Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and idleness. (Wikipedia)
The word "paradise" comes from an old Persian word having to do with beautiful gardens. That brings to mind the story of Adam and Eve. Everything was perfection there - lots of good food, perfect climate, and no sin. Heaven is also a form of paradise as Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would soon be with him in paradise. So what will it be like there? Since no one has ever come back, we don't know for sure. Maybe it will be different for each one. Maybe we'll find ourselves living harmoniously in peace and contentment with those friends and family members who have preceded us. Maybe we'll end up as "guardian angels" and return to an earthly existence to help others.
I have been blessed with the gift of faith and believe with all my heart that I will go to Heaven one day. Why do I believe so strongly in this afterlife? I have three very vivid reasons - my grandmother, my late husband, and my parents.
First, early one bitterly cold morning in Ottawa, I was on the bus heading to work. The harsh lights of the bus contrasted with the black of the outside, causing the bus to appear twice as wide as it was. Head nodding, gently bumping against the frigid windowpane, I suddenly became aware of a presence. It was my grandmother who had passed away two years previously. I did not see her body or hear her speak to me. I just simply knew she was there with me. I smiled and said (in my head) "Hi Grandma!" And then she was gone.
Next, my husband took his own life in August, 1992. It was an extremely traumatic time in my life and it took me years to recover. About a month after he died, I came home from work and went upstairs to change into casual clothes. I was so exhausted from work and grief that I didn't have the energy to get beyond my slip, so I lay down on the bed. Suddenly, he was there! Again, I didn't see his body or hear him as you would think you'd hear someone. But, I did hear him say to me, "I'm okay now, Sweetie." And before I could sit up and utter the words, "Don't go!" he was gone.
Finally, my mother passed away in 2002 and my father joined her in 2007. I had been the last one to be with my mother before she passed, and I was with my father when he took his final breath. About a month after my father's celebration of life, it was a beautiful sunny day in October, so I decided to go for a walk. The leaves were brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges and had just begun to drop. I'd been walking for about 10-15 minutes, admiring the colours, when suddenly my mother and father were with me. My mother was on my left and my father on my right. Again, I didn't see their bodies but I knew they were there. I remember being so stunned that I just kept walking and smiling, hoping they would stay. But as suddenly as they were there, they were gone.
Now, I have told some of my Christian friends about these experiences and they looked at me like I was crazy. Only a few believed me and actually envied me those moments.
Why do I think they came to me? Well, first of all, my grandmother had been raised Baptist, but did not believe in an afterlife. She believed that the end was just that - the end. Perhaps she was trying to tell me that she had been wrong all her life and wanted me to believe. Second, my husband had never been a believer, either, and knew that his illness had been an extremely difficult time for me. I believe he was reassuring me that everything was going to be okay since he was then okay. Finally, my parents had had a very rocky marriage, with my mother often wanting to leave my father. Perhaps it was their way of letting me know that they were reunited and would always be together, happy in the end.
Life can be hard. But my faith in an everlasting life in Paradise keeps me going.