Chapter One: My Arrival
It seemed such a short time after I had drawn that last, gasping breath. Curiously, I had felt like a caged bird longing to be free. No, that breath was not a struggling to remain and breathe of earth-air still; it was a striving for that other breath, the glorious, stimulating, feeding breath whose very existence I had scarcely realized until now. Ah, would that all could know this Breath! Like grape-juice afire with life, health, purity, power! No wonder I drew that last, gasping breath of earth, for it was my first breath of the Heavenly Breath. As I felt its touch upon my nostrils, I opened my eyes upon Heaven.
“Welcome!” said a cool, deep voice. “Welcome in the Name of the Most High God.” Then, very tenderly, “We have been awaiting you. How good that you are here at last.”
Beside me sat two beings. (I will not call them ‘man’ and ‘woman’ at first, for that were to paint a poor picture of their glory.) They were tall and fair; they sat with graceful ease, leaning against a trellis draped in vines. Beyond, stretching away into endless space, were purple-clad hills rising one upon the other into the sky. Behind me, I glimpsed a scene of great beauty, an endless succession of valleys, green, sun-lit and starry with flowers, with here and there a silver stream and an old, picturesque bridge. It was peace indeed, and I sighed with content.
“So this is Heaven! Who could want anything more than this?” My two companions exchanged a smiling glance.
“This is but an ante-chamber of the Great Beyond,” one of them explained gently.
“An ante-chamber! Then there is more to come?”
“Much, much more.” There was such a sense of languorous content about these two that for a long time, it seemed to me, I rested in utter silence. (But of this I cannot be sure, for time no longer had any significance, since there was nothing by which to measure it. I thought of the ‘measure of time’ on earth, the sudden risings at the beginning of the day, the rush to prepare for the hours of work, the continual preparation and consumption of meals. . . )
“Do you eat here ?” I asked suddenly. Another glance passed between them.
“They always ask that ! Yes, if one desires. . . Would you care to eat now ?”
“Oh no !” It just seemed too good to be true, to exist comfortably without the constant bustle of food preparation. . . What a heavenly place !” We shared a smile—the three of us—at this applicable description. Then one of them explained. “Food is prepared in one of the Halls of Wishes.” For a while there was silence again, while I mused on the wisdom of these Halls, for my companions seemed to speak without words, also elaborating their spoken statements.
“Do you not see,” one of them said at last, “that one who had perhaps spent all her life in caring for others, and preparing meals, would be unhappy if taken away from this work at first ? Thus the Halls of Wishes fulfil the first desires of all who come here until they can rest, and be prepared for something higher.”
“It is a very loving provision,” I agreed, and added with a sigh, “but I do not think I shall find fulfilment in any one of them.”
“Why ? What is your wish ? Every wish can be at once fulfilled, you know. . . if he, or she desires it.”
“If he desires it !” I echoed. “My wish is for . . . Himself.” There was a hushed and reverent pause.
“Even this is open to whomsoever will.” As he spoke the rolling landscape seemed to fade away, and before me there appeared, as it were a great park, massed with flowers. From my feet there stretched a winding pathway, golden as of fine sand, and, following it with my eyes (I could see every smallest detail at a great distance) I saw a pair of great gates, shining in the light of an unseen sun. Many were resting amid the flowers on that winding way, and, desiring ardently to see within the gates, I suddenly found myself there with my two companions beside me.