Dear Todd Burpo,
I love you. Not long ago, I didn’t know or care who you were. But I knew about your book “Heaven Is For Real.” I heard about it from church goers. I saw it at the checkout line at the grocery store. I turned up my nose at it in the library. The ridiculous notion that a little boy who “visited heaven” could teach me something that I didn’t already know from two decades of reading the Bible insulted me. I dismissed and ignored it, but I didn’t forget it.
A few years later, God decided to confound me. Over the course of a few months I had three vivid dreams. These were dreams that woke me from a deep sleep and stayed in my memory long afterwards. In all of them there was a young man named Richard, who I dated in college. He took his life seventeen years ago, when we were both twenty. I am going to describe these dreams because they are the reason I learned more about you.
The first was a recurring dream I’d been having periodically for years. In my dream I saw Richard. He said, “I want to introduce you to my family.” And he did. Then I remembered my husband and wondered “Where is he?” I became worried. I started looking for him and then I woke up. My husband was next to me and I was relieved to find him.
In my second dream I was with Richard again. We were both dressed in karate uniforms ready to practice karate. My uniform was dirty, but Richard’s was bright white. I could not practice but had to sit and watch him. When he was done he came to me and said, “I want to show you what I’ve been working on.” He led me to a computer. The screen showed an old damaged photograph. He clicked on a faded section and it filled in as if it were new. He did this several more times, then I woke up.
In my third dream I was with Richard again. At first, he was leading me to many places that I have since forgotten. Then he said, “I want to show you where I live.” He led me into a small stadium that overlooked an arena, like one at a county fair. We were on some kind of balcony. He sat on a folding chair and watched whatever was below. I sat behind Richard on a bare mattress, keeping my eyes on him. He turned and smiled at me and I could see clearly that, unlike in this life, he wore no glasses. He said, “Will you stay with me?”
I responded, “I have a husband and three children.”
He said, “The answer was always no.”
We hugged, and the dream was over. I haven’t dreamt about him since.
As I pondered these dreams I became more and more concerned as to what I should think about them. Should I take joy in them for a moment and then dismiss them as meaningless. They were clear as day and unforgettable, unlike other dreams. I could take them literally and assume that they have karate, computers and arenas in heaven. But that is simplistic and silly. I wanted to talk to people about these dreams, but who? I didn’t know anyone with experience in such things. Then I remembered your book and I desperately wanted to read it.
Even before I read it I was ashamed of my previous judgement of you. I had originally thought that you were a biblically illiterate, greedy individual who was exploiting their young son for a buck. Now I was hoping that your book could help me make sense of my own bewildering dreams.
As I read your story, I came to realize that you are a seasoned pastor. Your son’s experience took you by surprise as it would any intelligent person. And for every revelation that your son relayed, you cite a Bible passage that backs it up. Your son was too young to make this story up. And his imagination would have lead him away from Biblical truth, not to it. The book is concrete; exactly the opposite of what I was expecting.
While it may be appropriate to take your son’s experience literally, my dreams are still just dreams. I know I didn’t actually visit heaven. My dreams include symbolism. When I compare the figurative aspects of my dreams to your son’s literal experience they do not contradict. I believe I was seeing a picture of heaven. A place where people have relationships with loved ones, where they are training as if for a battle, and where they are working just as we work. When their work is done they go home, but not to sleep; to watch. I never looked into the arena that held Richard’s gaze, but I have a good idea as to what he was watching. And I don’t think it was “Game of Thrones.”
I’m writing to apologize. I am sorry for judging you and your family before reading your book. I saw it everywhere and I never read a word until my need for answers outweighed my prejudice. I also want to say thank you. In publishing such a story, you were exposing yourself and your family to ridicule from critical people like me. That takes a lot of guts. Your book gives a fresh perspective of a reality that never changes. It offers hope to those whose faith has been shaken. Most important to me, it supports and clarifies prophecies, not only from the Bible but our present day as well. It is a gift. Thank you for sharing it.
In Your Debt For Real,
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).