After receiving the news of my aunt's passing, I found the inspiration to write this:
I hit the “END” button and stared down at my phone. The news of my aunt’s passing was painful and raw. There were so many things left unsaid, so many visits left unvisited. My husband Andy and I were going to go see her in the morning.
After dropping my phone on the bedside table, I turned to Andy, who was patiently waiting for me to process what I had just heard, and dropped down against his chest, crying. He cradled me with one arm, rubbing his other hand through my long hair, trying to comfort me.
After several minutes, although the pain was still there, the coughing fit forced the tears to stop, and I curled up against my pillow, while Andy drifted back to sleep. I laid there awake, my thoughts flooding with regrets that I didn’t visit often enough, and that I wasn’t around like I should have been. I wished like crazy for the chance to see her again, and to apologize for not being the niece I should have always been. My eyes closed against the pain, and I was welcomed by a whirling darkness.
I opened my eyes a second later to a white room with silver accents and a large silver podium farther away from me. I had no recollection of how I got to this place, only that I wasn’t the only one there. People were roaming around everywhere, leisurely, and there was a group of folks standing together listening to one man speak.
My eyes searched around me, trying to get a feel for where I was. Beneath my bare feet, barely visible amidst the cloudy fog that seemed to be everywhere, the floor was made of solid white quartz that sparkled where the light hit it. It seemed to be one huge piece of quartz that went on for miles in any direction, with no cracks, no tiling, no imperfections whatsoever.
Moving closer to the group of people huddled together, I tried to figure out exactly why they were listening so intently. It seemed to be some kind of welcome group. Again, I wondered what this place was, and why I was here.
I examined the clothing everyone seemed to be wearing, men and women alike. A shimmering silver hooded cape that fell to the floor over an ankle-length gown of bright white linen. Tied at each person’s waist was a silver twisted rope that tied off-center and fell about knee length. The stitching around the bottom, the rounded neckline, and the long, wide sleeves was a pattern of silver X’s that matched the color of the rope belt. Everyone’s feet were bare. I looked down at my own clothes, and to my surprise, I was dressed just the same as everyone else there.
My feet carried me past the man giving the welcome speech, leaving the group slightly behind me, when I noticed the clouds parting in front of me. As they moved, I saw what appeared to be a giant silver fence, rounded at the top of each thick metal post like a series of upside-down U’s. The posts were connected a foot from the top and a foot from the bottom with an endless silver bar speckled with diamonds. When I followed the fence a bit further to my left, it ended in twin silver gates beautifully adorned here and there with diamonds. Neither the fence nor the gate was overly intricate, but the simplicity of the shining silver metal set with the sparkling diamonds made the sight so beautiful, it brought a tear to my eye.
In that moment, I realized where I was. The gate. The cloudy fog. Everyone dressed alike in simple yet beautiful clothing. The impossibly solid floor that never ended When I had closed my eyes, I found Heaven.
After taking in the beauty of the place, I grew fearful. If I was in Heaven, that must have meant I wasn’t alive anymore! My only thought-and of this I feel a bit ashamed- was Oh, Hell no! I’m not dead; I have to get out of here!
I turned away from the beauty of the gate and slowly made my way back the way I had come. There didn’t seem to be an end to the room, no door to exit out, but perhaps the clouds had distorted the entry way. As I passed by the welcome group again, I felt a pang of sadness for the families of all the people entering Heaven.
As I passed the people in the back, one figure turned and watched me as I passed.
“Ashley?” she called after me.
I turned. And my eyes welled up with tears.
“Aunt Debbie?” I asked.
She moved closer to me and I ran back to her. I wrapped my arms around her small frame, which seemed much less frail without the cancer eating away at her as it had been for years. She was stronger, vibrant, her hair bright and shiny red and lively, her freckled skin full of color, her eyes dancing.
I pulled away from her, and her smile warmed my heart.
“Aunt Debbie, what are you doing here?” I asked.
“I’m supposed to be here, but how did you get here?”
“I don’t know!” I laughed, and hugged her again.
Suddenly, I heard a voice I hadn’t heard in years.
“Is that Ashley? What are you doing here, girl?”
When I pulled back and looked up, I saw the smiling face of my step-father, Danny, who had passed away 16 years before.
“Oh, my goodness! Danny!” I exclaimed, completely filled with joy.
“He’s not the only one who wanted to see you,” came a voice from my right.
I turned to look and I saw my grandmother, Linda, with my great-grandmother, Naomi, and my great-uncle, Doug, who was no longer in a wheelchair, but fluttered about on beautiful silver wings.
“You’re all here!” I exclaimed, so happy to be with my family again. Back with the ones who were stolen from the world well before their time.
For a few minutes, we all laughed, we cried, we hugged, and we laughed some more. It seemed I had managed to find a way to visit Heaven. I didn’t know how often I could come back, but I knew I was welcome as long as I didn’t cause trouble.
Too soon, though, I felt a strange pull. One that was unavoidable and persistent, and I knew this visit had come to an end. As I was pulled away and darkness started to cloud my vision, I shouted my love to them and promised to visit again soon. They stood there, waving and smiling at me, until darkness completely enveloped me.
When I opened my eyes, I was back in my bed. The room was dark, save for the light coming from the television enclosed in the armoire, playing soft Celtic music to sleep by. I looked to my right, and found my husband, curled up on his side, sleeping peacefully. I glanced at the clock on the bedside table. Only a few minutes had passed, but it had seemed like hours. I laid back against my pillow, smiling.
I had found a way to visit Heaven.