Dying was like walking through a door for Chet, but he didn't know what awaited him.
THROUGH THE NEXT DOOR
You know being dead is not that much different than being alive, well so far anyway. Well maybe it is different for those who die a horrible, violent death but all I did was go to bed, drift off to sleep, then BAM! I was dead.
I remember having a really weird dream that night. I was teleported to a different earth circa 1950. Everything was backward from the way it was on the earth I knew. The main thing I remembered was seeing this group of black men dressed in white sheets and they were chasing a couple of white guys down the street and waving clubs and knives at them! Then I heard this voice in my dream…
“That is one weird dream.” The voice intoned, “As much as I would like to see more, we need to cut this short. Come on Chet, it’s time to go.”
Right after that everything went white, kinda like being caught up in a blizzard, and it was cold too. The next thing I knew I was floating above my body, looking down and from what I could see, I was definitely not sleeping any longer. My eyes were open, tongue was hanging out: Yup, I was one dead puppy!
I hovered there awhile. I watched the wife try to revive me, and then I watched as she called 911. Then the paramedics were there and working on my body. I tried to tell them it was ok, I was dead already, but they couldn’t hear me so I just hung there on the ceiling and watched the show.
Finally they carried my body out of the house. You know it’s funny, I never felt any regret or sadness that I had died. It was just the way it was. My life was over and now I had to move on. I was just about to do just that, move on, when something caught my eye down below.
There was my dear sweet wife busily going through the pockets of my pants I had worn that day. I watched amazed as she took out all the money she could find. Then she walked over to the dresser and, as she hummed a little tune, she opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a very fat brown envelope. She opened it and added the money she had taken to a large roll that was already there. Then she went over to the phone and dialed a number. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered she was talking to Raul, our gardener. Well there I was, floating on the ceiling, while listening to my wife break the news of my death to the gardener and then listening while the two of them made plans for an impromptu vacation in Cancun. I was just about to get really irate when something strange happened; I was suddenly sucked right through the ceiling!
I flew upward at warp speed. My house, my town, everything shrunk to toy size then disappeared completely, the same with the earth, until I was floating alone in a inky darkness. I was just about to get used to that when WOOOSH, down I dropped, just like a rock but it wasn’t back to earth. I knew this because there was a large sign in the pasture where I landed:
WELCOME TO HEAVEN
PLEASE MAKE YOUR WAY TO THE CITY.
Thankfully there was no pain involved with my hard landing and, after reading the sign I started off at a leisurely walk toward the distant skyline. As I walked I became aware of bodies landing all around me. The plop, plop sound of their landings reminded me of oversized raindrops striking the soft ground.
By the time I reached the edge of the field there were quite a few folks following behind me; all of us headed to the City.
The city itself was something to behold. Buildings reached up into the clouds. The streets were actually paved with gold! Go figure!! I had always thought that the whole streets of gold thing was just an interpretation of man, being that gold was the most precious thing on earth. But there was no doubt about it, all the streets were definitely gold. The second thing to strike me was how clean the place was. I mean there was not a speck of dirt anywhere; heck it could have been in Canada it was so clean. Did I mention there were no cars? Well there weren’t. Not a car in sight and everyone was scooting along without a care in the world and no one looked tired of walking either, even myself and I am a firm believer in no exercise if at all possible.
After entering the city I simply followed the flow of foot traffic. It seemed everyone was headed toward the biggest building downtown so I tagged along. There were people around me of all ages and of all nationalities, from all walks of life. As I walked, I struck up conversation with those closest to me and just as I figured, we were all dead!
The funny thing is, there was no wailing or gnashing of teeth in this crowd. We were all real calm and collected, myself included. It was as if dying was just a natural thing, like walking through a door and here we were on the other side of that door and headed to whatever was next. So there I was at “next”. I was walking down a nice clean sidewalk in a beautiful metropolis along with a bunch of other dead people!
Our destination, the largest building in the town, was an impressive sight. If it had a top floor you could not see it, the building reached beyond the clouds. Snow-white granite caught and reflected the sun’s rays and made the building a dazzling jewel. Windows lined the outside surface all the way up and each one was trimmed, on the outside, by gold.
When I reached the front door of the building there was this kindly old man in a doorman’s uniform waiting to open the portal for my entrance. As I walked by him he smiled warmly as he held open the large glass door. He looked vaguely familiar and it was not until I had entered the giant lobby that I put a name to his face...The door man was George, the elderly Wal-Mart greeter at the store near my home. George had died five years earlier.
I stood in the lobby and thought about this. Now if that was indeed George, the former Wal-Mart greeter, and his job was now being a doorman, was this heaven or maybe hell? Maybe old George was paying for some terrible deed done in life.
As I stood pondering this turn of events people streamed around me and headed to the far wall of the lobby where the building directory was posted. I figured, what the heck, it’s not like I can do anything about where I am now, so I might as well follow the rest of them and see where I was to go next. Walking up to where the crowd of people stood reading, I glanced at the directory. There were thousands of offices listed and the more I stared, the more confused I became until finally there in the middle of the board, large white letters began to flash:
CHET GRUMELY PLEASE GO TO THE THIRD FLOOR, OFFICE #374
“Wow!” I said to the guy standing next to me. “Would you look at that? I got a personal message right there on the directory.”
The guy looked at me and shrugged. “Yea, well I did too. Mine told me to go to the ninth floor, room 982.”
This peaked my curiosity so I asked a few others around me and sure enough, each had received their own personal floor and room assignment! Well, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, this was the afterlife wasn’t it, and things would just naturally be a little “different”.
Without further ado I headed to a large bank of elevators and entered the first door that opened. As soon as I entered, the door closed. I turned and punched the third floor button. There was no sense of movement at all and the doors opened again as soon as my finger left the button. I had arrived at the third floor.
Stepping out of the elevator, I was struck with the activity around me. Men and women hurried up and down the hall. Most carried briefcases or official looking folders. Some walked along with others, their heads together and deep in conversation. It looked like any other busy business building on earth.
It took me only a moment to find my office. Number 374 was just down the hall and on the left. I opened the door with some trepidation, wondering what was waiting for me on the other side. Boy was I surprised.
I stepped through the door and into a large plush office with deep carpet and wood paneled walls. On the far side of the office set a tremendous oak desk. On the desk was a computer, in and out trays, and a really nice Pen set with a nameplate, which read:
RANDALL J. HARRISON
NEW ARRIVAL VACILATOR
I stood there and stared at the nameplate for a moment before I realized there was someone actually SITTING at the desk. He was kind of hard to see because his head barely cleared the top of the large piece of furniture.
“Welcome to heaven.” The little man said. “I am Randall Harrison, your case worker.”
I recognized his voice immediately. It was the same one I had heard in my dream telling me it was time to go! My mouth dropped open in surprise. “Hey, you’re the guy in my last dream!”
The little guy smiled. “Very good Chet, you remember that do you?”
“Well yeah, how could I forget something that weird happening.” I laughed.
Randall arched one eyebrow. “You call hearing my voice weird after the dreams you have?”
“You have a point there.” I admitted. “So you want to tell me just where I am and what happens next?”
“All in good time Mr. Grumely.” Randall waved me over to the desk. “Please have a seat and let us go over your file, shall we.”
I walked over to the desk and took a seat in a large overstuffed wing chair. As soon as I sat down the lights dimmed and one wall glowed a bright white, then a movie started running; it was a movie of my life! I just sat there dumfounded as my entire life played out on that wall, punctuated from time to time by little sounds of either approval or disapproval from Mr. Harrison who, it seemed was taking notes.
As you might expect, the movie ended with my death and with its end the lights came back up and I turned to face Harrison again.
“Well,” he said finally. “There is good news and there is bad news.”
This definitely sounded ominous to me and I was starting to get a really bad feeling about the whole thing. Trying to postpone what I figured was coming next; I decided to change the subject.
“You know.” I said to him. “You have a bit of an accent. Are you Canadian?”
Mr. Harrison smiled and said: “Why yes I am Chet. Almost all upper management is Canadian you know.”
“Why is that,” I quipped. “Cause you guys are all so polite?” Mr. Harrison lost his smile. There was a silence that seemed to stretch uncomfortably. “Uh, that was a joke.” I finally said.
“American humor.” he replied. “Which, I would think, answers your question about CANADIANS being in upper management. Now, back to the subject of you.”
I shrugged and decided to just let it happen. “Ok Randall.” I said with a sigh. “Let’s get it over with.”
Harrison took up the notes he had been making during the film and studied them for a moment then he looked up at me. “Well, like I said, good news and bad. Overall you led a rather balanced life. For example, there was that whole episode in the back of the dodge at the local drive-in when you were seventeen.” He shook his head and gave a “tut tut” of disapproval. “I can’t believe you actually told her your daddy was a rich Texan and you were only there on vacation!”
“Well my daddy WAS Texan.” I said defensively. “And it was a vacation of sorts, me and my buddy was traveling across country prior to going into the Navy!”
This did not seem to cut any ice with Harrison who merely shook his head again. “Well then we have your military service.” He said. “That seems to have made up for some of your youthful high jinks that took place before.”
“Well I am glad it counted for something.” I said.
“Oh it did my friend.” Harrison said softly. “You have no idea. BUT! There was the matter of that R&R trip to Bangkok and the two girls in the hot tub....”
“OK, OK.” I interrupted him. “Let’s just move on shall we.”
“Alright.” he replied. “Let us move on then shall we. After you came home you pretty much drifted. You wasted a lot of your life you know.”
I just nodded my head...when he was right he was right, damn him!
Then he continued. “It seems, Mr. Grumely, that for every good choice you made, you then made a bad one. This is a pattern with you through out your life. Let’s take for instance your married life. You were married a few times and some of your choices were, shall we say, for all the wrong reasons. But on the other hand you had children by those marriages and you were a good father to those kids. You raised them right instilling each with a good sense of values. So you see, your bad choices are continually countered by your good choices.”
“Uh, pardon me Mr. Harrison.” I said. “But is that the good news or the bad?”
“Both.” He said with a smile. Who said Canadians can’t be smart Asses!
“Let me put it to you this way Chet.” What we have here is a perfect balance, good vs. bad and there is not enough of either to justify sending you one way or the other.”
“Well what the hell does that mean?” My temper was overriding my fear at this point. “Oh, and pardon my language!”
“Quite understandable Mr. Grumely.” Harrison said. “And don’t worry, I wont tell the boss you mentioned the competition.”
“That was a joke.,” he said.
“Canadians shouldn’t try what they aren’t use to.” I replied dryly.
Mr. Harrison stood up behind his desk (not that I could tell the difference) and walked around to where I sat. “Here is the bottom line Chet.” He said kindly. “You are going back!”
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard! I WAS GOING BACK! Jumping out of my chair, I let loose with a wild yell of exuberance! “YAHOOOO! I get to live again! Man I KNEW this was some kind of mistake....”
Harrison waved his hands, trying to silence me. “No, no, no.” He said. “You do not understand. Yes you are going back but not as a human. You are, and will remain, a spirit. You are going back to help others to make GOOD decisions for now.”
I collapsed back into my chair, deflating like a defective balloon. “I don’t get it.” I mumbled. “Back as a spirit? What’s up with that?”
“Simple, Chet.” Randall smiled. “You are to go back down there and help others to make the right decision when they are faced with an important choice. You will guide them gently to do the right thing and for every life you change for the good, you will get credit toward your own condo in heaven! Oh, of course for every bad choice they make because you didn’t do your job you will get credit for that too, toward, well...you know.”
I sighed, well it could have been worse I guess. At least I didn’t get a one way ticket to hell; at least this might take awhile. I slowly pulled myself together and shook hands with Mr. Harrison and let him usher me out of his office.
“Since I am your case worker.” He said as he opened the door for me. “You will be getting your assignments and reporting directly to me. Welcome to the team Chet!”
So like I said at the beginning of this tale. Being dead isn’t much different from being alive. Here I sit, in a bar drinking a soda and lime while waiting for my first "case" to walk in, I was told this was his favorite watering hole. To be perfectly honest, I am actually sitting here in someone else's body while HE is drinking. Seems that as a perk of my new job, I get to take over one human per day in order to complete my assignment. If I take over more than one a day I get a demerit that might keep me out of Heaven.
Oh well, no job is perfect. All I have to do is work on building up my good credit, and stay out of trouble. Speaking of trouble, my first case just walked through the door....Wish me luck!