This is obviously a work of fiction. Mary is a bit autobiographical, though I am obviously still alive. I claim no personally-attained secret knowledge of life after death, though Mary’s experiences are based upon accounts I have read of other people’s NDE, and the scriptures. The moral of the story is the point of writing it–this just seemed like a more interesting way to relay the same lesson.
The car accident wasn’t really so bad. Her heart swelled up with panic and worry as the other car slammed into her, and the instantaneous compression of her body over the steering wheel caused a tear in her aorta. The force of the blow knocked her unconscious, then the bleeding did the rest, rather quickly. A few moments of intense pain and then it was over. Mary felt suddenly euphoric as she peeled out of her broken body–exactly the same joy and relief that she had only experienced three times in her life–right after the birth of each of her beautiful babies. Strangely, she started drifting upwards. Against the pull of gravity, but with no effort at all. “Seriously, I feel amazing, and this just keeps getting better” she mused aloud as she rose into the air. “Freud was wrong about flying dreams. Nothing weird here, this is just what I am made for!”
Mary gazed upward with a worried, tentative insecurity that she would either hit a Canadian Goose or suddenly the magic of flying would wear off. Her arms moved awkwardly like she was guarding herself both above her head and below, moving in slow, jerky waves at the air around her. Then she remembered Penny, still in the car and tried to slow her ascent. She looked down, tried to turn around, dive back down–but it was no use. Mary called her name, more and more frantic as she pulled away from the scene. “Penny! Penny! Are you okay baby?” She became hysterical as she helplessly floated up. She didn’t notice the shimmer gliding gracefully beside her. The silvery wisp became real, solid and illuminated from within as Mary drifted up, way above the broken glass and her body crumpled over the steering wheel. After a few moments, the noise of the ambulance, or the jaws of life prying her daughter safely out of the car were out of view and out of reach.
“Woah! Where did you come from?” Mary’s abrupt, startled wave caused her to turn upside down.
“Easy there, darling girl.” chuckled a familiar voice. The wisp-turned-body grabbed one arm and turned her around, head-up, in a practiced maneuver. But she didn’t let go; she kept holding on to her hand as they accelerated upward. Tears filled Mary’s eyes as she recognized the beautiful and graceful young Grandma Jean that had only existed in picture frames on the walls of her mother’s house. Though her eyes shone brightly with the qualities Mary remembered in her elderly grandma: love, laughter, wisdom, a little bit of mischief.
“My Mary! You are back home!” She embraced her warmly as they continued to fly upward. “And I get to be the one to show you around.”Her grandmother said excitedly in exactly the same tone that Mary used to usher her daughter into a family surprise party the week before.
“How did you know to come and get me? I was just in a horrible crash. I don’t think it was my fault though–I hope they had insurance. . . it was so sudden that I can’t really figure out . . .” her voice trailed off. “And Penny is still down there! I need to get her out and take her to the hospital. I guess I don’t really know what’s going on, but I amenjoying this flying business.” Mary said, ending the jumbled thought with a smile.
Her grandma smiled and looked sideways. “I knew you were coming because it was your day to come home. The whole family has been looking forward to this reunion.” Grandmother looked over her shoulder and squinted her eyes. “Yep. They have found everything. The ambulance is there, the others in the accident are fine. You were the only one scheduled to come home right now. Mary, darling, don’t worry about Penny. She is in good hands.” Grandma Jean gave her a side-squeeze on her arm and shoulder. “She is going to be fine.”
“Besides, I knew about your crash because I saw it! I have been with you for years.” Her grandmother smiled broadly. “You didn’t think all of those brilliant ideas came out of thin air, did you? I love what we have done together–your family, your business–”
“Wait, what?” Mary interrupted. “You’ve been with me!? What, just watching? Or could you tell me things? How come I never noticed?” She smiled. “I guess I should have known. . . I wanted to do what youdid. I was always so proud of what you had accomplished–raising seven kids and running the hotel at the same time. You were amazing.”
“Are amazing” Grandma corrected with a smile. “Life goes on, sweet girl. My current project has been your life, and thatis what I am proud of right now.”
“What do we do now, Grandma?” Mary flushed. “Should I still call you Grandma? You look so young. . . you know you are knock-out-gorgeous. Not a typical grandma anymore. I left my phone in the car–I wish I could take a picture of you and me. My mom would flip out. Do you even show up in pictures?” Mary said.
“No dear, and neither will you. We are post-digital here, phones are unnecessary.” grandma smiled as she broke the news. Then she continued. “You had better call me Grandma! We’re family. Its not so much about hierarchy here, or age–but it is important that we belong together.”
Mary looked back at her grandma incredulously. She tried to take a deep breath and then noticed she wasn’t breathing. Her lungs were quiet. Her torso was still. She freaked out. “I can’t breath! I’m not breathing! What in the world?!” she spun around in the air, looking down at her semi-transparent hands and legs. There were no injuries or signs of blood anywhere, her clothes seemed to be a better version than the Target T-shirt and jeans she had been wearing, same graphic, better fit and quality.
This time her grandmother fully laughed. “You’re dead Mary. I guess you had to hear it plainly. You were called home. Your body will stay there and your essential self lives on. Your time on earth is over. It’s not a mistake. You’ll not be returning to blog about it, post pictures, or tell anyone, so relax your mind and heart and enjoy it. Our Father doesn’t make mistakes, and you just need to trust Him and be let yourself be happy. It’s astonishing that anyone here could be unhappy–but it does happen. Honestly sweetie, time on earth flies by. And the pain of loss evaporates when they come here. They will be fine.”
Her grandma looked ahead at the fast approaching gates to the Heavenly City. “We are almost home. You’ll get to meet with Jesus right off. He sees everyone personally. It’s the best.” Grandma paused and sighed a smiling memory. “Then you and I will see what you want to do first. I have some ideas . . . there’s sort of a regular tour around the most famous things and places–kind of like how you take everyone to the Alamo and the Riverwalk when they come and visit. We can also travel back for your funeral in a little while, you can say goodbye to your family and friends.”
At the word “funeral” Mary tensed up. Feeling a load of guilt and responsibility for the people she cared for. Grandma continued, looking her squarely in the eyes, “They will be fine so please don’t worry. You get to be happy–that’s what this place is all about. Honestly, they will be here before you know it, so don’t spend a second feeling guilty that you got to come home. Survivor’s guilt is what they call it on earth. . . they have no idea how backwards and upside down that name is.” Grandma chuckled. “Like they are the lucky ones to get to stay mortal.”
As they flew through the air, Mary noticed that they weren’t going up higher and higher, they were flying parallel to the earth, but the land was fading before her eyes. A new reality was emerging from the haze. Everything around her was faintly glowing, a song permeated the air, like a mountain stream just out of sight. The air felt clean and crisp. As they started descending towards the lights, they grew brighter and brighter. Mary looked at her grandmother, and noticed that she was illuminated as well. Then she looked down at her own hands and saw the same glorious glow coming from deep inside.
Mary relaxed and told herself to follow Grandma Jean’s instructions: Just not worry. Just trust God to take care of her. Just be happy. It felt like falling into a feather bed at the end of a long day outside working. She smiled and decided to try, but first she needed to know something vital: “So do the kids have helping angels like you? Does everyone?”
“Yes. Everyone has someone. Jake is with his great-grandpa–the one he is named after, and all of your kids have excellent helpers too. Our Father knew that you would come home early, so He made sure to give them really strong and responsible angels. It’s all planned out– breathtaking, really, at the complexity of it. He has it orchestrated to the smallest detail. And you will be able to help your kids as well. In fact, I have heard that you will be with Mallory a lot of the time. She’s going to be going through a really hard time soon.”
“Oh no! What’s going on? Something at school? Or is Jess going to break her heart?” Mary instantly grew concerned.
“No. She’s going to have a hard time because her mother just died.” Grandma Jean said seriously.
Mary squinted her eyes and looked sideways at her guide, puzzling over the circular logic of this dilemma.
“But. . . she wouldn’t need me as an angel if she had me as a mom.” she said slowly.
“Its true. And it is hard. But it is also part of her life, and her personal plan on the earth. It will make her compassionate, loving and a really great mom herself in a few years. Remember, trust God. He has it all worked out.”
Grandma Jean leaned closer and whispered confidentially, “Being an angel is actually the most efficient way to help the ones you love. You can travel instantly wherever you want to go, and you can whisper ideas directly to their brain. They think it’s their own idea, so they fall in line quite naturally. If you tried to tell your Mallory to clean her room, she would resist, right? But make her think it’s her own ideaand she’ll do it happily. It’s the next evolutionary stage of parenting. Even though they won’t see you, you will still be with them as much as they need you.”
Grandma stopped talking as they slowed their flight and approached the front gate. The gate rose to an astounding height. It was made of swirling, living gold and silver–almost smokey in its movements, but substantial in its heft. The music in the air was the loveliest she had ever her heard, organically coming out of the ground, the plants, the flowers and now, as she was standing next to the gate–she could tell the gold and silver played a main part in the orchestration. Mary noticed a man coming through the gates, the smokey swirls let Him pass through without opening the main body. She looked over at her grandmother, who smiled broadly and bowed her head in reverence.
“Hello my Lord.” She said, her tone a quiet mixture of love and deference.
“Hello my Jean. You have brought our Mary home. Well done.” As she looked at the man standing in front of the gate, Mary was encircled about by a bright, burning love that filled her whole soul. She exhaled in relief and her thoughts melted away. Nothing else mattered, not the kids or her broken body or who the angels were. She could trust thisGod to take care of her. She could trust Him to take care of the kids and Jake too. She stepped into His outstretched hands and received the embrace that she felt certain was promised to her 37 years ago. The more she remembered Him, the tighter she hugged. She was weeping when she looked up at his glorious face, surprised to see tears in His eyes as well.
“I’m so glad you made it back. I am so glad to see you. You did well.” He said. “Let’s go meet our Father and have a talk.”
They walked through the gate, the metal swirling around them in exactly the shape of their three bodies, Jesus’ arm hugging tightly around Mary’s shoulders on one side, and Jean’s on the other. The gate closed behind them as they walked into the majestic immaculate city.
When they reached the steps of the magnificent temple-looking building in the center of the city, Grandma Jean sidled up to Mary and spoke quietly inches from her face.
“Alright Mary my girl, I am going to leave you here and be back after awhile. We have so much to catch up on! All of the family is preparing a party for your return–like we do–, and I’m going to go and help them with that. You enjoy your time with our Lord.” She smiled again at her own memory. “I’ll be back when you are done. No rush. Enjoy this time, I know He enjoys it too.”
The hours inside the temple flew by as Mary and the Lord talked about her life, her mission, her children and community, and who she had become. Her ecstasy grew the more time Mary spent in His presence. Her confidence in Him and in His love filled her to overflowing. The burden of needing to take care of everyone and be on a schedule and hustle hustle hustle was draining out of her like a leaky flower pot.
She had no idea how much time had passed when she again emerged from the white-spired building and walked out into the music, lights and beautiful city. As promised, Grandma Jean was sitting on a bench nearby, talking animatedly to a friend. She glanced up at Mary as she came out, said something to her friend, and they both watched Mary approach them with big smiles on their faces.
“Mary, let me reintroduce you to Emmaline Rodgers. She and you were close before you left to earth.” Jean said, with her arm around each woman.
Mary stuck out her hand, and Emmaline took it gently, then wrapped Mary up in an embrace that was energetic and full of life. Emmaline then patted her soundly on the back and kissed her firmly on the forehead.
“I’m so happy you are back! I’ve missed you! How do you feel? Are you remembering how it was before yet? It takes a little while to get back into things.” Emmaline enthusiastically spouted off question after question as they walked along the grassy path into a towering garden of giant rhododendrons.
Like a fog lifting off the valley floor with the sunrise, Mary’s brain suddenly felt clear, bright and visible. She remembered! She knew Emmaline. They were close friends, best friends–and Emmaline went down to earth first in order to get things ready for Mary. Great-great-great-great grandmother? Who knew how many greats–it didn’t matter. Mary was stunned into silence and stopped walking for a moment as the whole plan opened up in her brain–how these women had contributed to each other’s lives, and to the future–to her children’s lives. How intimately they were connected on earth–sharing blood and stories and a family heritage; now they were eternally connected in heaven. Friends and family. Family who were her best friends. Love and knowledge filled Mary to bursting, and she noticed her body beginning to glow brighter inside her skin and clothes.
“Didn’t you love that moment?” Jean whispered to Emmaline.
“It’s the best.” Emmaline responded.
Mary whirled around and looked at her two companions, glory and love emanating off of her like steam.
“Now I see what Jesus was saying. Now I get it.” Mary said happily.
“What did He say? If you can share. . .” Jean said, her curiosity momentarily overriding propriety. “Sorry. You don’t have to tell anyone anything. But we all love to hear everything our Savior says, all of His words are like solid gold.”
“I don’t mind sharing, in fact, He said He tells everyone this, so I’m sure you’ve heard it before. And I’m sure you’ve figured it out before–but nowI get it, and that is. . . ” words evaded Mary as she smiled broadly. “I guess its just like my brain finally connected all of the dots. All my pathways are firing. Everything is running at full capacity now. I can see. . ” she trailed off again, then shook her head, bringing her back to the present.
“He said that my job now with Mallory is simply to make her fit for heaven. Help her live so that she will be comfortable here, so that she will be able to trust Him, be happy and accept His help.”
Jean and Emmaline nodded their heads, their own glory surging in brightness as they understood her understanding.
“That’s what you did for me. You set me up for success. You gave me life and comfort and family. You sacrificed so that I could be raised with faith. And all that time as I was trying to brand myself and blog and stage beautiful photos of my life, you were trying to bring me back to the heaven I had available on earth–the heaven God literally gaveto me: the joy of being with my family and the peace of trusting Christ.”
Mary sat down on the grass and continued. “I know I had tastes of feeling like I do now–like heaven–while I was on the earth. Those nights at home when we were just focused on each other. The times I was completely consumed by service projects and could forget my own lists and projects waiting at home. The feeling of heaven was there for me, as real as it is here. I could have lived like this all along!” Mary was overcome by the emotion. She wanted to re-do her life. She wanted to charge right back down there and tell Mallory not to make the same mistakes she had. And in a flash, she saw the wisdom in God’s plan for her daughter. Mallory would treasure her family poignantly and live fit for heaven–becauseof her missing mother.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, sweet Mary.” Jean said, sitting along side her and wrapping her arm around Mary’s shoulders. “You’re still going strong. We’re all still getting better and better. Thisheaven you are experiencing right now will pale in comparison to how you will feel when Mallory gets here. Heaven gets better every single day with each new friend that joins us–think of how bright Christ’s glory is, can you even imagine how incredible Heaven feels to Him?”
Mary leaned into her grandmother, and held hands with her great-great-great-great grandmother and felt her love, trust and peace return. If meeting more family members would increase her joy, she was ready to move forward.
“What time does the welcome party start?” She asked Grandma Jean.
“We still run on Spencer time, even here where time doesn’t exist.” She laughed. “Let’s head over there right now. Everyone is anxious to see you.”