital room and myself and the aide waited until their visit was done.We said goodnight to the visitors and proceeded to care of the man.As we entered his room,he looked directly at us,smiled the most genuine smile I’ve ever seen then closed his eyes.We saw a soft,warm yellow light [it was late evening]float to the top left side of the window and there was the most peaceful feeling in the room.The light hovered for a few minutes then disappeared,The man was gone and we were stunned.Neither of us spoke about the light until after our care was completed-we were reluctant because I for one thought that she would think I was crazy.We both saw it and still talk about it to this day.I believe that we saw a little piece of heaven that night-peaceful and filled with warm lights and love.I had never seen it before and haven’t seen it since but it was real and it was beautiful.

  19. Having been raised Catholic, I still think of heaven as fluffy white clouds where my mom, dad and all the pets I’ve ever loved can be happy together. It works for me! I feel my mom’s spirit (she died when I was 27) a lot and I like to think she checks in on me from time to time.

  20. I think heaven is everything beautiful here on Earth. Heaven isn’t a place it’s a thing. When I see a beautiful sky, that is heaven. When I hear my children laugh, that is heaven. When I hug my husband, that is heaven. Eating dinner with my parents, that is heaven. Heaven is something so beautiful that when I see it, do it or hear it, it takes my breath away. Heaven is everywhere, right in front of our very eyes!

  21. I am so glad you opened comments. First off I so love reading your reflections and feeling your love for your family. I lost someone close to me a few years back very suddenly. I was determined to find out if heaven exists. I read and read and reflected and prayed. Now years later I can say I have become very spiritual and do know for 100% that heaven is on earth. Heaven and your precious daughter is right here!! She can see you, feel you and hear you. We are just souls having a human experience. We are here to learn and grow. If you are still and focus you will feel your daughter. She is all around you and she gives you strength and is your protector. Be still listen and know you are so loved .

    I started by reading “we don’t die ” by Sandra Champlain and read many books after that. It is real and if you research, be still and pray you will see how close she is to you.

  22. About five years ago, I almost died. I went from being really healthy to critically ill in a matter of days as a virus attacked my heart. I spent 5 long days in ICU trying to breathe, struggling to stay alive so I could raise my young children.

    No, I did not have an out-of-body experience. I didn’t go anywhere or see heaven as some others have reported experiencing. I did experience profound stillness inside my soul and an active, rigorous spiritual learning. I was given concepts and words by the spirit. I was taught about Jesus Christ, His atonement, and His grace. I could feel love from my family members and caregivers. I felt a lack of love from one of them. Several times I woke up and experienced a “knowing” that someone from the other side was with me to comfort and support me. It was not made known to me who that person was. I did not see him or her, nor did we communicate. I just knew that someone was beside my bed, and I thanked God for this person’s presence. It was not scary; it was comforting.

    In my trauma, I did not go to heaven. A little bit of heaven came to me. I hope my experience helps you in some way. I hope my experience helps others know that God is good, that there is something after this life, and that God can teach, comfort, and support us while we suffer. Struggling to breathe was the worst physical experience I have ever had. Feeling God’s influence during that time was the sweetest, most personal and generous spiritual experience I have ever had. I love Him for it.

    • I had an experience a few years ago after doing the temple work for my grandmother. I dream about her about 7 years after doing her temple work. She was dressed in white, she didn’t talk to me with words but with energy. She gave me a big hug and said thank you. She was very happy. I asked her if she ever looked at us or know what we were doing. She told me that they do, but not very often because they are very busy and working really hard to help others. Then she open this veil and let me peak for just a second or two. I was able to see this big place, bright, everything was white but a different kind of white, almost like the sun. There were so many people there and they were teaching each other. It was amazing! There is so much we do not understand, but I am so grateful that I had this wonderful experience and can now share it with you. Soon we will be able to hug and see our loved ones, who had passed once again. Meanwhile there is so much work to do in this side and the other. Blessing to you and your amazing family❤

  23. Truthfully I am not sure if I believe in heaven or not. This is a construct I’ve struggled with my whole life, but I am absolutely open to the possibility of it being a real place, a place of beauty where we all go to live with the divine. If it is a true place, I have often thought this and that is, I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all description of heaven. I believe it to be a place where it’s tailored to each, individual’s ideals of beauty, comfort and joy, unlike anything imagined on our earthly plane, and because of that we can rest our minds knowing our loved ones are assuredly in a better place.

    Your blogs and your shared memories of Emilie are beautiful. I wish I had the right words to convey how I feel for all of you, how through your heartbreak you have taught me many lessons, how I wish I could wrap you all in comfort, and shield you from all the bad things in the world, but I digress. Bless you and your family, Mrs. Parker.

  24. Dear Alyssa-
    What does Heaven look like? A question I have been repeatedly asking myself since the loss of my 19 yr. old son 3 and a half years ago. I have read books, watched movies, been to mediums, all to find answers.
    In my mind, I envision Heaven to be bright, colorful, and beautiful beyond words. Mother Nature in her glory displaying all that she does for our loved ones to feel peace, happiness and all love.
    I wish you and your beautiful family moments of peace-
    Ann

  25. Alissa, I love your family, all five of you. Just as you kept Emilie as part of your Parkerfive, know that she really is part of your life whenever you want. The communications are different as you have occasionally mentioned and others here have mentioned and are always unique to each person on earth as well as each loved one that crosses. The immediate reaction to having my baby die suddenly was worse than any imagination could suggest. Because I believed God could give me answers as to why her time was so short with me, I was blessed beyond belief with various heavenly experiences. The love that came through from my God of love was greater than any imagination. That healed my despair, my loss about 90% and the rest I knew would heal as I walked through the months ahead connecting as much as I could with God’s spirit, God’s love. After three years there was no pain when I thought of her. It is true that some never heal the wound, I would encourage everybody that the wound can heal, the joy of life can be full and heaven is here on earth as we absorb the love of God and the love of those who pass. We don’t forget them, we just don’t hurt anymore and we get communication from them when we want or need or when they want to convery something. About 35 years later another daughter was to leave my physical presence via murder. She was one of my soul mates and a close friend. This time I knew how to expedite the healing and I experienced her presence immediately. Within about 9 months I was whole again. When I did miss her after that, it was but less than a minute and I was reminded by her that she was around and I did not miss her then, just communicated my thoughts. About 5 years after she passed, one of my sons took his life after a heroic journey of two decades of dealing with bipolar. He too communicated with me instantly and I knew all was well with him and he still makes his presence known to me through music, through humor, through birds flying and so on. Heaven is a dimension and is as close as hand and foot as the bible suggests. Our heart is the doorway. Naturally when we also cross, heaven will be heavenly and I believe unique yet similar for every human being, animal and so on. We need not wait to die to reunite or to heal. I hope you can experience this healing while on earth. . I wish heaven on earth healing for everyone. Bright Blessings and love……Cathy

  26. November 20, 2012 was the day I lost my brother Jamie. I have always been a believer and that was strengthened after the painful loss of my brother, but it wasn’t an easy time. One of my most special possessions is a book of his called “Heaven is for Real, A little boy’s astounding story of his trip to heaven and back.”
    I had a visit from my brother a few months after he passed. I was lost, did not know how to navigate the world anymore and had essentially given up. My brother came to me in the early morning while I was asleep, but it was like no dream I had ever experienced. I can remember that his body was healthy, he was glowing and happy. We walked together for a minute, he told me that I had to find a way to keep going forward and that he was ok. The last thing I remember was him telling me how cool the bracelets were that I had made for our family for Christmas that year. They were just like the one he always wore.
    After that experience I read the book Heaven is for Real. I just love the little boys description of heaven, it is so honest and sweet. He states, “All the people have a light above their head.” And “Everybody’s got wings.” “Jesus gave me work to do, and that was my favorite part of heaven. There were lots of kids, Dad.”

  27. Alissa! This is beautiful – reading everyone’s comments. I DO believe in heaven! I had all of the same questions when my best friend passed away unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of 33, leaving two sweet children and her husband behind. I’m not sure what heaven looks like, but I imagine a feeling of love. I’ve thought about not having a body until we are resurrected. How do we touch each other? Can we feel physical touch? Things I think about … But mostly I do know that angels are among us. I have felt my friend very strongly near me, especially the first year after she left this life. Too many experiences to chalk it up to coincidence.
    We miss you guys! Miss seeing your little ones in primary! So many families have left the ward though, including us. Tell Robbie that Mike hopes he has found some good running partners. 🙂

  28. I haven’t had any personal experiences myself, but the following is one of my favorites stories, as told by Dan Peterson at his brother’s funeral (found at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2015/03/an-anniversary-that-ill-never-forget.html):

    “I share with you, mostly as comfort for me, a true story that my friend and former neighbor Ken McCarty shared with me. Ken has been an associate at Brigham Young University and in church callings, and I write this with permission from him and his wife, Debbie.

    Their daughter Sarah died in 1997, after a lengthy and difficult struggle with cystic fibrosis. She was just thirteen. She had, though, lived an extraordinarily full life in that short time.

    In 1993, when she was roughly nine, Ken and Debbie took her on a cruise along the Volga River in Russia. Just before they left, Sarah’s friend Kerie Waters came to visit and to bring Sarah several balloons.

    Kerie, 32, wore a headband to conceal the aftereffects of chemotherapy. She had been diagnosed only a few months before with terminal melanoma, a skin cancer, and their fatal illnesses had forged a special bond between her and the McCartys’ daughter. It was, as Debbie and Ken recalled, a tender goodbye.

    One night, about two weeks into the trip, Sarah burst into her parents’ cabin, sobbing uncontrollably.

    “I held her little shaking body,” Ken remembers, “and asked her what was the matter. When she finally caught her breath, she said, ‘Dad, Kerie has died.’” Ken was shocked — they had had little if any contact with home in those essentially pre-Internet days — and asked Sarah what had happened.

    “I was kneeling by my bed, saying my prayers,” Sarah replied. “Suddenly I felt someone standing behind me. Then I realized it was Kerie. Kerie was in my room.”

    “What did Kerie say?”

    Sarah responded that Kerie hadn’t talked out loud, explaining that, in her heart, she could hear Kerie say that she had come to tell Sarah not to be afraid to die, that dying wasn’t scary, it was beautiful.

    “Kerie didn’t want me to worry about her; she wanted me to know that she was very happy in heaven.”

    Shortly after returning home, says Ken, he called Kerie’s father, Wes Waters, and found out that Kerie had indeed died — around thirty minutes before Sarah’s experience in Russia.

    But that’s not the end of this story.

    On the April morning when Sarah herself passed away, her parents decided to wait until around 8:30 a.m. before they began the mournful task of calling to notify family and friends. But at approximately 8 AM, their telephone rang. The caller was a family friend named Don Wood, a BYU employee who also had cystic fibrosis.

    In fact, at 42 years of age, he was one of the oldest surviving victims of the disease in the United States. Ken and Debbie hadn’t been in touch with Don for several years.

    Don inquired how they were doing. Ken answered that he wasn’t doing too well.

    “It’s Sarah, isn’t it?” Don asked.

    “How did you know?” Ken responded.

    Don replied that he assumed she had passed away at roughly 6:30 that morning.

    Shocked, Ken confirmed that she had died at 6:17 AM. How, he wondered, had Don Wood heard the news?

    “I was lying in my bed struggling to breathe,” Don said. “I’ve been on oxygen for some time now, and I wasn’t sure if I would last through the night. At around 6:30 I felt a presence in my room, and, when I looked up, I saw Sarah standing in the air at the foot of my bed. I thought she was coming to take me to the other side, but I was surprised to see her because I didn’t know she had passed away. She was all aglow, and it looked as if light was emanating from her, not just from around her; her entire being was glowing. Her hair was long and curled and she looked beautiful and mature. She didn’t talk out loud, but she communicated with me in a clear voice in my mind. She simply said, ‘I came to tell you, Don, don’t be afraid to die. It’s not scary. I came to tell you that heaven is beautiful.’”

    Sarah looked happy and beautiful, Don said, and healthier than he had ever seen her.

    Eight months after Sarah died, Don Wood, too, passed away.

    “For some people,” Ken McCarty summarizes, “life after death is a hope, something to have faith in. For me, because of our little Sarah, it’s a fact. And, most important of all, it’s beautiful.””

  29. Alissa, First I like to tell you that enjoy reading your blogs very much so, they are inspiring and full of love…and that love we can all feel it through your posts…Second, my english is not the best.. as it’s not my first language..sorry…;) when someone mentions heaven, I remember the Jesus of Nazareth movie in which he says “The kingdom of heaven is here…now” Please see the link below

    what does he mean “here..and now” call me crazy…but I believe the kingdom of heaven is here and now…in a different dimension…the same dimension that our spirits are…Our physical bodies(flesh and blood) and our lack of understanding and lack of love for each other
    does not allow us to see it….I believe that God has given us many gifts and among them is our guardian angel, who follow us from the moment we are born and after our death…Call me crazy again, but maybe you would be interesting in reading
    “Angels in my hair” and “Stairways to heaven” by Lorna Byrne,

    God has send prophets in the past…Does that mean that there aren’t any prophets now?
    I won’t answer that for you, I think everyone in their hearts would come to a conclusion…whatever that maybe..

    God bless you and your family…
    Juan Carlos

  30. I believe in Heaven and I believe that it looks different to different souls, that Heaven is whatever makes us happy.I believe that family members that go before us are awaiting our arrival and I believe that Our God is beyond anything that we can dream Him to be

  31. Dear Alyssa-

    I know what the Standard Works tell us and I know what the Prophets have repeatedly taught over the years… and yet when I think of heaven I don’t so much see a place as have a feeling of peace, warmth and unconditional love… I know I will be surrounded by those who love me, I will continue to grow and love, learn and discover what joy really is! I love that you are brave enough to share with us and go on living… God Bless.

    Frances Buott, Canada

  32. Heaven is where our Heavenly Father is. Heaven is where Jesus sits at His right hand. Acknowledging that these two residents are in heaven, we know that this home is nothing like a home here on earth. For those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are promised eternity in heaven. We will be transformed. Sin does not / cannot exist in heaven. We will have the perfect and complete relationship with our Creator that we have longed for on earth. Our hunger and yearning for acceptance and love will be satisfied to its fullest. It is paradise. As I tell my children, if you love it here on earth where Satan is allowed to rule, then how much better will you love it in heaven? This life is but a moment compared to our eternal life. I cannot fathom your walk Alissa. I pray for you and your family often. I know, and I know you do too, that Emilie is in heaven. You will be reunited with her when it is your time. We will know as we have known. In what probably feels like an eternity to you until that time, I pray that God, who has allowed you to go through this valley, will continue to give you the grace, strength, courage and abiding faith in Him, to continue to run the race.

  33. Heaven is all things beautiful, wonderful, and peaceful where loved ones are reunited and look down upon their “living” loved ones as eternal angels. God Bless your sweet family! As a young mother to three children, all similar ages to yours, I cannot imagine the pain and hurt you have felt. You have handled it with such beauty and grace and are truly an inspiration. Take comfort in knowing your dad and your sweet Em are looking down upon you now and are there with you always! I think of your family and your situation often and I hope and pray you are able to go forward in life with peace in your heart!

  34. Dear Alissa,

    I don’t know either. My husband had a stroke in April after we’d been married only six months. He now lives in a nursing home, and some days he’s more there than here. Sometimes since the stroke I allow myself to really think about death, because until it comes my husband won’t be free from a body that is now terribly broken and a brain, once sharp and brilliant, now fogged over by irreversible damage. While we were dating we would express the immensity of our love for each other with the words “between the stars;” meaning it was so vast and deep that it literally was the framework that glued together the universe. He says that to me now when I’m discouraged. Those words have the power to make me very angry, because I feel so far removed from my husband, and also they can elicit great strength and tenderness.

    Heaven has to be wallpapered in peace and woven through with wholeness. It must be held together with love. It had better have mountains, because my husband and I loved to hike the mountains of Utah together. It had better have oceans, because we dreamed of walking beaches hand in hand. It had better have schools, because my husband was a wonderfully intelligent professor and I want him to be able to teach again.

    I don’t know what it looks like. But he’ll be there, like he was before half of his brain died, and I’ll be there with him. We’re holding out now, for our sealing in the next few months. And then, as long as we are together—me and my husband whole and complete—through whatever eternity turns out to be, I’ll be content. I’m certain heaven is what holds up the space between the stars.

    Thank you for sharing your grief and your search for answers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found comfort here on your blog.

    B Shiffler-Olsen

  35. Home. That is what I imagine. I believe that what elder holland taught us that we can call upon angels to help us whenever we need them. He said be specific. They are busy teaching, but I imagine just like home they are aware of our schedule, our needs. I feel like that the Temple is a great teacher of heaven. When I walk in those doors the feeling of home is so clear. I search for my Father in the rooms. I need to talk, seek counsel, cry, be held. This is Heaven. Our loved ones are the same encouraging, loving, supportive. They can come when I call for them. Even though I may not physically see them. I know they are there. Our relationship continues. So just as I go about my work during the day. There is a time of day I gather with my family and we talk, uplift, and carry on. So Heaven to me is that.. Home.

  36. Dear Alyssa,
    Rather than imagining the details of what Heaven looks like, I reflect more on what it might feel like.This may sound like a silly comparison, but when I watch those LDS missionary reunion/homecoming videos that float around social media every now and again; I can’t help but imagine that scenes similar to that await us when we return to our Heavenly home (except the environment will be something far more exquisite than an airport). I imagine our families being there as we arrive, cheering us on, and singing the words, “You did it! Welcome home!” And then there’s that beautiful moment of seeing that one special person, the one we long to see most, running toward us! I see the hugs and tears and so much joy. With complete certainty, you know it’s because of our Savior’s perfect love for us that we are allowed this incredible gift of family. I believe heaven is a place of love, joyful reunion, learning, peace and I also think work. I think we will be busy, in the best way possible, helping and serving our Heavenly Father. Like others have expressed, my heart aches and grieves for you as you wait for that moment of reunion. Your family is prayed for, cherished and admired all over the world. Emilie’s light has touched us all. As a South Ogden-ite and the sister in law of your husband’s cousin: Mark Green (did you catch all that?), I send you love and sympathy. I offer my deepest condolences and total confidence that because of our Savior, your precious daughter is tied to you eternally. Your friend, Ali Flegal

  37. When I was about 4, I had a severe nose bleed. I was leaning over the toilet, about to vomit, and I passed out. During that time, I remember colorful rocks flying by me. I was walking, and there were figures of people standing by me. I was not afraid at all. Someone said something about me needing to go back, and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground with my mother kneeling over me. She said I seemed lifeless when she found me. I am not sure what happened, but as an adult I saw a movie at the Creation Museum about outer space, all the colors, and it brought back the memories of the rocks flying past me. I hope this maybe gives you a possible glimpse of what heaven might be like, if that was where I was going. I was not at all afraid. At 4, walking alone, I remember I felt very peaceful and happy.

  38. Please accept my sincerest sympathy for Emilie. I will never understand how people can harm a child. It still breaks my heart for your loss. She is such a sweet beautiful little girl. I have always believed in Heaven. Knowing our spirits leave our bodies when we pass away. I picture our loved ones greeting us. There will be no sorrow and no pain. I read we will be assigned jobs. However, I don’t think anyone will truly know until it’s our time. But I know without a doubt Emilie is happy and fine and with your loved one who have also gone before.

  39. Oh, Alissa! First may I say “THANK YOU” for sharing your heart with us. I have found your blog to be moving, insightful, and so honest. And often I have wanted to share with you my love for you and your family. Perhaps it has been better that, because I couldn’t leave a comment, I had to turn to prayer to ask the Lord to convey love from my heart to yours.

    Regarding your question, knowing we share the same faith, I can say to you that one of the places I’ve experienced Heaven is in the temple, especially when in the initiatory, but also at the veil. There have been feelings there of deep communion, a personal sense that the Lord abides with me, that His blessings are specific to my needs and the righteous desires of my heart.

    There have also been moments, in my own deepest despair, especially during prayer, that I have felt literal, almost physical, arms hold me and rock me to quiet my sorrow and assure me that I and those I love are cared for, even when the agency of others could potentially have the power to destroy that assurance. So I guess for me, Heaven doesn’t /look/ like anything I am familiar with. But I can feel it. It /feels/ like protection, like understanding, like compassion. It feels eternal and unchangeable in the midst of constant unpredictability and change. The feeling doesn’t come from any temporal source, but permeates and pervades my soul from heavenly sources. When I experience that, I “feel” the power and personality of the Creator of Heaven. And wherever He is, there is Heaven.

    May you continue to be watched over, and may you feel the watchful care of Heaven while on earth.

  40. Alissa, thank you for the opportunity to post on your blog. Even though we have never met and probably never will, I always look forward to reading your blog posts. They give me hope for you and others like myself who have lost a loved one. My sister died 10 years ago this week. Some days when I miss her so much, I survive those moments by imagining her in the most wonderful, loving, peaceful place that Heaven could possibly be. And while I want to live out my life fully, I look forward to the day that I can meet up with her in Heaven so we can enjoy eternity together. I imagine your sweet Emilie is joyously playing in Heaven and anxiously awaiting the arrival of loved ones to join her but her concept of time now is something beyond what we can imagine. Thank you for sharing your heart with us as I know I have grown as a person thinking about your life situation, especially as a high school counselor trying to help adolescents struggle to make good decisions.

  41. I believe Heaven is all light and warmth. It is a place where we will see our loved ones who have gone before us. There is no pain or suffering only love that starts and ends with God. Simple as that sounds this is where I draw comfort when we lose someone who dies a senseless death or who has died way before their time or even when one dies of old age having lived his/her life here on earth and our Father has called him/her home.

  42. I think Heaven is light, colors, peace, and beauty. When we really need a glimpse of it on Earth, I think we are granted this wish.

    When one of my best friends died unexpectedly 2 1/2 years ago, I kept searching for signs that she was in heaven. Ridiculous, I know.

    But since she died, rainbows appear out of nowhere. When I loaded up her clothing to donate to an Oklahoma town devastated by a tornado, two large rainbows appeared in the sky. On the way to her daughter’s game, a rainbow appeared in the sky. When I was sick with pancreatitis and my husband wasn’t home to help me with my kids, I woke up from a nap to a large rainbow streched across my ceiling (a CD had randomly fallen onto the floor and the sunlight caught it just right). When I was thinking about her one night, I went outside to see the largest double rainbow I had ever seen. It was so vivid that I took a picture and sent it into the Weather Channel.

    I love your blog. I don’t think you realize how big of an impact your writing has on others. It’s frank, open, thought-provoking, and full of hope.

  43. Alyssa, what a beautiful sentiment. I love reading all thoughts, and especially love that you share your blog with the world so that we can mourn and laugh and learn with you. I have three thoughts that may or may not make sense:

    1) Heaven is a REAL place where we continue to learn and grow and serve as we need to…I believe it is tailor made for each individual where LOVE abounds. I can picture my grandmother teaching primary as she did on earth. I can picture my uncle who didn’t have any particular faith, although baptized, sitting and watching all sporting events simultaneously on big screen tvs, etc. I can picture my Dad doing missionary work (see #3 below) and so on…

    2) Those who have gone on are aware of us and praying for us: “The journal of Sister Janet Skinner’s grandmother recorded her struggle over the death of a teenage daughter many years before. On one occasion, stricken with grief, the grandmother opened her eyes to a vision of the spirit world. She wrote: ‘I saw three personages clothed in white, two kneeling and one standing [in] back of them. They had their hands folded in the attitude of prayer. I knew they were praying for me. This was the first time I knew that loved ones on the other side could pray for us here.'” (Verse by Verse the Book of Mormon” by D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew Skinner…referencing Mormon 8:23.)

    3) My father passed away over eight years ago…he was serving as Bishop of his ward at the time, and my brother had just been called to his Bishopbric in Northern CA. This is the talk he gave at my father’s funeral…although I may be biased I believe that it explains the Plan of Salvation, and purpose of life as well as anything I have read. http://fellars.com/Tim.htm

    May you feel God’s love and peace today and always. And may you (as my brother outlines) learn the lessons God has for you…and know that nothing matters but our love for God, and the love we create between each other.

  44. Dearest Alissa & family, this poem came to me when my grandmother died, you may have seen it before, but there’s no one else I’d like to share it with right now than you. Bless you all!

    When someone dies

    When somebody dies, a cloud turns into an angel,
    and flies up to tell God to put another flower on a pillow.
    A bird gives the message back to the world,
    and sings a silent prayer that makes the rain cry.
    People dis-appear, but they never really go away.
    The spirits up there put the sun to bed,
    wake up grass, and spin the earth in dizzy circles.
    Sometimes you can see them dancing in a cloud during the day-time,
    when they’re supposed to be sleeping.
    They paint the rainbows and also the sunsets
    and make waves splash and tug at the tide.
    They toss shooting stars and listen to wishes.
    And when they sing wind- songs, they whisper to us,
    don’t miss me too much.
    The view is nice and I’m doing just fine

  45. Thank you for sharing all that you have over the past few years. It’s helped me keep things in perspective. I ache when share your heartache, but thank you all the same, as it helps me look at the tough questions and lean on my Lord all the more.

    I do believe in heaven. I think deep down we all have this ache that points towards it, because we were created to dwell with God for all eternity before the fall (I think CS Lewis mentioned something to that effect). I look at the great expanse of the universe and my thoughts are that we will be able to visit all these planets and solar systems, and move about in ways we could never imagine in these mortal bodies. But us, and the universe, will be a new creation, and free from sin and the pain it causes. I read ‘A Wrinkle in Time’, and I think something along how it describes the travel of the angels. I think we will be given tasks to do, but it won’t be a drudgery – it will be an exact fit for us, for who God created us to be in whole. And we’ll be filled with joy and love since we’ll be in constant fellowship with our Creator.

    Once we pass over, time will not look like it does here, so I’m not sure what it’s like for loved ones who have already passed. Can they see us in the here and now? If there are no tears past the gate, maybe not…I like to think we will all be reunited in an instance once we pass away from our mortal bodies, no waiting around for others who haven’t passed on yet…. Since to God 1,000 years is a like a day, it makes sense to me! But I also believe think God sees our need for reassurance while on earth left behind, and will reach out and send us acknowledgements that our loved ones are there and with Him and in peace. He does this because He knows our deepest heartaches and needs, and loves us so much, and knows how painful the separation is, since He too felt it with His own Son.

    I think the memories of our time here, most certainly the painful ones, will be faded if not gone. I think I heard James Dobson describe it as when we are a newborn. Scary and traumatic as we pass over to the new reality – from being in a safe place of our mother’s womb, to this bright new loud place where so much changes. Death is a scary transition, but it is a birth into who we were really meant to be, if we accept Christ as our Savior. I think we will recognize loved ones and friends, too, but the relationships will be different, more whole and good with none of the baggage and hurt.

    I use to fear death and the unknown, but the more I surrender to Him, the more I believe what Paul said – to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I still mourn when those I love pass away, but it’s more for myself…for them, it is a victory and a celebration. ❤

  46. I believe Heaven might look different for everyone. For the children, it is innocent and pure and filled with happiness love and God.
    I could not even imagine what you and your husband and the other parents have been through but you will always have support and admiration for being a strong family. God Bless.

  47. Alissa, I have enjoyed reading your posts about Emilie. I can tell that you and Robbie are great parents and your girls are lucky to have you. I truly believe that Heaven exists. About 10 years ago, my grandpa was very sick. He was laying in bed moments before he died with his wife and children surrounding him. Moments before taking his last breath, he opened his eyes, smiled and said, “I see them! I see all of them, they are all there!” I believe that my grandpa was entering Heaven and was seeing all his family and friends that had gone before him. After this event, I have no doubt that Heaven exists. I love reading your blog and you are a beautiful writer. I will continue praying for your beautiful family!

  48. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, art, and the beauty of your sweet Emilie with the world. Heaven to me is bathing in the warm light of love – knowing it all and being content to just be – be with those we’ve lost and missed and to be able to watch over the ones still here. Please know that your light shines bright and somewhere up there a little soul is bathing in that sweet light.

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