Three Hours To heaven
Three hours to Heaven. I’ve been writing a book for the last 11 years, and the only line that hasn’t changed in all that time is “three hours to Heaven."
I don’t consider myself a writer, and I’m not an especially religious person — so why write a book about how long it takes to get to Heaven? Well, that is the story of the journey I never took. The journey that was meant for me. The journey that changed me and still shapes me every day.
I was born and raised in Guyana, South America. I grew up in a poor single-parent household, but I don’t recall ever wanting for anything. My mother was a very strong woman. She taught me to work hard and to believe in myself, to follow my dreams. And I tried. I really tried to do all those things. In everything I did, I tried to work hard and to follow my dreams. I was unconquerable.
I moved to the British Virgin Islands in my early 20s and met my husband there. When he returned to Santa Fe, we did the long-distance thing for a while. We often joke that when our telephone bills became more expensive than a plane ticket, I moved to Santa Fe. I went to college, worked hard and followed my dreams. I graduated summa cum laude with a double major in Accounting and Computer Applications. In my last year of college, I took and passed the CPA exam. I worked for and then became a partner at a reputable Santa Fe CPA firm before leaving to start my own firm.
Henry and I had many opportunities to travel the world. We always had fun adventures on all of our travels but none of those travels prepared me for the journey that changed my life, the journey I never took, the journey that someone took in my stead.
Late in 2005 I became pregnant with twins. It was an exciting time for us. Henry and I had been married 12 years and were waiting for this moment. But in early 2006 we discovered that something was wrong. My son and daughter were born at 24 weeks, 0 days. My son weighed 1lb. 7oz. And my daughter was 1lb. 3 oz.
From the very beginning, Little Henry was a hero, first saving his sister, then me. I was in a coma following his birth, but I know he fought valiantly. He lived three short days. Upon awaking from my coma, I knew he was gone. I don’t know how, but one of the first things I said was, “Is one of my babies dead?”
I awoke from my coma three hours after he passed. It’s like there was not enough room for both of us to survive. Henry held Little Henry on his chest until he left. He said he felt him melt into his own heart as he took his last breath. I know that he was “blown by our love and carried by our tears” (I’m lifting this line from a poem his uncle wrote for him) as he left his tiny body behind to travel to Heaven to trade his heart and soul for mine.
Three hours to heaven; that’s how long it took to get there. I awoke three hours after he passed; that’s how I know it takes three hours to get to Heaven. I often wonder how many people know this. Three has been a very powerful number where Little Henry is concerned. He was born in the third month of the year, he was born three months early, he lived three days, and it took him three hours to get to Heaven. Maybe three is just his number.
It wasn’t a fair trade. I didn’t deserve it. I don’t say that to garner pity or to be self-deprecating. I say it because it is true. His heart and soul were pure; how can I be worthy of such unselfish love? Some people say it gets better with time. It doesn’t. It gets different. At first the pain is crippling, physically and mentally. You can’t imagine how you go on, how you accomplish the next task. But each day with baby steps you push forward, you smile, you find joy in your other kids and loved ones, and sometimes you laugh. The pain, it never goes away. And always, always I think of him, I see him. He is buried close to our home, and so every morning as I drive by I look to my right as I pass his tombstone and say, “Hello, son,” and every evening I look to my left as I pass by and I say, “Thank you, son.” And I think about how it takes three hours to get to Heaven. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t make that journey in my head. Over and over and over. If I could trade places he’d be here.
My daughter, Anika, (Little Henry’s twin sister) spent the first 5 1/2 months of her life in the NICU at the hospital. Despite incredibly poor chances she has authored one miracle after another. She’s defied all odds. She's amazed doctors who've been on the job for 35-plus years, who’d never seen the things she did, doctors who didn’t give her a chance and didn’t believe the things she did were possible. But for me, I believed. From the very first moment I looked into those beautiful blue eyes — no, even before I could see her eyes — I believed. It’s one of my strong suits or weaknesses, I don’t know, but I always believe that anyone can do anything they want to, and Anika, well, she wanted to be here. And I began to feel that Little Henry was not about to let her make the three hour trip — not then and not now.
I know I said I’m not very religious, but once home with Anika, I prayed for two things ... for Anika to be well and to have my son back. My son, Morgan, was born a year later. Maybe little Henry sent us Morgan, although I was sure it was Little Henry coming back to me and I thought everything would be OK. But one day after we’d visited Little Henry and Morgan was crying inconsolably I tried to explain my belief to 4-year-old Morgan, he looked at me with big tears in his eyes and said, “So did you want me or Little Henry?” Instantaneously Morgan established his own identity and his clarity pierced like a knife. I stopped thinking that. But if he was not Little Henry returning, how could I be so blessed to have my Morgan?
Today I have a beautiful family, my daughter, Anika, little Henry’s twin, is beautiful inside and out. She’s smart and happy and funny. My son is handsome and smart and stubborn; he’s Morgan, not Little Henry. I’m a CPA, and my husband is realtor, and Little Henry, he’s always with us. Sometimes we talk about selling our house, but I can’t. I can’t sell our home, because before we buried Little Henry we took him home to our house. I held his body on my lap as we drove from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, and once we were back in Santa Fe, we took him home to show him around. We told him that this was where he could find us. So if we sold our home, how would he find us? But maybe I shouldn’t worry. He probably would find us. He found Heaven in three hours.
Jolonda Field was born in Georgetown, Guyana, in a poor single-parent household. After a short stint in the British Virgin Islands, she decided to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she studied accounting and computer programming. Despite it being one of the hardest professional exams to pass, Jolonda took the CPA exam and passed on the first try. Now, 25 years later, Jolonda resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico and runs a successful accounting firm, Field Firm.
Words: Jolonda Field