Bam! It was like I stuck my finger in a light socket. But, then, in the same way, almost immediately, it was over. In fact, it was over so fast I don’t even remember any pain. I just remember leaving it all behind and I didn’t care. It was all just a mangled mess of steel and rubber under a cloud of smoke and steam.
In an instant I was outside the gates of heaven. It was every bit as beautiful as I had imagined, except for one thing.
Although I could hear singing a far off inside the gates, the people walking towards me were silent. Their mouths were open but nothing was coming out. I thought it strange. They looked like a welcoming committee, but they were so quiet. Not what I expected.
The first person I recognized was this kid I remembered from second grade. He was quite the bully back then and I really didn’t like him very much. His name was Dwayne and he seemed to have a mission to make everybody else around him miserable just because he was a couple inches taller than the rest of us.
Dwayne always had two or three of his cronies around him that would laugh at everything he said or did. Like when he’d grab one of us by the wrist and twist. Oh, they thought that was funny.
He moved away before the end of the year and I remember finding out later that he had failed first grade in another state before moving to our town. That’s why he was bigger than the rest of us. Also, he lived with his mother and aunt and two or three older siblings. He didn’t have a father. After that I felt sorry for him.
But, there he was: walking right towards me on the streets of gold. I couldn’t believe a bully like Dwayne was here with me in heaven.
Next, I saw this nasty woman who lived in the apartment next to me in the first place I rented. That was even before I was married. Mrs. Whitney was her name I think. She complained about everything from the sound level of my radio in the morning to where I parked my car.
Once she accused me of taking her mail. I tried to be cordial to her up until that point, but that burnt my toast and I snapped at her a bit.
“Why would I want your mail?” I demanded of her.
That’s when she backed down a little and tried to make it sound more like she wasn’t saying that I took her mail, but she just wanted to know if I had seen her mail.
I didn’t live there very long but I found out years later that she had lost a child in some sort of accident long before I knew her and that her husband had run off and he wasn’t of a very good sort anyway and he left her to struggle alone all those years.
After that I always felt bad about snapping at her.
“Mrs. Whitney,” I mumbled, still too far away for anyone to hear me. She too, was quiet like the rest of them. Something just didn’t seem right.
Finally I saw my grandpa! He certainly wasn’t someone I expected to see in heaven, but I was glad to see anyone from the family!
Grandpa was a mean and vile man never much good to anyone, but my grandma was a church-goin’, hymn-singin’ and prayin’ Christian all her life and she told me that my grandfather accepted Jesus into his heart on his deathbed. I wasn’t quite sure I believed it.
But, there he was: coming right at me from the pearly gates of heaven. It was a wonder to behold.
“Grandpa!” I cried out with excitement.
The crowd of people I had known through-out my life circled around me still quiet and seemingly in awe.
My grandpa hugged me. Something I can never remember him doing before.
“Grandpa, I know all these people,” I whispered to my grandpa. “I just never would have expected to see them here in heaven.”
“Ah, hush, hush, my son,” my grandpa comforted me, “for they are as awed as you.”
“You see, my son,” my grandpa continued, “they’re surprised to see you too!”