Just Like Heaven


Every once and awhile I come across a book that begs to be read, re-read and shared. Just Like Heaven, by Patrick McDonnell, is a heart-warming story of appreciation and love that is a perfect way to keep the joys of gratitude flowing as we transition from Thanksgiving to the holiday season – a time when the frenzy of checking off all the boxes on our “to do” lists can distract us from noticing all the everyday blessings that surround us and make our lives meaningful.

In this short story, a small cat, Mooch, wakes up from a nap under his favorite tree surrounded by a deep fog. Unable to see clearly through the mist, Mooch decides that he must have died and gone to heaven. Why? Because of all the heavenly sounds, smells and sensations surrounding him – the children’s laughter, the smell of flowers, the voices of the people he loves. Even the growling guard dog becomes a friend when Mooch responds to him with heavenly love rather than earthly fear or aggression.

You can guess the punch line, right? The fog lifts and Mooch finds himself still under his favorite tree in his own backyard with his best friend, Earl, sleeping beside him.

I love reading this story. It always reminds me to look at my life, my friends, my family, through the eyes of gratitude.  I have no doubt that Heaven truly does reside in my daughter’s eyes, my son’s laugh, my husband’s embrace, and to be completely honest — a Haagen Daz mint chip dazzler. I just have to take the time to really notice and appreciate them.

No doubt life can be challenging. Everyone has ups and downs, especially children, especially parents. But Patrick McDonnell’s sweet tale reminds me that even amidst the hassles of everyday life, I can still pause to pay attention to, and be grateful for, the everyday, ordinary blessings that are so easy to take for granted and, through them, tap into the joy and love that keep me connected to my best self and relaxed and open to whatever experiences life may throw my way.

I try to find ways to share this perspective with my kids. Of course, I read them this book often, not just at Thanksgiving. And, whenever possible I look for opportunities to point out the beauty in the world around us and unabashedly express my own appreciation for simple moments and special friends.

Little by little I think it’s working. My son recently asked me to stop what I was doing to gaze at the stars with him. My daughter’s face lights up every time she sees a sunset or, for that matter, a garbage truck. When I see my children delight in these everyday pleasures, I can only hope that they are figuring out how to create their own slice of heaven – that they are, in fact, discovering for themselves that if we just pay attention, heaven can be a place on Earth.

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