Tamara opened her eyes and found herself within in a realm of light and clouds. She was met by a man in a white robe who was apparently waiting for her.
The man was enormous, maybe 24 feet tall. His head was bald, his face was nothing but cotton whiskers.
He greeted her with a nod. Then he said, “Right this way, Tamara.”
And he began walking slowly onward. His feet were the size of jon boats.
“Wait,” Tamara said. “Where am I?”
He turned back. “If you would just follow me, please.”
“But I want to know where I am.”
“Please tell me,” she insisted.
But he would not.
The man led her through a long corridor of more light, which led to another corridor, which led to 55 thousand more hallways.
Finally, they reached a tunnel that was made of glass. There was a sheen to this glass, sort of like a bubble from a vat of soapy water. Only this “bubble” was about the size of nine solar systems.
She jogged to catch up to him.
“Aren’t you going to tell me where I am?” she said.
“I’m dead, aren’t I?” she said. “That’s what this is all about. Because I remember lying in bed… I can remember closing my eyes, and—”
The giant interrupted. “You are not dead. There is no such thing.”
“Then where am I?”
She glanced at the glass-bottom floor. She was adrift among the clouds, miles in the air. Beneath her toes was her hometown, and the natural landmarks she’d come to know on earth. Major highways. Trees. Rivers. Mountains. Canyons. The Gulf of Mexico.
They trudged for what seemed like a thousand miles. Or maybe it was only 12 feet. There was really no way to know, time and space sort of mushed together in this place.
Eventually, however, they reached a colossal archway.
They stopped walking.
The gate was taller than the Arc de Triómphe in Paris. Larger than the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, Missouri. She rapped her knuckles on it. It made a deep, bell-like sound. The structure was made of an unrecognizable material, like mother of pearl.
“Where are we now?” she asked.
“This is The Gate,” her tour guide said.
“As in, the Pearly Gate,” he said.
“Do I look like a comedian?”
This guy was definitely no Dangerfield.
Funny. All her life, Tamara had thought the pearly gates were going to look more like the gates to an upscale residential golfing community. But this was something entirely different. This was a national monument.
Stretched across the opening of the arch was a watery, mirror-like surface, obscuring the other side, akin to a vertical pond. It rippled with the vibrations from their voices.
“Am I supposed to walk through this gate?” she asked.
“That’s up to you.”
“What do you mean, ‘Up to me?’ Why are you talking in riddles?”
Again he was silent.
Whole minutes passed as she inspected the arch. She weighed her options carefully. Should she go in? After all, it was her choice he said. Behind her was earth. Behind her was family, her kids, her friends, her hometown. Behind her was Robert.
Before her was… Well. Heaven only knew what was before her.
“Okay,” she said. “I think I’m ready to go in.”
He nodded once, then gestured for her to enter. “After you,” he said.
Tamara took a few deep breaths. She was nervous. Cautiously, she used her foot to dip into the watery surface. Then she plunged through the gate.
With a loud “whoosh!” she was swallowed in brightness. It was like walking through Niagara Falls. She closed her eyes tightly. She grit her teeth. And she allowed herself to become engulfed.
That’s when she heard the explosive cry of a stadium. When she opened her eyes, before her was a multitude of Biblical proportions. Imagine billions—no, katrillions of people. All cheering.
Imagine the crowds from ten million Super Bowls, all crammed together. Now multiply that throng times another couple billion, and you’re still not even close to the size of this assemblage.
Tamara saw souls from all walks. Figures from world history. Infants who had died in the womb. People from the Old Testament. Former Beatles.
She saw Abraham Lincoln, Saint Francis of Assisi, Vincent van Gogh, Harriet Tubman, Nee Tuosheng, Corrie Ten Boom, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Martin Luther King Jr., Teresa Bojaxhiu of Calcutta, John Wayne, Fred Rogers, Don Williams, Billy Graham, Merle Haggard, the Apostle Paul, the entire cast of the “Golden Girls,” and Andy Samuel Griffith.
Then she saw a familiar figure parting through the crowd and approaching her. It was an older woman. The woman threw her arms around Tamara and squeezed her tightly.
“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time,” said Tamara’s mother.
Tamara began to weep. “Where is this place?” she asked for the umpteenth time. “I just want to know where I am.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” her mother said with a smile. “You’re home, dear.”
And so shall she ever be.