Heaven is Fulfilment: Chapter 15
Presently we came to an garden set close to the sea. There were not so many flowers in this, but mostly flowering shrubs, with shady trees leaning over broad lawns. These lawns sloped gently down to the beach. On the other side of the garden, a path led through trees and on to a rolling moorland. Far away, we saw its purple-clad summit topped with a rock, standing darkly against the sky. As soon as we approached this garden, we began to look about expectantly, and our angel said:
“Look, there is Pedro. He is the one we wish to see this time.” He indicated a boy sitting beneath a tree. He had one knee drawn up, with his elbow on it, and his chin rested on his hand. He was dressed in a robe of brown, coming about half-way between knee and ankle and girded at the waist with a cord. He was gazing thoughtfully out to sea, and did not hear us approach, but as we drew near he glanced up. Instantly he was on his feet, bowing deferentially to our angel and clasping us each on the shoulder. “Is He with you?” the angel asked.
“Yes,” said the boy, with a quiet exultation in his voice. “He is sleeping – we will not awake Him. Will you sit down and wait with me?” “Gladly.” We all found comfortable seats under the trees, and Janet asked: “Did you have a dream on earth, too?”
The boy turned to her with a kindling light in his eyes. He appeared to be about twelve. His eyes were very dark, his colour fresh, his curling hair was of the same hue as his robe.
“I had many dreams. They all seemed to mingle, though, so that they became as one, lasting for five years.” What a long time,” I commented. “Shall I tell you about it?” Pedro asked seeing our eager looks.
Well, I had always wanted to he a priest-or even a monkI wasn’t sure. I thought about it a lot and my parents were pleased, too. Then one day, when I was about twelve, I fell and hurt my hack. At first I thought I should soon be well. All day I used to lie so that I could see out of the window. I could not see the ground but that didn’t matter, for the tops of the trees were there! I used to watch the birds flying to and fro, bringing twigs to make their nests, for it was spring.
My back did not mend as quickly as I thought it would. My parents were very kind, brought me all kinds of books to read and other boys to see me. Most of all, however, I liked to watch the birds. I saw the mother-bird sitting on the eggs, quite close, and then the babies with their wide open mouths. I watched them grow and learn to fly, too. As they fluttered away, I would think, ‘Soon I too shall he able to move about, even as they.’ The time went on until I thought I knew many of the birds by sight. Then one day I saw them bringing twigs-and I knew it was spring again.
I cannot tell you all that meant to me. Despite the date, I had not realised that I had been lying helpless for a whole year. It gave me a kind of dreadful shock. Frantically I called for my father. (I did not dare ask my mother for I thought she would try to veil the truth from me.) When he came I just looked right into his eyes and said ‘Father, am I incurable?’ I think he knew by my face that I had guessed, as soon as he entered the room, for he did not attempt to evade it. He just looked back at me and said, “Yes, my son.”
“I did not say anything then, but just turned my face to the window so he would not see the tears on my lashes. He must have known how I felt, for presently he went away, closing the door quietly. Then I let the tears flow. Never to run again, or walk, or climb or play! Never to go to college and learn to he a priest – or a monk, or both. Just to lie here always…”
“Long afterwards, I fell into an exhausted sleep, and then it was that I had my first dream.”
He paused, looking out to the far horizon. No-one moved or spoke.
“In my dream, the door of my room opened,” he said presently. “I looked up, thinking my mother had come to comfort me. Instead, I saw a boy about my own age, come and stand beside the bed. He had my colouring, too, but his face was more pointed. He was dressed as I am now. I just lay there, looking at him, wondering who this new visitor could be. Then he smiled – and I knew Him. It was the Boy Jesus!”
“I stretched out my hand towards His as it lay on the coverlet, but I did not dare to touch it. He understood. He lifted my hand and held it between His own.”
“‘Pedro,’ He said softly, ‘You wanted to give your life to me by becoming a holy priest. Have you taken that life away?'”
“It has been taken away for me,” I mourned. “See, I have a useless back. Of what good is my life now?”
“‘It is of use to Me. Will you give it to Me again, to be all Mine, to do as I like with it?'”
“I did not know what to say to that. It seemed so strange that this Divine Boy should want a life so useless and dull. Looking into His eyes, though, I began to think it did not much matter why He wanted it, so I said, ‘Yes, Jesus.'”
“He smiled, then, and pressed my hand. ‘In life, everyone has trials,’ He went on. ‘Some are angry about them, and so they do not look to see if they can learn anything. The wise ones look at them, and inside them, too, to see what they can teach. Will you be one of the wise ones?'”
“By then I would have agreed to anything He wanted. I just: nodded and He said:
‘You would have hard trials as a priest, and they would have fitted you for Heaven, but I want you in Heaven before that, Pedro, so your trials have come sooner. These trials can teach you three things. One; to use your solitude in thinking of holy things. Two; to he patient in pain and weariness. Three; to forget your affliction; in being interested in those about you. If you strive manfully, you will not really lose any of those years of play, of adventure, of movement. I shall treasure them all for you in Heaven, My Pedro, and when you come to Me (and it will not he so very long) I shall be your Friend, your Companion, your Playmate. We will do all the things you have longed to do-together.'” He left me then, and that ended my first dream.” There was a silence, and then Janet asked breathlessly: “Did you strive, Pedro?”
“I tried to! Sometimes I would forget. I would look out of the window and see the blue sky, hear the shouts of my old schoolfriends as they set off for a long tramp over the hills. Then I grew angry at times, and said something irritable to my patient mother or grieved my father, who was already so grieved for me.”
“When I went to sleep after days like that, the Boy Jesus came to me again. He looked so sad. He just came to stand beside me, saying: ‘Oh Pedro.'”
“How sorry I used to be! When I had told Him, He would sit down on the bed and talk to me, telling me how glad He was when I overcame my faults, how grieved when I gave way. Gradually, I grew stronger in spirit. He did not come every night, but every three or four and always He would talk to me of the treasure He was keeping for me in Heaven.”
“After a while, my parents used to ask me what had made me so patient, or cheerful, or brave. Then I would smile and turn the conversation, for I could not speak of the visits of the Divine Boy, and I would not grieve them by letting them know my days were numbered.”
“Five years went by in that way. By then I was seventeen, very tall and wasted and pale. At last they saw that my strength was failing. We never spoke about it, but we understood each other.”
“One night, when the Divine Boy came to visit me, He was smiling more brightly than ever. He had a brown robe on His arm, just like His own and He held it up to show me.”
“‘Rise up,’ He said,’ and put this on. We are going on a journey together.'”
“Jesus,” I said, half laughing at the words, “How can I rise up, who have been here for five long years?”
“‘Rise!’ He repeated. He leant over me and lifted me up. Oh, the joy of it. I could scarcely restrain myself from dancing around the room, but He made me stand still while He clothed me in the brown robe and tied the girdle around my waist. To my amazement, I found that I was no taller than He as we moved together across the room. How often I had seen Him go from me towards that door Now I walked with Him. As we went out, I took one look at the bed which had been my prison – and saw my wasted form upon it.”