The Long Story

The phone rings. I hear a click when the old man answers. But no voice.

“Hello?” I say.

But I only hear rustling on the other end of the line. “Hold on!” says the elderly voice. “I’ve dropped my dang phone in the couch!”

So I wait. And wait. I can swear I hear a hand grasping, searching for a dropped phone. Finally the voice comes through. “Phew! Sorry, my phone dropped between my cushions, and I was trying to put my hearing aid in at the same time. Sorry.”

“Is this Stuart?”

“I’m Stuart.”

“Hi, Stuart. I’m calling because your wife said you had a story for me.”

“Yeah, I got a story. Are we ready to start? Do you have a pencil ready?”

“Actually, it’s a gel pen.”

“You gonna ask questions, or should I just start talking?”

I’m thankful he says this because interviews are hard enough for me as it is. But phone interviews are WAY harder when I have to think up more leading questions while simultaneously taking notes. It’s a lot like trying to walk and chew bubblegum while reading Marcel Proust in the original French at the same time.

“You know what, Stuart? You just start talking, I’ll listen.”

He clears his throat. “Okay, but you’ll be sorry. My wife says when you pull my string I can talk for hours.”

Then he proves his point.

“You see, it’s a long story. I’s a kid when it all happened. I fell off a patio balcony, almost two stories down, I don’t remember much. All I know’s I was out cold.”

“I see.”

“So then I hear screaming from my mom, and my little brother, and something’s off, ‘cause I can see them, but I’m floating above them.”

“Floating.” I stopped writing.

“That’s right. Floating. Didn’t anyone warn you I was crazy?” He laughs.

What in God’s name have I gotten myself into.

He continues: “Well, now, it gets kinda weird. I figure I’m dreaming or something, it never registered that I’d fallen. Suddenly I see this nice-looking kid, he’s floating beside me. And I know something’s wrong when this kid tells me he’s my OLDER brother. See, I only have one brother, a younger brother, and he didn’t look anything like this floating angel person.”

Floating angel person.

“So then I says to him, ‘Hey, you’re not my brother.’ And he says, Yuh-huh, my name’s Paul.’

“I’m like, ‘Nuh-uh.’ And then it hits me, where am I? So I say: ‘Hey, wait, am I dead?’ Because at this point, you know, I’m starting to get worried.

“Then Paul says, ‘I want you to follow me.’ So I do. He holds my hand and, well, it wasn’t like—I don’t know—it wasn’t heaven like you think of it, not like in the movies or nothing.”

I ask him to explain.

I hear the old man sigh as though he’s trying to figure out how to explain the mysteries of the cosmos over an iPhone.

He says, “All right, it’s like this. You know how everyone thinks heaven’s up there and we’re down here?”


“Well, in my experience it was like heaven, if that’s what this place was, was all around us, like being in a big aquarium, like heaven’s happening right here, at the same time everything else is going on, not up there far away, but, you know… Here.”

I don’t answer. I don’t know how. I was raised Southern Baptist. We adhered to God, Graham, and Gloria Gaither. We did not talk of celestial aquariums.

So he tries another approach. “Okay, look. You know how bugs have their own tiny world going on? Way down below our feet? And they probably don’t ever think about all the giant humans walking around?”


“Well, then you have outer space, the bugs don’t know about space, do they? No, a bug can’t comprehend Uranus, can he?”

Insert off-color joke here.

“Well,” he goes on. “How about all the micro stuff, bacterial stuff, stuff we can’t see? That’s another world, too. And it’s ALL happening right here in our universe. We’re not aware of those things, but they’re real. In a way, I think heaven’s like that.”

This guy is either a lunatic or brilliant. I can’t decide which.

“So,” I ask, “what was this—ah—new world like?”

“Love. That’s what it was like, brother. It was swimming through the most profound love I ever knew. And this Paul guy, who said he was my brother, he was holding me in his arms, flying, and I’ve never felt more love. Never.”

I’m leaning toward lunatic.

“After a long time, this Paul says to me, ‘Okay, we’re done here. Now go tell your mom what you saw.’

“Only, I don’t wanna go back, I’m lovin’ it here. But Paul says, ‘You gotta go back, you have a job to do.’

“So then—boom!—I open my eyes and I’m covered in blood, and my mom and my REAL brother are standing around me, but I’m okay, just cut up bad. And when I tell my mom about what happened, about the angel and everything, she turns white. Then she starts crying.

“I ask, ‘Mom, what’s wrong?’ And she tells me that before I was born she had a six-month-old baby who died. She named him Paul, but she never told nobody she named him that. Not even my dad.”

He finished his story with a long exhalation.

“Anywho, it happened seventy years ago, I keep thinking about what Paul said to me. Said I had a ‘job’ to do. But I’m old, and still waiting, ‘cause, far as I know, I haven’t done any important job yet.”

“Yes, you have,” I said.


  1. Julie - March 8, 2021 6:43 am

    The old man finally got his story told after 70 years! And the message for us, from his older brother Paul, is that HEAVEN is all about LOVE.
    We know his story is true, because their Mom “never told nobody she named him that.”
    The message for her is that her baby boy is one of God’s Angels.
    Today’s column, Sean, is a Double Winner

  2. Roxanne - March 8, 2021 6:44 am

    I love this story, because it verifies for me something I’ve long believed–that heaven is all around us, and that the people we love who die are not far away. God is not far away. Heaven is not far away. And we get glimpses of it–if we pay attention, we can see them–even if we don’t fall off a balcony. Thank you for this. His words were almost the exact ones I’ve used before, but I never experienced what he did.

    • Pilgrim - March 8, 2021 6:43 pm


  3. beth - March 8, 2021 7:05 am

    Every time I read your newest blog I tell myself I won’t shed a tear this time. It’s a little game I play with myself, knowing I’ll lose but in the most tender and appreciative way, because ever since I stumbled upon your blog a couple months ago each and every single one of your writings gets to me. Love your sweet, humble, and poignant writing style and perspectives. God bless you.

  4. Susan Parker - March 8, 2021 7:28 am

    You were right, he’s doing his job. My folks always said God had “a purpose” for my life. At 61, I can say I have never done anything extraordinary. But what I believe, is that some of us have jobs to do that look more like a lot of small things instead of one big mission.
    Thanks for telling his story!

  5. Bob Brenner - March 8, 2021 12:20 pm

    Pure heaven for sure❤️😇

  6. Marvin P Rozear - March 8, 2021 12:25 pm

    I am a Neurologist. I work at the Durham (N.C.) VA Medical Center. One day an intern and I were checking a nice old vet in his 70s or early 80s. He was a retired tobacco farmer, with medical problems that predicted that he wasn’t going to live much longer. We talked about that. I frequently try to get to know our patients- personally, not just their diseases. It seemed he could tell we were listeners. He said “I want to tell you something that I never told anyone before, but it’s been on my mind lately. When I was 6 or 7, I had a tonsillectomy. During the procedure, they said I died and they just barely brought me back.” Then he told me a story that was almost identical to your story about Paul. He added “I never told anybody about that because I figured they would think I was crazy, but I always wanted to tell someone. And you’re the first people I felt like I could tell. I feel like I can trust you and you won’t think I’m not crazy. And I know I don’t have much more time to tell it.” I assured him that I believed every word he said, that other people have reported similar “near-death” experiences. He expressed relief that he had finally told his story and somebody believed him. I felt like the most honored person on the planet.

  7. Bar - March 8, 2021 1:05 pm

    Sean, I’m glad there’s you … my sadly hardened heart is beginning to mellow because of you.

  8. Leigh R Amiot - March 8, 2021 1:17 pm

    Stuart is both brilliant and observant and full of faith and confidence to share this story. I am thankful I was raised on personal testimonies and stories of faith involving the mysteries of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe every word of Stuart’s story and the story of the tobacco farmer shared by the doctor above. There is so much more to this world than meets the eye, and it has to be discerned in Spirit.

  9. Heidi - March 8, 2021 1:26 pm

    Thank you for your stories Sean. They give me hope.

  10. Dean - March 8, 2021 1:50 pm

    Thanks for sharing his story. I passed out due to a low blood sugar and i felt like I was floating and everything was so peaceful. I believe the stories people share

  11. Carolyn Waldron - March 8, 2021 2:39 pm

    Wow! Bless his heart… and yours? Sean!

  12. Chasity Davis Ritter - March 8, 2021 2:55 pm

    It’s not a mistake to read your blogs when I’m eating but it does tend to make the food a bit more salty. I think Stuart is exactly right about Heaven. Not about a year after we lost my Husbands dad then it was time for his uncle to go. About a week before it happened his uncle was taken to a place like that and it was my father in law that met him there. When he came back briefly he told his wife he wasn’t scared at all that it was a wonderful place and he was ready to go there. I think with Heaven being all around it’s one of the reasons that we can feel our loved ones with us from time to time too. I know my Dad is my with me often. Thanks for sharing Stuart’s story with us today. Job well done for both of you!

  13. Patricia Schmaltz - March 8, 2021 3:02 pm

    Sean.. I totally agree with Stuart. It’s all around us. Give Stuart my love. Save some for you and your family too!

  14. Phil (Brown Marlin) - March 8, 2021 3:09 pm

    Super story, and who are we to doubt this man’s credibility? God’s ways are not our ways. Suggested reading: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper.

  15. Mark3:26 - March 8, 2021 3:24 pm

    Sean… you have done a wonderful job of expressing an idea that I have been feeling was true for a very long time. Thank you and I’ll share this with a other people and hopefully they will get it!

  16. Liz Watkins - March 8, 2021 3:30 pm

    A job well done, Stuart❤️🙏🏻🙏🏻❤️

  17. Dee Thompson - March 8, 2021 3:40 pm

    I lost my mom last year, to Covid. What made it bearable was knowing that she is now in heaven with my dad, her brother, my grandparents, etc. I feel my parents around me sometimes, especially when I am stressed. I will get a whiff of Dad’s aftershave, or see a red cardinal in the window, or just remember what it felt like to hug them. There is simply a thin veil between the worlds, I know. Mom wasn’t afraid to die. She had great faith. I miss her terribly but I am comforted in knowing she is in a world filled with love, surrounded by those who love her. / Thanks so much for sharing this, Sean. God Bless You.

    • Linda H - March 8, 2021 4:48 pm

      This was so beautifully said. THANK YOU for sharing. Lost my mom about 3 years ago and I feel her (and my dad) so close to me sometimes. I can relate to smelling my dad’s aftershave (Old Spice). These feelings don’t scare me; they make me feel safe. God bless you and may you find peace.

  18. Bob E - March 8, 2021 3:43 pm

    I believe…there are too many similar stories around to ignore or discount them all or to conclude that the story-tellers are nuts.

  19. Linda H - March 8, 2021 4:46 pm

    I love this story … it aligns with what I think heaven is … you’re still here but on a different “plane” and the people you love are there right by your side. As the old man said, hard to explain but it’s what I believe. THANK YOU for another great read. Made my day a lot brighter.

  20. meg widmer - March 8, 2021 5:28 pm

    I tend to be a very literal person…and I have been told that many times over my lifetime. Despite this quality, I have had numerous ‘unexplainable, moving, spiritual’ moments that are not explainable in our day-to-day life. I have learned to accept them. I have also spent way too many sleepless nights trying to understand what I have experienced. In the end, I have learned to just accept and remember the feelings that I had, and what I learned in those moments. I have come to believe that it is not necessary for me to dissect and understand every one of these experiences. God is talking to me…I always learn something and I feel total acceptance and love. Who could want more? Why question? Just accept and be thankful. Thank you for writing this piece and letting many of us who experience such things that it is o.k. to experience and it is o.k. to share those experiences. Love your posts.

  21. turtlekid - March 8, 2021 6:20 pm

    This gives me chills! I believe!

  22. Martha Black - March 8, 2021 6:30 pm

    Yes, he has………

  23. Linda Moon - March 8, 2021 7:54 pm

    I like gel pens. They write so smoothly as I pull and push, using wonderful third-grade cursive writing strokes taught by Miss Mary Poor. The four “G” words you mentioned were taught to me, too. I’ve continued to learn from One. Now, I also learn from Einstein’s Cosmos, D’Souza, and Proust. My son never met my daddy who called me by a special nickname. So when I got a one-word text from my son with my nickname from a granddaddy he never met, I knew that a “job” was completed. Thank you, Son and Daddy. Thank you, Stuart….and Sean for telling his story.

  24. LKW - March 8, 2021 10:20 pm

    This post reminds me of the Wim Wenders film ‘Wings of Desire,’ and I can’t help but think we’ve all had a glimpse of “the other side” in our daily lives. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

  25. MAM - March 8, 2021 10:33 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for sharing Stuart’s story!

    • Ruth Harris - March 9, 2021 8:31 pm

      Thank you

  26. Patricia Gibson - March 9, 2021 4:31 pm

    What an awesome story❤️❤️

  27. Ruth Harris - March 9, 2021 8:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story. What are the four “g words”?

  28. aperry - March 9, 2021 10:19 pm

    Oh Sean… what a wonderful story or tale… who cares. Moved me to tears. Thank you for sharing! Rock on my friend rock on

  29. Larry E. May - March 16, 2021 12:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing. God is Love.


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