In the presence of God I lingered unable to tear away, drawn like a magnet to the light. Yet questions remained, permeating our relationship.
It was enough that I was here I told myself, the suffering was over, I was free at last, no more pain, chemo, or disappointments, but what of Alex, the atheist, my friend? He’d been a good man, one of the best; he’d just been hurt too much. Life had not been kind to Alex. His bed across the ward had been empty for a week, now mine was empty.
Love enwrapped me.
“You want to know?” the presence asked. I inclined my head squirming within, who was I to question?
“You loved him.” The presence beamed, “I did too, I love them all. You wonder if I sent him to hell?” My stomach churned, but I nodded, there was no hiding.
“I do not judge as man judges, even in death there is choice.” My head jerked in shock.
“The state of their heart, the good or evil within draws them. Those that love me fly to My arms as you did, they revel in My love and presence.”
“But what about those that never even heard, that lived their lives in darkness?” The question escaped, Alex’s question, I couldn’t withhold it.
“I made a place for them.”
I saw a cavern deep in the earth, womb like, warm and comforting, pervaded with a soft red glow, where many slept curled in fetal position.
“I spent three days and nights in the bowels of the earth, and My presence remains for these.” The voice pervaded my vision. “It’s paradise. Not heaven, but a reflection of it. They walk in dreams, in healing. These never saw the light, not so much as a glimmer, – My presence would overwhelm them.”
“They lie here cuddled together father and mother, wife and child, families of ancient lands. I’d never cast them out, though they have worshiped strange idols. They are borne here to this soft, warm, womb where together they dream. This is not Hell or Hades, I wouldn’t send these ones there, but they’re not ready for heaven, not even the river, so they rest here awaiting My coming, bound in the depths of the earth, but not in a bad place. In their dreams the light intrudes, they remember forests of bamboo, hills, and mountains, flowers and trees. Through nature I gently lead them from the darkness.”
Music plays, soft, serene like the sounds of nature, lulling them in pleasant sleep.
“When they awake it will seem they slept a short time, but millennium shall have passed. The human mind is a fragile thing. They need to shed the cloaks of darkness, the fear, till one day I can lead them into the light and this time will feel but a dream for them.”
“Even the fires of hell are cleansing. It depends on the depth the sin has reached – fire cleanses all. My coming can be all these things, the touch of My spirit to those drenched in evil it is as a consuming fire, to those in darkness a comforting womb of earth that shelters and protects. To some a cleansing flow of water and to those fortunate enough to have come to Me the wind of freedom and desire. It’s all love, My love for My creation. Sometimes My presence can cause pain as with those drenched in evil, but I love them also and will not abandon them. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m not some callous God watching over an experiment.
They choose where they go. Some run to the light, others shade their eyes and some, yes some, are consumed by it, like one who, drenched in gasoline, comes in contact with a flame, the flame of truth, and it burns and consumes them. But even for these there is hope, redemption. I would that none perish.”
I stood in awe overwhelmed by the love of God. I saw it now. It is not God that separates Himself from us, but we from him. Alex was forgotten in my thirst to understand.
“You spoke of water, a river?” God smiled and Heaven glowed.
“You wish to see it? Your heart may tarry there a while…”
An angel came, summoned by His hand, raw power and love emanating from its countenance. The angelic being took my hand and we were transported to a rivers edge, pale, translucent water gleaming with light.
“Come.” The angel directed.
As our feet entered the waters things of earth began floating away. Longing to immerse myself I rushed into its embrace finding no need to hold my breath. A soothing melody flowing from the depths enraptured me, but as I opened my eyes in abandon I realized the river was full of floating forms.
Startled I stood up looking questioningly at the angel.
“They sleep,” he explained. “their hurts and pain are slowly washed away. Come.”
We entered in a little more and I saw a body sleeping near the surface, face barely submerged. It was Alex.
“Some plunge within, like lepers seeking cleansing,” the angel said, “for these it is faster, but he resists, he has yet to enter deeply. You can lie beside him and dream a while with him if you want. It would help him. There are others too…” I understood.
I sank into the gentle waves beside Alex. “Hello old friend,” I said.
I had a surprise in store as I set off with my grandson, thick, white mist had shrouded the lakes, ducks and swans swam in suspended silver grey silhouettes floating magically in space as if in levitation. A goose rose on the wing creating dapples as defused sunlight beamed through in glory bathing all in a golden glow.
We both stopped awe struck. I don’t think I ever saw anything so beautiful. I wished I had my camera but realized a sight like this could not be captured by a mere lens.
Dropping off my grandson I returned soaking in the magic of creation as if walking in another world. Tree limbs contorted in green grey shadows like a primordial forest. I felt alone viewing the earth in its initial splendor, pristine, untouched. The gentle sound of lapping water added music to the ethereal background.
I wandered slowly breathing it all in as if somewhere inside it was soothing and cleansing. My worries dissipated, and the tinge of sadness that had assailed me yesterday was expunged as my heart began to sing recalling these wonders were ever prevailing, returning after man has had his way. I realized this, not the cities, politics, and strife, was the real world and it was beautiful!
Tears of a different sort welling up. This month began with a wedding, with definable rows in chapel pews and glorious reception tables. There were tears there, rejoicing in their love.
These tears are more difficult to define. They come in a circle gathered together, inclusive, the object of the tears unseen. Again I watch a life’s story as photos flash upon a screen, a tall wiry frame, large eyes and over sized smile brimming with fun, engaging, inviting, accepting of all that ventured across his path.
His bride sits alone now, remembering. I hear confided whispers of her excitement on their wedding day. She couldn’t wait to marry this tall, gangly man with the big smile. You couldn’t call him good looking. He certainly wasn’t rich or famous, but he knew how to love without conditions. Though he knew our faults his love was so big it overshadowed them.
I heard of his children, no carers here had overseen his last fleeting moments, too precious to be shared with a nurse. His family had rotated 24/7, his children assisting in those most intimate acts he could no longer perform, a wayward son cradling him in his arms as he had once been cradled.
As I listened, taking in the moist eyes of others, I thought about life’s goals. This was how I wanted it to be at my memorial. His goal had been to love and he had achieved it.
The tears were not of sadness, though he would surely be missed. Like the fresh patter of rain washing away the dust and dirt of life, they cleansed our hearts and renewed our vision. I envied his wife to have known the love of such a man every day of her life.
Looking upward he adjusted the loaded backpack. The mountain rose majestic before him its pristine slopes green in the early sun. Tilting his cap he set off.
By mid-day slopes and dappled woodlands lay behind, the path ahead was steeper, rockier. The occasional hikers had vanished along with his mobile signal. A strange isolation seized him, fear nibbled. Was this wise? Should he wait, join a climbing party?
No, this was what he had wanted, alone, above the confusion. Rebelliously he consumed a sandwich and trudged on. He became increasingly conscious of his surroundings. The rocks were not barren, tiny plants grew. He was not alone for birds carolled in passing and rodents rustled from his path. This was their world always, but today he would partake.
Joyous ripples announced a stream, leaping towards the waiting valley, cool and sweet. He emptied his bottle replacing stale water. He felt a new spring in his step. On he walked, enclosing clouds bathing him in refreshing dew, longing to see the veiled view beneath. On till aching calves enforced rest, silence, eyes feasting in fog drenched vision.
Would he have the strength to get down? Soon he’d have no choice but sleep here, alone in the darkness. He rejected the voice not wanting to concede defeat. He must gain the summit. Stubbornly he rose and lumbered onward, his mind relaying pictures – his body found, relatives weeping at the funeral. He pushed them all away striking up a song to bolster his confidence. He had no voice, but here it didn’t matter, there was no one to hear. He belted out words revelling in freedom, the stones echoing in strange harmony.
He was close now. Light had almost departed but that must be it, the summit. Something gleamed – traces of snow! How strange to sit there in a T shirt, his body heated by exertion. It wouldn’t last that’s why he’d brought the sleeping bag. He rolled it out and exhausted lay down. It was not black, stars glimmered and the moon shone serenely as he slumbered.
He awoke to sunshine and aching muscles. Dazed he gazed in astonishment at visons he’d missed behind veiling clouds. Vistas opened, perspectives changed in a moment. Life resumed its proper perception. He knew he must return but as he ate the final sandwiches he knew nothing would be the same. The mountain had changed him.