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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

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H-E-A-V-E-N

Sometimes, when I’m with my dad, he calls it heaven: “H-E-A-V-E-N.” He spells it out, sits with every letter, tells me “This right here is heaven” — heaven in our drives home from church, heaven in the mundane walks with our dog, heaven in the times we sit and chat about life.

I can’t even begin to tell you what it’s like — this heaven which occasionally lingers between us, this heaven which we seldom call by name.

Somehow, the worst days can become the most “heaven.” Perhaps there’s heaven in the contrast, heaven on the other side of something horrible. There’s heaven in the warmth of a friend’s embrace when we’re crying hot tears. Heaven in perfect weather the day after someone passes. Heaven in the bunnies we occasionally spot on the quad, at the beach, in someone’s front yard — my mom always says bunnies are a sign that Barbara’s still with us.

But heaven also happens in the small moments, often when you least expect it.

Heaven is the brightest day during the cruelest month.

Heaven is sending the girls off to CJ's — they’re pregaming with Angry Orchard Hard Cider. I hope my friend sees that boy she likes.

Heaven is candles and coasters and mugs, these adult objects we never thought we’d own.

Heaven is “I’ll get whatever she’s getting.”

Heaven is pocket candy and pocket tissues, stuffed into pockets of grandmas and grandpas. 

Heaven is shivering on a park bench next to someone who feels like love. Maybe they hurt you; maybe you hurt them; maybe you love them with the fullness of your heart. 

Heaven is a cracked-open window. 

Heaven is the barista who tells you all about his trip to Barcelona (he shows you pictures of his kids, pictures of the buildings, tells you “look how beautiful"). 

Heaven is a “thinking of you” text after months of not speaking. 

Heaven is your brother’s hand-me-down boots — I said they were cool once. I don’t think you remember, but maybe you don’t have to.

Heaven is calling and they always pick up. 

Heaven is sleeping in jeans.

Heaven is a freshman girl on her first date. She talks for 10 minutes about her theology class, then the boy asks her if she likes David Goggins.

Heaven is a really good apology.

Heaven is the sound of boys playing basketball — the way the basketball smacks on the parking lot and hits the rim of the hoop. 

Heaven is watching your formal date in his element. 

Heaven is sitting with your girlfriends in a circle in the grass and letting the tears fall. You cry together, then laugh together, then cry some more. 

Heaven is falling asleep with "27 Dresses" playing in the background.

Heaven is the post-run chafe between your thighs, which hurts, but also reminds you of the long run from Sunday when the air was so soft (and the shadows danced in full sunset). 

Heaven is lipstick on your coffee cup.

Heaven is the boys throwing around the football.

Heaven is the sound of trumpets, which might tell you that football season isn’t so far away.

Heaven is a wave at the gym or a walk around the lakes with a friend.

Heaven is a bike ride in a short skirt.

Heaven is a short skirt.

Heaven is leaning in really close to someone at the bar or a party because it’s too loud to hear them. You lean so close you might feel their smile or stubble on your cheek. 

Heaven is the way that boy eats his grilled cheese in O’Shag, squeezing mustard on with every bite.

Heaven is the click-clack of your friend’s heels on cobblestones.

Heaven is a tall glass of cold water.

Heaven is the Keenan boys bringing their futons and rolling chairs outside, so they can bask in the warmest day yet.

Heaven is your eyes, which occasionally glow like Jamie Coakley’s. 

Heaven is your smile, which sometimes feels other-wordly. 

Heaven is the sound of your roommate drawing the blinds every Monday/Wednesday/Friday.

Heaven is the smell of coffee on someone’s breath. 

Heaven is a friend loving you enough to tell you the truth — even when it hurts, even when it isn’t pretty, even when it isn’t what you want to hear (but what you need to hear).

Heaven is your favorite song.

Heaven is the smell of bonfire which lingers on your skin, your clothes, your hair after s’mores.

Heaven is spilling red wine on your favorite shirt and your friend soaking it in the sink and chucking it in the washer at her own birthday party. 

Heaven is the violet hour, the orange hour, the orange moon which creeps up on us maybe a couple times a year. 

Heaven is laying in the grass, underneath the stars, staring into a vastness we don’t know yet.

Heaven is the small squeeze of hands after the “Our Father” or the hug from a stranger during the sign of peace. 

Heaven is packing into a friend’s car and squishing in their trunk.

Heaven is being glossed, being glazed with sunshine — I swear, you’ve never looked more beautiful to me.

Heaven is a wordless “I love you,” and you know from just a look.

Heaven is filling a friend’s water bottle. 

Heaven is this burden of freedom, this beautiful epic horrible burden. This burden, which we carry around in our hearts like a locket. We kiss, we cry, we hush and make clean. 

Heaven is something we don’t know yet, something we might find and catch in glimpses of fleeting beauty, moments of cosmic goodness.

Heaven is something we might dream of, for our friends, our family, those people we love and miss dearly. Heaven is a place your friend’s dad knows; Heaven is a place your friend knows; Heaven is a place we will come to know in time.

But for now, perhaps there’s “H-E-A-V-E-N” in just a deep breath, or the way our hearts sometimes beat in sync.

Kate Casper (aka, Casper, Underdog or Jasmine) is from Northern Virginia, currently residing in Rome. She strives to be the best waste of your time. You can contact her at kcasper@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.