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When Caitlan Rangel’s children invited her to “play heaven,” Caitlan got more than she anticipated. 

My daughter, Elizabeth comes to me in the kitchen: “Mama, want to play heaven?”  

Dishes are done, husband is out of town for work. No other pressing concerns at 8:15 on a Tuesday night.  

“Okay,” I say.   

I take her little hand and follow.  

“Okay, you need to lay on the sofa and pretend you're dead,” commands Elizabeth.   

“But don’t stick your tongue out of your mouth or anything,” nuances my son, Thomas.   

(Do you ever notice the immersiveness of children’s play? It is so detailed—no wonder they get swept up in another world.)  

I lie down and close my eyes. Maybe this is one of those games I can fall asleep while playing.  

No deal.  

“It’s time,” Elizabeth says, “Open your eyes.”  

For some reason, her words resound in my mind and heart for a few moments.  

“Welcome to heaven. I’m Mama Mary,” Elizabeth proclaims in a slight British accent.

“And I’m St. Joseph,” smiles Thomas, sidling up to his pretend wife.  

Elizabeth stands with a muslin blanket cloaking her head and back. Thomas looks like a proper St. Joseph with another muslin blanket tied across his body, over one shoulder.  




Mama Mary speaks: “I want to give you a tour of heaven, but first, I want to give you a hug.” Elizabeth wraps me in her arms. She holds me close and long. “I want to tell you that we love you very much—more than you could ever imagine,” she whispers into my ear.  

Her words bring tears to my eyes. All of a sudden, I feel quite loved by the Blessed Mother. 

 Time to get back to playing heaven, and Mama Mary is in charge: “Joseph, go upstairs and get Jesus so she can meet him.”   

Thomas runs.  

He comes downstairs with a baby doll in arms. “This is our son, Jesus,” he says proudly, and offers Jesus to me gently.  


Click to tweet:
Children’s play is so detailed—no wonder they get swept up in another world. #CatholicMom


“Time for a picture!” Elizabeth yells with celebration in her voice.  

The heavenly host, my youngest daughter, Lucy bursts out of a play closet with a broken remote, our children’s pretend iPhone.   

I sit, holding baby Jesus, sandwiched between Mother Mary and St. Joseph.   

“Everyone under my mantle!” Elizabeth says as she spreads her muslin blanket over us.  

Lucy yells, “Cheeeeese” and holds up the remote to take a picture. She clicks her tongue so we know she’s captured the image.  

I smile a real smile as I wonder at my current contentment, playing heaven. 



Copyright 2023 Caitlan Rangel
Images: Canva