Light surrounded her. A second later, her room, her family and the bed she was lying in completely disappeared. Light was all there was, sheer white, more brilliant than the sun. She marveled at her ability to look directly at it without its intensity hurting her eyes.
Weightlessness replaced gravity, suspending her in the air. There was peace! All of her burdens, all her pain, simply dissolved. At first, she wasn’t sure she was seeing flecks of color that faded into the light, until the light was color, vibrant and full of tones she never knew existed. The history of her life flashed before her, the good history. For a moment she saw herself lying in her bed, with her family around her, crying. She closed her eyes.
Opening her eyes, she was startled to find herself standing on a hill overlooking a landscape that was richly green, breathtakingly beautiful. Instantly, she had the desire to share this miraculous place with her loved ones. A familiar bark broke her thoughts. She turned to see her golden retriever, Daisy bounding up the hill toward her. Falling to her knees she opened her arms wide. Daisy fell into them knocking her over, licking her face. The dog’s body shook with joy, thumping its tail against her leg. Tears streamed down her face. In her whole life, she had never experienced a surprise that exceeded this moment.
Someone called her name. Recognizing the voice, she turned and saw her mother walking toward her. She ran to her and they fell into each other’s arms, filled with the joy loved ones feel when reuniting after a very long separation. They talked for a while, catching up on the details of each other’s lives. Then her mother said, “Come, I want to take you to the Banquet Hall,” pointing to a brilliant city that suddenly appeared far in the horizon. The city spread vast and wide and was bejeweled with golden light. “It’s in that massive building with the big towers,” her mother said.
They walked down the hill toward the city. Daisy at her heals just like old times. They passed a heard of horses grazing. Two of them lifted their heads as they walked by, grass hanging from their mouths. The sky was crystal clear, full of colorful birds taking flight. They looked like tiny ornaments flying, perching in the trees.
They entered the city through a gate. People greeted her as she walked by. Her mother led her down streets paved in gold, which paled in comparison to the architecture and precious jewels used to construct the buildings. They stepped into the Banquet Hall and she was startled to find it full of people busting about. Busy with the preparations for an unfathomable number of guest. Interior decorators worked on beautifying the hall, all in perfect harmony.
The hall was full of delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, produced by Chefs preparing food. She realized she was hungry. Waiters burst through the kitchen, swinging doors carrying trays full of edibles for the workers to sample. They even gave Daisy a bite. Florists arranged flowers. A construction crew hung fresh garlands from the rafters. The sweet smell of the flowers and greenery impacted her. How long it had been since she pressed her nose to a rose and the rose possessed the sweet rose scent? She realized, that heaven was a place of fruitfulness where a person’s gifts flourished. A flush of anticipation rushed through her as she realized that that her own gifts would flourish too.
Her attention fell on the multitude of banquet tables filling the hall. Some of them were exquisitely adorned. Row-upon-row of table settings carefully prepared. The people working on them radiated a spirit of great joy and anticipation. In fact, anticipation filtered through the air.
Taking her hand, her mother led her through a maze of tables, “We’re preparing for the celebration,” she said, “The banquet that will take place once the whole family has arrived.” They came to a stop in front of an elaborate place setting she knew her mother had prepared for her. And she realized, heaven had foreseen her arrival!
To her right, the table settings were a spectacular sight, exceeding the enchantment of any holiday décor she had ever seen. Each place setting was designed to represent the uniqueness of the person it was made for. Individual, yet connected, like a giant puzzle.
In contrast, the left side of the table was stark and bare, lacking any embellishment at all. Somehow, she knew who the empty places were for—her family still on earth! Instantly, she missed them with a grief so intense, she thought her heart would break.
Understanding, her mother whispered in her ear, “We left their preparations for you. I know this is difficult, but He will help you with this grief. What He will show you is thrilling!” Her mother took her into her arms, holding her the way she had done so many times when she was a little girl.
A great commotion drew everyone’s attention outside. Anticipation intensified as if the air were charged by an electrical current. Excited, her mother grasped her hand exclaiming, “He’s coming for you—to see you!”
At once her knees weakened. A tremor shot through her body as she tried to process what her mother said. She felt so insignificant, how could He possibly take the time to see just her?” Her heart fluttered with nervous anticipation. How should she behave? What should she say? Years of faith had not prepared her for this moment—the moment when you see Jesus face-to-face!
The adults around her stepped reverently aside. But the children abandoned their play and ran to Him calling out His name. He ruffled their hair and touched each little hand reaching for His, giving each of them a bit of attention. Then He looked up and His eyes linked with hers. Time instantaneously stood still, as her passion from a lifetime of faith received its reward. Opening His arms, He called out her name.
He smelled like the seasons combined, the blossoms of spring and the sweetness of summer’s grass, the pungency of autumn’s leaves and the frost of a freshly fallen snow. Their communion was intimate—void of all words. She melted in His embrace and once again the desire for her family entered her heart.
And then, quite unexpectedly, she saw her family on earth, all of them, congregated together consoling each other, filled with sorrow over her passing. She witnessed firsthand how important she was to her family, how appreciated and loved.
Next, He showed her His plan for the future of her family. She was filled with such awe that every concern of hers dissolved in the knowledge that one day all her loved ones would be reunited, her husband, children, grandchildren and future generations to come. She had prayed for them and He was answering her prayers. Together they would dine at the table she helped prepared for them, and when they crossed over, she would be there to greet them rejoicing over each new arrival. There was so much joy to look forward too!
Tenderly, Jesus took her face in His hands, brushing away the tears streaming down her cheeks, “Your journey has just begun,” He said. His broad smile caused her to laugh. They were like two conspirators sharing an intimate secret.
“I have so many questions,” she confessed, “I don’t know where to begin.”
“I have the answers,” He replied, “and all the time in the world.”
He led her to His favorite tree, where they sat under its shade on a soft bed of moss. They talked for hours. He was unhurried, answering her questions, telling her jokes. And then she realized… there was only one thing… only one you could take to heaven with you—the people that you love!