When Loved Ones Die and You're Not Sure They're in Heaven

I once received the dreaded middle-of-the night phone call. As most of these calls do, it breathed news of tragedy: my brother snapped in two at the neck after running his Jeep headlong into an oak tree.

Left behind in the backseat were terrible evidences of his devastating end — everything blood-soaked: a half bag of sunflower seeds, a baseball mitt, a couple of molars.

It's graphic, I know. But these pictures hold power, and I want you to see.

Because they say that forensic experts can formulate both victim and offender profiles by observing a person's possessions and space or interviewing a person's friends and family. It follows, then, that family members can do the same with their loved ones.

So we rifled through all that was left behind in the wake of my brother's life — we rummaged through items not just from his vehicle, but also from his apartment: clothes, checkbook, CDs, books, photos, video games, receipts, calendar, love letters.

But it's what my brother didn't leave behind that — for a long time — made me agonize over whether or not he is in Heaven.

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