1 Thessalonians 4:13: "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."
Nobody would have guessed that little Sander Kroonen was dying from cancer until a doctor's checkup at five years old. But his short life, ended far too soon, was filled with joyful visions of heaven and Jesus, a comfort to those who loved him most.
"Sander was a very sweet, social child," recalled his mother, Mieke.
In 1988, when Sander was five, he became severely ill. After several doctor's visits, it was discovered that the little boy had a fast-growing tumor behind his eye, and it would have to be removed. Although it was an "awful experience," Mieke decided to go through with the surgery, and looked forward to moving on with her little boy.
But God had other plans.
Less than a year later, Sander once again began having severe pain and lumps in his face, and doctors told Mieke that the cancer had spread.
"It was insanely difficult," said Mieke. "At some point you've got to ask yourself whether or not you go through with the treatment. [But] how can someone decide for her child to stop the treatment?
When Mieke asked Sander if he wanted to go ahead with the treatment, he said, "No, I don't want this anymore."
"On one hand it gave peace...and yet it was extremely confronting, because it means the end," Mieke said.
However, both mother and son felt it was ultimately the best decision, as it took pressure off of the little boy. So, the family decided to make the absolute best of the little time they had left.
"We only did nice things together, so we were able to have fun, and have a good time together with the family," she said, "and that was so precious."
A short time later, Sander began to have vivid dreams of heaven--so clear, in fact, that his parents began to wonder if he had been there.
"He had a dream that he was with a Potter--which is in the Bible--and he was there, and the potter had made pots," Mieke recalled.
"The potter had made pots, which were still wet. And he let Sander put his mark in them, which he did."
Sander's ability to relate his dreams to his parents in such detail was remarkable, as he had never seen a potter before, or had any knowledge of how pottery-making worked.
The little boy told his mother, "Mama, what I saw lasted so long and was so beautiful...but I cannot tell you."
Not long after, on October 17th, 1989, Sander went home to the Lord, surrounded by those who loved him most.
"I had told him, when you go to the Lord, I will sing for you," Mieke remembered. As she sat by her son, she sang the words, "He loves all children/all children may come."
After her son's death, Mieke wrote his beautiful dreams down in a book and as a poem. Several years later, she contacted Melodies from the Heart Foundation, which set the poem to a tune.
"With this song we all had the feeling that we were dealing with something special, something extraordinary," the organization wrote on its Facebook page.
The lyrics include the lines: Let me tell you bout this dream/I've been there, Oh, it's real/ and I know that I'll return there/If this body does not heal/and I'll watch you every moment/Give you comfort when you call/ so remember, dearest Mama/ I don't feel lost at all
Through her son's story, Mieke hopes to help others through their grief and encourage them with the hope of Jesus and of heaven.