A dim-lit bar with greasy burgers and three choices of beer—two are Budweiser variations. A jukebox is playing George Jones.
Heaven, I am convinced, is a place with a jukebox.
It’s quiet tonight. The folks here are mostly out-of-towners. Take me, for instance, I’m an out-of-towner.
The woman sitting beside me is from Atlanta. She lost her husband a few years ago to a work accident. She starts talking about Heaven.
This is not typical barroom conversation. She’s had a little too much to drink. The server has to call her a cab.
She asks if I believe in an afterlife. Before I can answer, the bartender answers:
“Honey, nobody wants to hear about Heaven,” the bartender says. “Why don’t you go wait outside for your cab.”
But it’s too late. We are talking about the afterlife in a saloon. The conversational train cannot be stopped.
The man beside me is a mechanic for factory equipment. He repairs the things that make things.
“Yeah, I believe in it,” he says. “I think going on to Glory is different for everyone.”
A waitress speaks. She’s late-forties. I understand she has a bachelor’s in literature. The money in food service is better.
“Heaven’s real,” she says. “I just know it. I’ve seen it. When I was a little girl, I had an experience, I almost died. I saw things.
“Heaven’s all around us, all the time. Our dead loved ones are in the room with us right now. We just can’t see’em.”
She lost her mother to lung cancer. Her mother was sixty-one.
Everyone has lost somebody.
The busboy-slash-dishwasher enters the room. He’s early twenties. His brother joined the Marines a few years ago. His father abandoned him when he was a teenager. He and his brother practically raised each other.
“I WANT Heaven to be real,” he says. “But it’s too good to be true, man.
“If Heavens is real, then that means miracles, and God, and all that stuff is true, too. And I just don’t know…”
We at the bar COULD try to answer this, but it wouldn’t be right. That’s not how this works. Everyone has a right to their idea.
The woman from Atlanta asks me what I think again. I stumble over my words. It sounds like I’ve got a mouthful of Corn Nuts.
Nice going Mister Author.
In hindsight, I wish I would’ve said something smart. I should’ve told them about Granddaddy who once told me a story:
“You know all them religious people?” Granddaddy once said. “They’re always talking about Heaven, but a lot of’em wouldn’t give a dollar to a hobo.”
Oh, to watch him whittle a stick again.
He once told me there was a big supper in Hell. A grand supper with every kind of food you could imagine. A long table with sweet potato pie, collards, big drumsticks.
“But there’s a catch,” he said. “The people around Hell’s table have elbows that won’t bend.”
He said nobody can feed themselves, they can only hold food at an arm’s distance, and supper goes to waste.
And well, there you have it. The elders have spoken. Eternal Damnation is life without fried chicken.
Then, Granddaddy went on to say that Heaven will be the same as Hell. Identical. Same table. Same supper, same sweet potato pie. Same locked elbows.
Only, in Heaven people don’t need elbows that bend because they feed each other.
I wish I would’ve told that story to my friends at the bar. But then, I was too busy eating a burger my doctor told me not to eat. Or maybe I was too busy thinking about people who have crossed The River. Good people. People who I miss.
We helped that lady into her cab. She’s going to be just fine, she just misses her husband is all. I don’t envy her tomorrow morning.
Yeah. I believe in Heaven.
Afi - April 12, 2018 5:46 am
I can so relate to this one. Especially loneliness. I’ve seen the lady in the cab. I pray I won’t be the lady in the cab. But loneliness makes us do strange things.
Jan - April 12, 2018 10:31 am
Great story with much to think about. I believe your granddaddy was a Southern philosopher!
Dave Walberg - April 12, 2018 11:30 am
I believe with all my heart that Heaven is real. I haven’t experienced a near death experience but I have talked to many people who have. For some real life testimonies, check out Google or YouTube with a search of “near death experience.” I also believe that hell is real. Google or YouTube a video by Dr. Howard Storm.
Dianne - April 12, 2018 11:38 am
Heaven is real, and Hell is real. The problem with our world now is not enough people believe in either these days, but the day will come when all will know that both exist. I choose Heaven. Thank you, Sean.
Betty - April 12, 2018 12:06 pm
Connie Havard Ryland - April 12, 2018 12:31 pm
I believe in Heaven. My mom has dementia, and is barely able to speak, but she tells me she sees her mom and dad sitting on a bench waiting for her. Well, they’ve been gone 40 years or so now. But I believe they are waiting in Heaven for her to join them.
Carol ann ROTHWELL - April 12, 2018 12:54 pm
I’m so glad you do……and I thank God for your beautiful stories…..do you know how many people you help and touch everyday….
Your an Angel on earth!!
Lori - April 12, 2018 12:58 pm
This touched my heart. Yes, I believe in heaven!
I also had a giving Granddaddy that told great stories. He was a mechanic. When people couldn’t pay him, he sent them to the garden and to Granny to pick up some canned food or preserves. He was more interested in the folks being fed than getting paid. Granny once told me that she often had to remind him they had 6 kids to feed, as well. In Granny’s words, “Floyd, we’ve got to feed our own family, too.” They raised their family on Short Mountain, in Cannon Co, TN. I suspect my grandad will greet me in heaven the way he greeted me at the back door of his home, arms open wide and ready for a big hug!
Have a great day, Sean!
Cathy Stewart - April 12, 2018 1:01 pm
Fabulous writing! Your shared thoughts have started my day beautifully! Thanks
Wendy Franks - April 12, 2018 1:08 pm
My exquisite & oh so eloquent comments disappeared. Hmmm. I don’t happen to be Presbyterrian (sp) but maybe it was ordained. ?
James - April 12, 2018 1:15 pm
If you believe in Jesus and trust him, you will get to heaven.
Jack Darnell - April 12, 2018 1:37 pm
Jack Quanstrum - April 12, 2018 3:02 pm
I heard that! Great Read!
Edna B. - April 12, 2018 3:08 pm
Yup, I believe in Heaven too. I know when my time comes to go Home, there’ll be a little cottage near a pond there for me with all my loved ones and my beloved pets waiting for me. Thank you for another beautiful story. I start my day here and it’s wonderful. Hugs, Edna B.
muthahun - April 12, 2018 4:45 pm
I grew up with the Heaven/Hell banquet story, too, and it’s a good one. Also just finished reading Phillip Pullman’s DARK MATERIALS… THE GOLDEN COMPASS, THE SUBTLE KNIFE, THE AMBER SPY-GLASS. Some lovely images there, too: atoms from humans finding their way through the land of the dead to burst forth into the heavens and mix with the atoms of their daemons before spreading out through the universe to become other living things once more. Woo-woo? Blasphemy? What difference as long as we do good? And Sean, you do good.
Janet Mary Lee - April 12, 2018 5:23 pm
God has a plan and I know He exists. I have felt God’s love. It is the love I have felt from Jesus. All we need do is believe. The Holy Spirit will prompt us to do good. The best we can do and become with Him helping us. And all we need to do is Believe in Them. Heaven will be glorious, and I expect to see you there!!
James Godwin - April 14, 2018 11:03 pm
Good for you Sean, good for you.
Sue Cronkite - April 21, 2018 2:40 pm
I do too.
Barbara Bray - December 26, 2018 11:00 am
Yes, I believe in Heaven. Mama and Daddy are there waiting on me.We have lots to share once again over a cup of coffee. We’ll see you there and you can have a cup too.