I wrote this in response to someone asking me what I think happens when we die. Certain pieces of this image are in fact based in scripture: no more tears, crystal river, new clothes. I think it’s helpful to imagine death as the final adventure in the road-trip of life. Everything that comes before are mere rest stops and en-route encounters along the way. Perhaps the image will ease the mind of someone you know, including you.
I try not to think about how I might die, but honestly, once it’s done, I’m kind of curious about the process of making it to the next world.
I imagine there being something like a big slide, a whoosh tunnel slide, that dumps you into a big huge pile of softness. Like the softest blankets ever. So insanely soft that everyone starts laughing when they hit the blankets, and then starts yelling to each other, Oh My God, this is So Crazy Soft!!!! Then you have to climb out of the softness kind of like if you’re a child trying to climb out of a big feather bed.
And there’s flowers. Every color, every size, some with leaves as big as ponds; petals the size of clouds. They are animated, alive, engaging.
There is music so beautifully memorable it literally carries you forward, seamlessly changing along with the scenery. The air is so pure you want to drink it.
Alongside us on the way is a sparkling clean river; the music continues, from just beneath the surface of the water. Crescendos create mini waves like water-nymph-dancers. Musical notes surf on the waves.
I imagine jumping in and effortlessly floating on down to the next place… Where we find a huge safe trampoline. The kind on water that looks like a big donut cushion. We have to climb out of the river, and run down a hill filled with long soft grasses that tickle our legs. The grasses clap once we pass them, on our way to the trampoline. One by one we jump on the trampoline and get launched to the very gates of heaven.
At the gates, St. Peter IS in fact the bouncer along with Mary Magdalene and Lydia and many others whose stories informed our faith on earth. St. Peter looks at me and smiles, calls me by name and says, “Hey…you made it…come on in. We’ve been waiting for you.” Mary Magdalene embraces me and says, “girrrlll it is so good to see you in the spirit.”
Once inside the gates, everyone you ever loved who has died, plus a billion others, are clapping as you enter. They line the main street, on both sides, the common folk and the famous on earth all together. (Joe Cocker calls me by name and waves.) A street sign points the way to Paradise City. We walk through the middle of the street in a parade with all the other newcomers, who come from all over the world, still dressed as they were, in the middle of whatever they were doing, when they died, but now made whole, strong, complete. Everyone, of every faith and no faith, walks together. There is no distinction separating the people. We move as one body.
Finally, when we get to the end, there’s Jesus, handing out glasses of life-giving water—so fresh; the glass it is in sweats; the ice in the water spins continuously; prisms of light bouncing off the cubes. The glass never runs out; the cubes never melt.
There’s a huge crystal clear swimming pool nearby, and everyone starts shedding their old garments and no one is self-conscious. We put on these incredible new duds, robes, with pockets, that make you feel like you’re not wearing anything at all.
And Jesus says, “Welcome out of the great ordeal and into the place where there are no more tears!” And everyone cheers. He says, our escorts will guide you to your first stop; they already know the way. And suddenly, dogs, cats, horses and other beloved creatures from our earthly lives appear, young and whole and eager to lead us on.
And as I take in these heavenly reunions, I am missing something: the heaviness that accumulated inside me on earth, from a lifetimes of witnessing and absorbing so much tragedy is no more. I am reveling in my newfound lightness of being as Jesus calls my name again, this time to ask me if I’d like to begin the rest of my life by singing in the choir or decorating the suites for newcomers. I reply, “Are you kidding me? I would love to do either!”
Jesus replies, “I know!” And winks.