Imagine waking up to something this wonderful!
HE WILL CALL
“You can let go, my love, you can sleep now” she whispered, kissing my cracked lips gently and stroking my temple. Even through the pain in my body and skin, even though every breath was now a struggle, I felt her touch and I heard her lovely, familiar voice. It was a voice that had loved me always, had comforted me in my moments of despair, and had believed in me when all others doubted.
I was afraid, I was weak and dizzy. As my breath grew more shallow and I felt my eyes closing, I knew that this must be my last moments of life. I desperately needed to speak one last time, to tell her how much she had meant to me, how grateful I was to have shared this life with her, the joys, the beautiful moments and even the sad times. But my words would not come. I tried to lift my hand and my body to touch her, to grasp her hand one more time but, my frail frame was too weak.
She could see the effort and pain on my face and she drew closer, her warm tears dripping onto my face. “Don't be afraid John, I'm with you love, I will stay here by your side. Sleep now. Soon, he will call, and you'll awaken.”
And at that moment, with her sweet voice echoing in my mind, I suddenly felt the pain subside, and a stillness grip me. I felt as though I was holding my breath for eternity. As the light faded, her face blurred and then vanished. A deep painful breath, and then....... nothing.
Then....... afer a silence...... there was warmth. It bathed my face and soothed my body. Silence gave way to sounds so familiar and pleasant; birds, sparrows and song thrushes, a robin sang in union. Through the warmth there drifted a soft breeze which caught my breath. I opened my mouth and inhaled. The air was warm and nourishing, like food to a hungry man. I moved my head and opened my eyes. Above me, was a grand sillouette of a dense tree, through which sunlight danced as the wind scattered it's branches. I suddenly felt strength surging through my muscles and stirring my body to action. I lifted my head to look around. I was surrounded by luxurient tress of all kinds, great oaks and waving willows. Between each group of trees were vibrant beds of flowers of endless colours. As the breeze blew they shimmered, changing from deep purples and yellows to pastel pinks and whites. Beyond the flowers were fruit trees of all kinds, dripping with shining orbs the size of which I had bever seen before.
I sat up, and was amazed to find that my body moved with ease and without pain. The agonizing movements that had become a part of my daily experience were completely gone. I found that my eyes could see everything in a sharp clarity that was quite stunning and overwhelming at first. As I took a moment to embrace these new levels of senses, I heard the sound of gently running water, a brook or stream nearby. Near it I could make out voices, children laughing and singing. I heard a dog panting and barking and the sound of another animal that was unfamiliar to me.
I got to my feet with incredible ease and I looked down at myself. What I saw was unreal and stunning. Gone was the emaciated, aged skin, and boney arms and legs. There were no blotches or scars, no liver spots or dryness. I felt upon my head an unfamiliar sensation, a gentle brushing of something on my forehead – hair..... it was hair! I touched it cautiously. It was thick, soft and healthy. There was no bald top or shaven patches. I felt my face and found a lush beard. I was so confused. Was I drugged? Was this a dream, a kind of precursor to death? Or was I in Heaven, or maybe some other place that I had never heard of? It couldn't be real, it seemed so perfect and peaceful. There was am absense of disturbance of any kind, mental, physical or other.
I took a few strides, then stopped in astonishment. I felt so strong, so liberated. I felt like I could leap into the air or run for miles. What had happened to me and where was I?
I walked slowly toward the sounds of play and laughter. I was cautious, not trusting this new-found daynamic energy and pain-free body. Could I be an artificial intelligence, or a cryogenic surivior? Was this the distant future? No it wasn't possible, the disease I had was terminal, I had been given days to live. I had said all my goodbyes to my loved ones and friends. The doctors had never said there was any possibility of cure or relief. So what had happened?
As I neared the sounds, I caught sight of a group of people having some kind of picnic beside a glimmering, singing stream. Some were eating from a long wooden table filled with various natural foods of all colours and shapes. Otheres were running or swimming. Children were playing and feeding animals. dogs, geese, deer and...... I froze! There, a stones throw in front of me, was a full grown Grizzly Bear. A little boy was actually feeding the huge creature and, incredibly, the bear was happily taking the food from the boy's hands. I wanted to call out, to warn everyone but, they seemed so calm and undisturbed. The bear took the fruit and then turned and lay down to eat it.
Just behind this bizarre scene, I caught sight of a little girl reaching down to touch something on the ground. When I saw the shape on the ground I cried out in fright and desperation “No, stop her someone!” But it was too late. She placed her little hands under the cobra and lifted it towards her body. I ran toward her, hoping to knock the venemous creature from her hands before it could strike but, as I approached, a woman stepped in fromt of me with her hands raised. Amazingly, she was smiling! I pointed to the little girl behind her and went to object but, before I could say a word, she spoke, in a calm, reassuring voice.
“It's okay, friend. She's not in any danger. All these animals are harmless.”
She spoke with a confidence and calmness that was unnatural, at least to me. I glanced over her shoulder and saw the little girl happily stroking the snake and then gently putting it back down on the grass.
“What's going on?” I demanded to know, “Where am I?”
The woman put her arm on my shoulder and kept smiling warmly.
“You don't know?” she asked sincerely. The look of bewilderment on my face gave my answer. “You must be new. Don't worry, there's nothing to be afraid of, not anymore. You're safe. I'll explain everything. Come and sit down and have some food.” She gestured toward the large table and chairs. She took my arm and led me to it and I sat. Others at the table noticed my arrival and waved or called out to me. I was welcomed and assured by all of them. Several people passed bowls of food to me. I declined, for now. The lady spoke again, once we were seated.
“What's the last thing you remember?” she asked, her smile fading as she searched my expressions.
I closed my eyes for a moment and then recalled to her, “I was in a hospital bed. I was in pain, dying. My wife, Ellen was at my side. I.....“ My voice wavered with emotion, “I couldn't speak, Ellen was talking to me.” I felt a sudden frustration and loss. I was confused and lost, as if I were on another world. I raised my voice.
“What happened to me, did I die? Is this some hallucination or trick. Please tell me.”
The woman took my hand and looked directly into my eyes. She spoke very softly.
“What's your name?”
Her hand felt warm in mine. Her eyes were focused and calm. I sensed no deceit in her.
“John,” I said in a lower voice.
She smiled again.
“John” she repeated almost whispering. “My name is Gail. This is no trick or hallucination. It's real, and it's wonderful. Everything will be okay John. We can find Ellen together, if she is here.”
Although I felt safe in her presence, I still felt confused and overwhelmed by all this, and the frustration showed on my face.
“But where is here?” I insisted.
“London” she answered, matter-of factly. “Although you probably don't recognize it” she added,
I looked around, scanning the horizon for signs of buildings, for sounds of traffic and industry but the dazzling bright blue sky only revealed birds and trees. I recalled the noise, the dense air, the frustration and tension of the crowds, the constant flow of aircraft and cars. I shook my head.
“This is not London” I said forcefully “Not the London I know.”
She stared at me, concern etched on her smooth face.
“John, it has been a long time since you were here” she paused keeping her eyes intently focused on mine. “A very long time. The world is new John, new and better, you'll see.”
She stood up. “Come on, let's try and find your wife. Tell me some more about her.”
As we walked along neat little paths through the stunning park-like surroundings, I saw more gatherings of happy people, reclining on dense grass areas. I saw young ones chasing balls and animals, but without any hostile intent. There were people gathering fruits from the trees while baskets filled with food lay all around. As I stared at this tranquil scene, I was suddenly aware of something missing, something all too familiar in my own life. There were no elderly people around, everyone was young and seemed to have vibrant health and a stunning glow to their skin. “Perhaps it is some kind of holiday park for young people,” I reasoned yet, even as I thought it, I somehow doubted it.
I told Gail more of my life with Ellen. I related how we had been together most of our lives, how we had always been close, had always been loyal to each other, right up until ….. until what …. until I died? I still didn't know. When I hesitated and the confusion set in again, Gail stopped in her tracks. She could see the tears dripping from my eyes, the desperation on my face. I grabbed her by her shoulders and fixed my eyes firmly upon her.
“Gail, please tell me... am I dead, is this heaven?” I choked, part of me not wanting to know the answer.
“John,” she said, catching my bewildered gaze, “No, this is not Heaven. You are alive and well. Something wonderful happened while you were sleeping. You have nothing to be afraid of, I promise. Please, everything will be expalined and you won't be confused or disappointed anymore.... ever.”
Gail's eyes were full of compassion and warmth. Her voice soft and comforting, so much that she reminded me of my Ellen. So many times in my life I had been distraught, disturbed or angry, but Ellen had always been able to reassure me, to calm me with her lovely voice and her beautiful disposition. Ellen had never feared the future, she had always trusted in her deep faith, a faith which I did not share, much to her sadness.
A disturbing thought suddenly entered my confused mind. What if Ellen wasn't here? What would that mean? Could I imagine my life without my lovely wife? What good would this beautiful, peaceful place be without her. All our life together, we had only wanted to share everything we experienced, new foods, new music, new places, the sadness of losses, the misery of getting drenched in a thunderstorm, the battle to survive on meagre finances. Life, with all it's pleasures, joys and heartaches, was meant to be shared, was meant to be enjoyed or endured together. My life would be empty and meaningless without Ellen. I loooked down, a growing dread and sadness overcoming me. I looked at Gail once again in desperation. She seemed to know what I was thinking and took my arm. Her gentle gaze communicatiing something true to me. “He is opening his hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing” she whispered.
Those words, they washed over me, like a warm torrent, a soothing sound of love. I knew those words – Ellen, Ellen had said them many times to me and to others, always with the same calmness and love that I heard in Gail's voice. I suddenly felt a great peace enter my mind and permeate my entire body.
“What's Ellen's surname, John?” she asked.
It took me a few seconds to gather my thoughts and answer her.
“Chesney” I finally answered.
A broad smile broke out on Gail's face. She turned her stare away from me for a moment. Then she began to laugh.
“Ellen is my friend, John. She lives about five miles from here.”
My heart thumped with excitement. My Ellen was here, in this beautiful place.
Gail grabbed my arm and pulled me gently but firmly.
“Come on, you have a reunion to go to.”
Gail led me through the woodlands on neat little paths. As we walked briskly, I noticed many people cutting wood and carrying bundles to and fro. Others were working in fields scattering seeds or hoeing the ground. They were talking, smiling, laughing and even singing, beautiful haunting melodies, with perfect voices. None of the workers looked tired or unhappy, in fact, they looked more content and relaxed than any group of people I had ever seen before.
We came across a large cleared area where a crowd were working together constructing something from wood. There was the sound of hammers and saws along with the soft mutterings of conversation and laughter. All of this seemed so unreal and so different from the world I knew.
As we crossed a billowing meadow of wild grass and flowers I caught sight of something so astonishing that I stopped in my tracks. Grazing on the long grass was an elephant, a real live massive grey elephant. As I stood there, it raised it's large head for a moment, glancing in my direction, and then resumed it's tearing at grass clumps. Nearby I saw wolves laying in packs with their young, undisturbed and unconcerned by the presence of other beasts or humans. Next to the wolves, also lying in the grass, was a baby goat. Incredibly it looked quite content, with no sign of agitation at the nearby pack. The whole scene was surreal yet calming.
I heard Gail's voice in front of me. “You can feed the animals another time John. Ellen is waiting,” she cried from a little further on. I resumed my pace, but cautiously kept the wild animals in view as I passed them at a distance. For some strange reason, I felt no threat and I could tell that Gail was completely relaxed about their presence.
After a few minutes, she came to a sudden stop and turned to smile at me. She had caught sight of something in the distance. She gestured toward a house behind her a little way off. It was large, constructed of wood. The front door was painted pale blue. Around it's porch grew a rambling bush scattered with deep red roses. I smiled to myself when I saw this. Blue, sky blue, Ellen's favourite colour, and red roses, her favourite flower. This was a house that Ellen would build if she were given the chance. The house nestled on the edge of a looming forest. As I scanned the horizon, looking for movement, I caught sight of the silver waters of a lake at the end of the path leading from the house. My first thought was, how could Ellen afford such a house in such a wonderful location? Then a horible thought came to me - What if she had re-married, maybe someone with wealth? Ellen had always worked part-time at a school on a modest salary and had depended on my income for us to meet all our financial comittments. She could never have afforded something tlike this. I groaned inside. I could not bear the thought of Ellen loving someone else and forgetting me, even though we had always talked about the future and agreed that, should one of us die, the other would be free to seek happinness by marrying someone else. Yet, here, now, in this new, exciting, mesmerizing world, the reality was too painful to consider. I suddenly felt hesitation and dread and I backed away.
Gail saw the change on my face and stepped back in my direction with concern in her eyes.
“John?” she asked, “What's wrong?”
I held the house in my gaze and stood for a few seconds, unable to answer her. She walked toward me.
“Gail, please tell me honestly” I demanded, without looking away from the house. “What happened to me? And what happened to Ellen? Is she with somone else? Please tell me. I can't take another step until I know.” I felt the tears welling in my eyes and my breath shortening. Was I ready for the answers to these questions?
Gail came close to me and took my hand. The smile was gone but the warmth was stil there.
“You died John.”
The words hit me like a sledgehammer. My mind reeled at the this truth. But before I had a chance to fully absorb this revelation, Gail smiled again and spoke.
“But you're back now John. And Ellen is alone, waiting for you. There is no-one else, there never was. So put your heart to rest, this is real, and it's wonderful.”
I looked at Gail trying to discern the full impact of what she was saying. Still I was confused.
“How?” I cried, “How can I be here... and how can Ellen afford all this? What's going on Gail?”
Gail shook her head in mock frustration. The smile would not leave her face.
“Your Ellen will tell you John. It's her reward, it's what she's been waiting for for so long. Go to her, she's waiting.”
Gail turned and gestured toward the house.
I looked again at the imposing structure, different from any design I had seen before, with a rounded extension and a clear roof section. As I neared the porch I felt anxious, like an alien resident lost in a strange land. This was so unfamiliar to me. I stood for a moment, looking for signs of lfe.
It was then that I heard the most joyful sound I had ever heard in my life.
“John..... John, my love, John!”
I turned toward the beautiful voice, I knew that voice so well, I loved that voice so much. My life reared up in my mind, all the joys, all the memories all the passion, in one fleeting moment, came back to me.
And there, standing under a golden Willow tree, bedecked in white lace, with flowers strunng around her pretty neck, was a vision, a song, a breath of ecstacy that I thought never to behold again.
Ellen, my Ellen, my beloved wife stood wide-eyed and bereathless, with her arms out towards me. I could just make out her soft red smiling lips from where I stood. I felt the blood swirl through my viens and my heart leap in my chest.
“Ellen!” I cried, furiously running toward her. At the same moment, she began to run to me. We met in an embrace of eternity, warmth and sweet perfume of flowers intertwining between us, binding us like glue. I wept uncontrollably, sobbed tears of sheer joy and relief. Her muffled voice whispered through her own tears, “My love, you are here, he promised you would be. I can't believe it's true. It's been so long John, so very long!”
She pulled back to look at my face. What we both beheld was unreal, like a fantasy. My Ellen, my 67 year old wife, who had greying hair and worn skin, was not the same. Here, in front of me, somehow, was the young beauty that I had first encountered so long ago. She appeared younger and fresher and more radiant than even I could recall. Her skin glowed, her hair, which had previously started to thin, was now rich and luxurient, curling down over her shoulders and onto her slender back. It was dark and shining and filled my hands with it's deep softness.
Ellen gazed up at my face, laughing hysterically, running her hands down my cheeks, stroking my thick beard and then grabbing the hair on top of my head.
“I've missed you so much my love, you look so handsome John, just like when we met.” she blurted, through beautiful brown tear-filled eyes. We embraced again, not speaking for a moment.
I pulled back to look at her again. I had so much to say, so many questions. I opened my mouth to speak but Ellen placed her finger over my mouth.
“Shhhh love,” she whispered, smiling sweetly, “It doesn't matter now. Nothing matters anymore. We are together, and we can be together always, and life never needs to end again.”
I paused, returning her smile, but still aching to know the answers. I couldn't stay my voice.
“But, Ellen, how is this all possible?” I asked, my eyes still roaming her lovely face and admiring her glowing youth and beauty.
Ellen took my face in her hands and stopped smiling. She gazed intently into my eyes and softly said;
“John, remember that kingdom I used to talk about, the one in the prayer?”
I recalled her words, spoken so often at bedtimes and in times of trouble. I found myself mouthing the words as she gently said them once more;
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
She smiled the brightest smile, through tears of sheer joy,
“This is His will, John. He called..... my love - He called, and you answered. You awoke and you can be awake forever, with me.”
“If a man dies, can he live again?
I will wait all the days of my compulsory service
Until my relief comes
You will call, and I will answer you
You will long for the work of your hands”
- THE HOLY BIBLE