This lighthearted novel focuses on the out-of-body experience of one of my favorite Flagg characters, Elner Shimfissle. One minute, the lovable 90-year-old is up a ladder picking figs in her front yard, and the next she is catching up with old friends who have been dead for decades.
Before she makes an unexpected return, all of Elner’s friends and neighbors in the little town of Elmwood Springs, Mo. take time to reflect on the state of the world we live in and what awaits us on the other side.
The most pessimistic of the bunch, hairdresser Tot Whooten, hopes death is the end.
“This one (life) has wore me out. I just want to sleep,” she says.
The same evening that I started reading “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven,” Zac and I watched an MLB network special on Darryl Kile, a 33-year-old St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who was found dead in his hotel room in the summer of 2002.
An autopsy found that he had 90 percent blockages in two of his arteries. The heart disease, which had also claimed the life of his father at an early age, had somehow gone undetected in all of his physicals.
Kile died in the prime of his life. He had been struggling that season but delivered an impressive pitching performance just four days before his death. With Kile back on top of his game, the Cardinals seemed World Series bound.
More important than baseball, however, was the beautiful young family that he left behind.
He and his wife were still head over heels in love after nearly a decade of marriage. They had two 5-year-old twins and a new baby and were in the process of building their dream home.
Every person interviewed talked about what a good guy Kile was both on and off the field, which made his death all the more tragic.
Cardinals coach Tony LaRussa put it best — “There is no justice here.”
A friend of mine recently marked the one-year anniversary of her 29-year-old daughter’s death from breast cancer.
Two days prior was the 27th anniversary of my infant sister’s death. My mother carried her for nine months, had her for six days and came home to an empty nursery.
Some deaths just don’t make sense, no matter how many years we search for the answers. The more times we are reminded how unfair life is, the easier it is to think like Tot Whooten.
Elner, however, loves everything about living, from sunsets to insects. She even celebrates Thomas Edison’s birthday every year by turning on all of her electrical appliances.
Wyatt is equally amazed by this world that we have brought him into.
While I was changing him the other day, Wyatt noticed some of the baby powder residue dancing around in a ray of sunlight. He marked the moment with one of his favorite phrases — “Wow!”
Whenever we see an 18-wheeler on the road, he points excitedly and yells, “Mack!” — a reference to one of the characters from “Cars.” He also loves when we encounter tractors and moos at them because that’s the noise they make in the movie.
One of his new favorite activities is playing dress-up. He is particularly fascinated by hats and sunglasses.
A couple of weeks ago, he and I walked around Walmart with him looking like Hank Williams Jr. A few days later, it looked like I was shopping with a miniature Bono.
Elner and Wyatt personify the quote from Albert Einstein that Flagg used to open “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven” — “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
The first way is easier given the current condition of the world, but the second is a lot more fun.