One morning, a man found himself standing upon a bleak and devastated landscape. Amidst the thick clouds and smoke, he saw a flight of stairs off to one side, and a deep pit of fire opposite them. He felt empty and alone, and then it came to him -- he was dead!
Clearly, he was at a crossroad; one way led to salvation, the other to damnation. So, what was to happen next? How was his fate to be decided? He began to think of the events of his life, the people he'd known and the things he'd done. All around him, images of his parents, his siblings, his wife, his children, his in-laws and friends began to appear.
He smiled, for he was glad to have known them all.
But then, his heart sank, for he remembered that he hadn't always honored his mother and father. He hadn't always remembered their birthdays and anniversary, and he'd mouthed off to them more than once.
He'd given his brother a black eye, on more than one occasion, and he'd teased his little sister by burning her Barbie dolls.
He'd made his wife cry, and he'd spanked his kids when they really hadn't deserved it.
He'd gone fishing with his buddies, instead of taking his family to the park.
He'd cheated his friends at cards, and called in sick just so he could see the Yankees play.
The images drifting about him changed, now the people of his life were crying, and the man wept. He shed his heavy coat and tossed aside his large helmet. Clearly, he was unworthy of Heaven, and so - with shoulders slumped - he turned and headed for the pit.
A voice boomed from above. "Where are you going, my son?"
The man jumped, his heart racing in fear, and he got down on his knees and bowed his head. "Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned, and will accept my fate."
The warm glow of peace settled around him. "And what unforgivable sins are you guilty of, child? Look again, for you did not see the story through to the end."
The man raised his head and looked, and saw the images changing.
He saw his friends laughing and joking, and telling stories about some of the antics of his life.
He saw his wife and children happy to have been part of his life. His daughter pledged to marry a man just like him. His sons vowed to follow in his footsteps.
And, most importantly, he saw his parents standing tall, speaking with pride at having a son such as him; and his siblings rejoicing at the times they had shared.
Then there were visions of people he did not know, many people, hundreds of faces. Some were hurt, burned or bloody, yet all were alive and celebrating the simple joys of life.
Again he bowed his head. "Lord, there must be some mistake; I know none of these people. Why should they be happy at having known me?"
"They never knew you, my son. These are the people that lived because you were there when they needed helped."
The man's brow wrinkled. "But, so many? Who am I that I helped all these people?"
"Well, these last few hundred; they're the ones you saved from the Tower."
The man got to his feet and looked around, and finally realized just where he was really standing.
"Time to come home, my son; your brothers await you."
The man shut his eyes and smiled, and wept again. Only these were tears of joy, for he rejoiced at the waves of love that were washing over him. The stairs were unnecessary, nor were the wings of angels. His friends, his family, all the people he had touched in his life, they lifted him to Heaven with the power of their love.
Click here for more by AJ Robinson.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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