One day in the '70's or '80's (time is NOT of the essence in this), I had faced an unending "parade" of depleting circumstances. That day on the job had left me physically and emotionally drained. After supper and a shower, I literally dropped into bed.
I hoped for a swift onset of deep, restful slumber, but was given instead, a recap of the days mistakes and failures, followed by a session of "borrowing from tomorrow" as I anticipated a newer edition of the frustration it was sure to bring.
Almost suddenly, I went to sleep. I did not have the deep, restful sleep I wanted, but rather, a troubled sleep...full of disturbing, threatening and, in the end, calming dreams.
The dream began with me in prison, on death row. I was soon to be executed for a crime I never learned the nature of, but of which I was obviously guilty. I felt a mixture of remorse and relief. I was sorry that my deeds would bring my life to such an ignoble conclusion, but glad that my parents were not alive to witness the disgrace my passing in this manner would create.
I do not know how long I had been in prison, I could not remember ever being "free". It was as if I had been trapped inside some confining environment forever. I was not abjectly uncomfortable with my existence, even though I longed for "better" and wished I did not have to endure death. I was not beaten, tortured, mocked or made to feel inferior. I KNEW there had been choices to make, but I had made bad ones, used poor judgement and now my date with the executioner was near.
That day arrived and I was led from my place of incarceration outdoors and into a pleasant courtyard. There, I chatted amiably with my "handlers" who seemed ill-at-ease in having to carry out my sentence. They neither handcuffed nor shackled me. Their attitude, though remorseful, seemed almost...envious, as if I were elevating to a level of greater understanding. THEY, envious of ME? At a time like THIS?
As we exited the courtyard, I was aware of the brilliance of the day, but do not recall seeing or feeling the sunshine. It was odd, too, that nothing cast a shadow. It was as if the light saturated and permeated every nook and cranny. ALL corners were exposed to the lght. Everything was revealed and open to the scrutiny of this brilliant, yet pleasing sense of light.
Just beyond our place of exit, I saw a section of railroad track. It stretched straight and true, inclining ever so slightly upward, until the two rails merged into one at the inevitable "vanishing point" in the distance. At the end of the track, near where we stood, a plain, wood-floored flatcar nudged gently against a bulkhead. The flatcar seemed to be outfitted with an assortment of comfortable-looking chairs.
As I looked, I was urged gently but firmly, toward the railroad flatcar. I was helped aboard and directed toward the most elaborate chair. It was evident we weren't going anywhere. We were just going to sit as they devised a method of execution. There was no locomotive or any sort of "power" to get us underway up that incline.
Those thoughts had no sooner appeared than we began to move. We "glided" along the rails. There was no clackety-clack of metal to metal contacting of components. We moved silently and effortlessly. Our easy and friendly conversation resumed, but the brows of my companions were furrowed with distaste for their upcoming chore.
The trip was long but uneventful; except for that light. I searched for our shadow as we sped along, but there was none. We were too vulnerable, too exposed to cast even a shadow.
The flatcar began to reduce speed and to gradually stop. I was assisted off the right side of the car, down a long flight of steps and onto level ground several feet lower than the railroad, which appeared to end here. I looked toward the embankment and saw a narrow opening, barely the size a man could stand upright and walk into.
The business at hand was to be handled at once and the method of my execution was explained to me. I woulkd be lacerated in places that would cause sufficient loss of blood to kill me. I was told to stretch forth my hands, and the veins in the backs of my hands were cut open. As I watched my blood spurting onto the ground, I wondered how long it would take, whether they would leave me here or take me back down the track.
Soon I felt myself being urged 'gently but firmly' toward that man-sized opening in the face of the embankment. I was told to walk in and keep walking. As I went deeper into the opening, I became aware of my weakening from loss of blood. I assumed this was to be my tomb. The resting place of a felon, deep within the bowels of the Earth, there to repose until Judgement Day.
Then I saw a glimmer in the distance ahead of me. I walked toward it...or it toward me; the crossing was quick. Suddenly I burst out into the Presence of that Light, again. I saw people standing nearby who welcomed me. I had not seen them before but knew them all. We shook hands and I looked down at my own blood-stained hands to find them clean. My clothes were comfortable, clean and fresh; unstained by the blood which had course off my fingertips a short time before. It did not occur to me to look for family and friends, I was in the Presence of ALL it would ever take to fulfill my need for Companionship. These were my new family, my Heavenly family. Like me, they had come through the tribulations and confinements of life and had been brought Home.
I saw no robes, or halos, or crowns. No one appeared to have wings. Many actions were familiar and comfortanle. Then my "Conveyance" arrived with the door already opened. It had no top or windows. It had no accelerator, no brake pedal and no steering wheel. It simply went as it chose. There was no engine noise and no exhaust fumes. No dents, scratches or even dust marred its beautiful finish, which reminded me of rubies. We toured the city which had no stores, no boisterous crowds, no homeless asleep in doorways and no unpleasant odors or sounds.
As I thought of the wondrous beauty around me, I was transported to a mountaintop and saw the grandeur of His pure and unadulterated Nature. His beaches and oceanfromts were spotless, the sands were crushed diamonds, to be trodden underfoot. There stately palm trees swayed gently in the breeze, but in His Light, cast no shadows. I was moved to the brink of tears, which seemed to stop at the source of their beginning.
I was not shown my abiding place, but feared not where I might spend the night...there would be no night. Time was unimportant as I realized the endlessness of eternity and rejoiced in reaching this Haven of Rest.
As my "Conveyance" toured me about, we came to endless, rolling meadows. In the distance, I saw an object on a hillside, that simply could NOT be what it appeared to be. It looked like a piano, but no one would leave such a fine instrument outdoors. Closer examination showed it WAS a piano, and it WAS outdoors. The ivory was not warped by the elements. The finish was not spotted by rain or dew. I had long envied those who played well, and chastised myself for the times I had not availed myself of the opportunity lo learn. On impulse, I sat down and played that piano. I didn't miss a note. They were all mine. I commanded them!
Then I woke up.
Yes, it had been just a dream. But I had had a time of clean hands, and of fellowship with others who had clean hands. And, no, there were no lacerations on the backs of my hands, but did I awake with the same perceptions of life that had tortured me when first I lay down? No. I have been forever affected by that dream of Heaven, and have purposed in my heart that I will experience that reality when my journey "up the rails" is over. There is now the realization and assurance that the 'crossing' will be well-attended; that it will not be a time of dread but a time of rejoicing as that higher plane of understanding is reached.
I will stand in the Presence of that Light and will not make a shadow. I will see all that my dream revealed and MORE, and all I have heard about. I will shed no tears, I will not experience long torturous nights and days of pain and discomfort....
I always enjoyed reading Howard's poems, written in his unique style. His closeness with the Lord made his passing so much easier and I think that is why his last piece to us was so different and so reassuring.
I am absolutely overwhelmed by the timeliness of this writing and the sure knowledge that Howard is enjoying heaven. He left a trace of it behind to give us hope and encouragement. That is so like him and God!
Thank you Jesus!
I am crying as I read this last submission from our dear friend, Howard. May he be playing that piano for the King for all eternity. As a tribute to this precious brother, we will be including this article in the April Issue of FaithWriters' Magazine. I will miss Howard's gentle spirt so much, but he has touched so many lives with his beautiful poems and messages. Thank you Howard for being a blessing to so many. Well done, good and faithful servant. With much love, Deb (Editor, FaithWriters' Magazine and Challenge Coordinator)