People always said there would be no tears in this place. When she was still living on Earth, everyone said this. Preachers said it. Sunday school teachers said it. There were songs written about it.
But she’s here now. And she definitely sees people nearby who are having some tearful reunions. Interesting.
What a beautiful place, this heaven. It looks like a scene too grand for Hollywood to produce. Nobody could capture this. It would be like trying to fit the glory of Hawaii into a single postage-stamp. And, hey, Hawaii looks like a municipal landfill compared to these digs.
She’s been imagining heaven ever since she lost her husband. She hasn’t seen him in 30-some years.
When she first met him she was a girl. It was World War II. He he was skinny, handsome, and his smile was 2,300 watts. It was a big dance. She wore a nice dress. The band started playing something uptempo and the young man asked if she would do him the honor. He presented his hand. She took it.
Her first words to the gentleman were, “Can you Jitterbug?”
He laughed. “Can I? You’d better believe it.”
That man. That beautiful man. They were married forever. Then he died and left her alone. After his funeral she spent the rest of her life wondering about this divine realm.
Now she stands in a single-file line of souls, they are all waiting to get in the gates.
Funny. People on Earth used to call them “pearly gates.” And she always assumed they would look like the entrance to one of those snobby private neighborhoods. The kind with the golf courses, fitness centers, and electric carts. But these gates are made of marbled light. The actually glow.
Something else she never realized was how dark Earth is compared to the brightness of heaven. Although it does make sense when you think about it. Earth is only lit by a distant ball of hydrogen and helium that floats 91.766 million miles away in outer space. Which is like trying to illuminate Cleveland by using a single flashlight.
Ah, but this place. It puts the Earth to shame. Not just the scenery. Although certainly, it’s pretty here—it looks like Yosemite on steroids. But there is something else. The people. They look more at ease. More rested somehow.
Then it dawns on her. Life on Earth was never about rest. It wasn’t about ease, either. It was about survival. That’s what our species does.
From the moment we are born we’re programmed to survive. Breathe. Eat. Drink. Make children. Jockey for a good position. Win, baby, win. Trudge. Labor. Eke. Fight. Scrape. Fuss, fuss. Work, work.
Humans are incapable of understanding life without this struggle. Our minds are not ready. It would be like a duck trying to comprehend the rules of Scrabble. We never stop straining. Our heart never takes a break from beating. Our brain always fires. We blink 19,200 times per day, for crying out loud.
But in this place there is no effort. No labor. No earning a living, no doing dishes, no laundry. There is no money to be made. No lack. No hunger. Thus, there is no anger, avarice, pride, or daytime television.
And even though she was vaguely aware of all this ooey-gooey love on Earth, now she’s INSIDE it. It’s no longer a concept here. It’s real. It’s the difference between looking at a postcard of the Great Barrier Reef, versus swimming through it as an anemonefish.
Here, sounds are sharper. Smells are so thick they swallow you. Her vision is so crystalline that she can see for 10,000 miles.
Which is how she is able to see him.
There he is.
She recognizes him right away. Even though he’s far off she sees him standing near the gate, hands in his pockets, like he’s waiting for someone.
Look at him. He’s as handsome as he always was. She’s been living without him for a lifetime. She never remarried because why would she? He was everything to her. He had always been everything. And she had missed him something awful.
All of a sudden emotion takes over. She can’t control herself. She breaks away from the long single-file line of souls. Now she is running toward him—which is probably against celestial rules, but she doesn’t care. She’s been waiting a long time for this.
She notices that her knees don’t hurt, her hips feel brand new, and her feet aren’t aching. Mid-stride her hair begins changing from coarse silver into flaxen. Her eyes become younger until they are like a baby’s. Her figure changes. Soon, she is lean and lithe, like a little bird. Like a teenager.
He’s only a few feet away now. He sees her running like a fugitive boxcar. He smiles. She leaps toward him and throws herself into his arms. There are tears falling from her eyes. And from his eyes, too. Big, huge, sopping, drippy, soaking, wonderful tears that wet the 24-karat streets like a miniature Mississippi River. The tears keep coming so strongly that she cannot see through them.
Then. Music in the far-off distance begins to play. A fanfare. They are announcing her arrival into the Great Beyond with French horns, bugels, and trombones. The trumpet call is incredible. The whole sky turns into sound.
The young man presents his hand.
She takes his hand. She gives him a watery smile that is filled with decades of pent-up sadness, loneliness, and always wearing a brave face. And the words just come easily. Like she’s been waiting fifty lifetimes to say them.
“Can you Jitterbug?” she asks.
He wipes her cheek. And well, the look on his face says that he most certainly can.
Rest in Peace, Miss Hilda.
Patricia Harris - November 25, 2020 10:09 am
That is how I see my husband greeting me in Heaven. You’ve captured my dreams. I lost him a little less than 2 years ago through Alzheimer’s disease. 56 plus years of marriage. A fine man. A beautiful man. Excellent husband, loving father, grandfather, brother, son and grandson. Met him at 15, married him at 19. Struggled through college and subsequent careers. Ten years later started our own family and kept working. Now two fine women have five grandkids, wonderful husbands he would have bern proud of. Unlike her, I hope to find a néw love on earth, but my darling Bernie will always be my one true live and will be the first I seek in Heaven.
ernie kelly - November 25, 2020 11:48 am
What a sweet tribute. And gloriously hopeful image.
oldtimedan - November 25, 2020 12:18 pm
Not that it is a contest, it isn’t but I have to say this story raises an already high bar , coming and going, for your story telling and writing. Mighty fine sir, mighty fine!
Nancy - November 25, 2020 12:34 pm
Oh Sean, your stories are Always good, but this one…WOW! I think God had a tear flowing down his cheek. Thank you, Sir!
Sue Rhodus - November 25, 2020 12:40 pm
Your description of being inside love says it all. Beautifully written, and exactly how it will be. Be Blessed this season as Ms.Hilda is.
Joy Slegers - November 25, 2020 12:55 pm
Hilda was an angel on earth too. So sweet and loving. When she got the news that she didn’t have long to live she called my husband and said, “guess what, John, I have good news. I’m going home.” What a beautiful testimony. Loved you, Hilda.
Tim the Tarheel - November 25, 2020 1:04 pm
Beautiful! Have you read, The Great Divorce by C S Lewis? I think you would love his imagery of heaven (and hell).
MR - November 25, 2020 1:09 pm
Beautiful, Sean. Thanks for reminding us all that we are just visiting this planet.
Jan - November 25, 2020 1:29 pm
Christine A Sharp - November 25, 2020 2:01 pm
Thank you! I am now feeling a little lighter in the heart and mind! Peace and wellness to you!
Kathy - November 25, 2020 2:03 pm
I’m sorry. I have to disagree. There will be no lines there. Lines are hellacious.
Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder - November 25, 2020 2:09 pm
That is a wonderful story about two loving souls meeting each other in Heaven and reuniting for good!
Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving!
Jo Ann - November 25, 2020 2:19 pm
kathdedon - November 25, 2020 2:19 pm
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - November 25, 2020 2:31 pm
You gave me chillbumps! That really does sound like Heaven! Good for Hilda.
Steve - November 25, 2020 2:34 pm
Well, this one just moved into my top spot of favorites. Gog bless and Happy Thanksgiving to you and Jamie!
Sonya Tuttle - November 25, 2020 2:36 pm
Words fail me. Your fanciful dreams of how Heaven will be sound so real. Thanks for a glimpse into the “Hereafter” ✝️🌈💜
Phil (Brown Marlin) - November 25, 2020 2:36 pm
Thank you, Sean. God bless all the Miss Hildas. I have known several. A few still live here in the “Church Militant.” It’s no wonder Tom Brokaw called them and their spouses The Greatest Generation.
Pat Thomason - November 25, 2020 2:43 pm
That might be the closest a mere mortal can come to describing heaven. Thanks.
Laurie Ulrich - November 25, 2020 2:44 pm
This was just beautiful~
Dave Conkle - November 25, 2020 2:55 pm
Thank you Sean
Barbara Vallejo - November 25, 2020 3:17 pm
Thank you for touching our hearts again.
Dee - November 25, 2020 3:50 pm
What a wonderful tribute to Miss Hilda and the love of her life!! I’m crying tears of happiness for them now. You made my day again, Sean!!
Rhonda - November 25, 2020 4:20 pm
Thank you, thank you!
Tom Wallin - November 25, 2020 5:00 pm
Beautiful, the pictures you paint and you too Sean, you are beautiful – inside and out. That is why we love you so much. You strike the right chord in us every time you write something. Bless you and Miss Hilda. I can see her dancing. Thanks and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Linda Moon - November 25, 2020 5:02 pm
Jitterbug! I haven’t thought of that dance in years, and I believed in it, too. Some of us humans are good dancers who understand life’s struggles. It takes effort to dance well and to live LIFE well. Miss Hilda did both. I’ll be looking for her one day and also for a cigarette-stained hand that will reach out to me. Rest, Miss Hilda. And keep on resting, Daddy.
Ben Saye - November 25, 2020 5:31 pm
Wonderful piece this morning. You described Heaven as I always have felt it is. We will be at the apex of our life. In the best shape and peak of our life on earth, youth will be with us again and most all at peace with everything.
Ken P - November 25, 2020 5:35 pm
During this season, as we run this rat race here. This is one more thing to remember and be thankful for. That such a place exists, and is for us. Reunions happening daily. Peace and Love forever there. Thanks Sean!
Donna Ivy - November 25, 2020 6:15 pm
We just buried my father-in-law today. We imagine he had the same welcome from his bride of 59 years. Rest In Peace Papaw Ed. Rest In Peace Mrs. Hilda.
Johnny Payne - November 25, 2020 8:14 pm
They are all good but this is one of your best!!
Anne Arthur - November 25, 2020 8:37 pm
Love, love, love it. RIP Ms. Hilda. That was some tribute!
kathleenivy - November 26, 2020 1:12 am
Amen Sean, amen.
Marilyn Hardy - November 26, 2020 1:16 am
Sean. You just have that special touch. Thank you.
Harriet - November 26, 2020 2:16 am
You write like you have been to heaven before. This is more then a story, this is god using your typewriter to speak to us. Truly amazing work.
Dee Garbarino - November 26, 2020 3:13 am
Having just lost my husband, this was just what I needed. I will wait patiently until the day God calls me home.Thank you
Shane Dowdney - November 26, 2020 3:17 am
My Mawmaw died in April and I have been really struggling the past couple of days. Some of the things that you wrote about are things that she and I talked about sometimes. She and I were very close. I really appreciate this story. You can’t believe how much I needed to read it.
Rita Wood - November 26, 2020 4:07 am
A beautiful tribute.
Maggie Kruger - November 26, 2020 3:13 pm
So sweet you made me cry thank you 🍁
Robert Chiles - November 26, 2020 4:52 pm
So wonderfully said, but I can’t help thinking of the Far Side with two lines- “Welcome to heaven, here’s your harp,” and “Welcome to hell, here’s your bagpipe.”
Sheri - November 27, 2020 1:11 am
Sean, that was so . . . I can’t come up with a good enough descriptive word! You can take an ordinary moment and make it extraordinary! (Not that this was an ordinary moment.) I love your heart and thank God I found your blog!! You make my day. May God continue to bless you (and your readers thru you). I hope you and Jamie had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Heather Miller - November 27, 2020 5:32 am
Beautiful, Sean. Just plain beautiful.
Gladys R Harris - November 27, 2020 3:46 pm
“Just plain beautiful”.a powerful writer! I have been reading your writing for along time.THANK YOU SEAN!
Margaret Ohmie - December 2, 2020 7:06 pm
What a wonderful story, it warms my heart
To hear different things that people say makes me feel more and more amazed of Gods beautiful home that awaits us. Right now I’m reading a book called (My Time In Heaven) my grandson past July 2019 and sometimes it feels like yesterday. I pray he is in heaven and this beautiful place met him with the open arms of Jesus and my mom too he loved her so much. Thank you so much for your wonderful story.when I was close to dying once years ago I dreamed I was walking hand in hand with my grandpa that had been dead for twelve years prior. It was so awesome and so real. Woke up crying because it was so beautiful and so cool to be with him. But in my dream I was about ten years old again. It felt so real I didn’t want to wake up. But he kept telling me everything would be okay not to worry. I was told I had five months to two years to live that was in 1995 I have five grown kids, twelve grandchildren and one great grandson and the most wonderful husband a lady could ever ask for.
Thank you. Hope I can read more
Kathie Barr - December 5, 2020 2:34 pm
ahh ! this is it !!! you captured my soul here, like u i write with too many commas, who cares ! I lost the love of my life a year and a half ago, i have been haunted lately about how on God’s green earth or heaven for that matter will i ever find him ? of all the trillions of people that left this earth before us how ? this post hit the nail on the head, I myself am a blogger and love to write but not lately even got a book published thru amazon. I met my soulmate in high school and we were together nearly 50 years before he left his painful earthly body, I miss him more than i can ever put into words, a friend sent me this article and i am now a true fan you are a very awe inspiring writer and i am so grateful that i found your work in this lifetime, keep up the excellent work Sean for you know not what meaning it has to others. KB3
Julier - December 19, 2020 2:40 pm
It has only been four years since I lost the love of my life, but it feels like forever. Each day is a challenge to get through without him. You have painted such a wonderful picture of Heaven…it gives me what I need to forge ahead, knowing what awaits!!
Melissa Williams - January 30, 2021 9:00 pm
I hope this is what it was like for my Mamma. She married ny Pop innOctober of 1945. He was 22 and just out of the Navy and she was 19. They were married 60 years before he got too sick fir them to live together and 61 before he passed. She joined him 11 months later. I hope they are dancing and singing duets again now like they used to when I was a little girl.