Imagining a glimpse of heaven

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Fannie Flagg’s new novel, Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven, provides some good grins and a lot of food for thought. Who hasn’t had a day when the thought of heading for heaven sounds mighty appealing!
As is the case with all of Flagg’s writing, this book has that great comic, southern flair, filled with people with notably funny names and an interesting take on life.
When Mrs. Elner Shimfissle falls from her fig tree because she is stung by wasps, she is suddenly swept off on an adventure that is beyond description.
Never simple. For her relatives left behind, the questions at the hospital such as, “age?” seem reasonably easy to answer, but nothing is that simple.
There were no birth certificates issued in Elner’s era and her sister buried the family Bible so no one could trace her age. Sister Ida, as it turns out, had her eye set on a young man who was eight years her junior, so no one dared know her real age.
Fannie Flagg has written such incredible books as Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe, which keeps a reader turning the pages late in to the night. This latest light-hearted read simply makes one ponder the age-old questions: Why exactly are we all here and what is heaven like when we get called to the great beyond?
The spry but elderly Elner is thrilled most of all to see her dearly-departed friend and neighbor, Dorothy, with her beloved cocker spaniel at her side when she gets a glimpse of heaven.
Excited. A true cat lover, Elner is so excited to know that dogs and cats will be up there waiting for all of us that she just can’t wait to tell her niece Norma all about it.
I remember back in the olden days, long before I even started grade school, when all four of us sisters shared a bedroom. One night we stayed awake late in to the night pondering this very thing. The subject came up because I was being reprimanded by my three older sisters for telling a really big story.
“You won’t go to heaven since you told a lie,” one of my sisters said with great conviction. I instantly began crying my eyes out.
To make their point an even stronger one, my big sisters began describing the heaven that they were all surely heading for. It was magical and beautiful and filled with wondrous gifts. There was endless cotton candy just growing among the clouds, horses and dogs and adorable little monkeys (that could talk!) and tremendous toys for the taking.
The more they talked, the more curious I became. “Well, if I tell a lie and don’t get to go there, where will I go?”
Bad news. They described a place where endless cows needed milking, mean old sows kept having baby pigs that needed iron shots every morning and the hay crop kept coming, day after day after day. That was just about the worst thing they could dream up!
I vowed to my big sisters that I would never tell another lie. I thought I was in the clear until my sister Sher spoke up and said, “And you have to stop sucking your thumb. Big girls who sneak their thumb don’t get in to heaven, either.”
I rolled over, sticking both thumbs under my pillow, feeling a little bit doomed. I loved telling big stories and that little thumb helped lull me to sleep at night. Who knew that a vivid imagination and a tiny little thumb could cost one so dearly?
But endless cotton candy with my big sisters? I figured I had better straighten up. They surely wouldn’t want to go there without me.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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