Ben was glad he had booked this trip in advance. The line at the entrance was lengthy. He heard this was an exceptionally popular place. Traveling, going to places of interest and seeing the sights had been a prime passion of his since childhood. It had also been a common source of pleasure and happiness he shared with his wife Nita for forty four years – until she died three years ago. Oh, the majestic wonders they had witnessed together. His particular favorite had to be the Biltmore estate in North Carolina. Nita’s was the Grand Canyon.
Ben grieved a long time over the loss of his companion. Even all interest in sightseeing vanished. Then last fall some friends at church convinced him to accompany them on a trip to the Holy Land - one place he and Nita had talked about really wanting to visit, but never got around to it. It was magnificent, impossible to accurately describe with mere words. Although an awesome experience and he enjoyed himself, something seemed to be lacking. At times Ben tried to imagine Nita walking beside him and could almost feel her soft, delicate hand in his. He knew she was now in a place of no pain or illness, but he still missed her so.
The line moved and Ben stepped forward. He looked around. The landscape on the outside here was impeccable. He could not visualize how it must look on the inside. The walk way appeared to be new and so clean one could eat from it. No flattened multicolor wads of chewing gum or cigarette filters. The flowers along the walls were some of the most beautiful he had ever seen. Colors so vivid and diverse, dazzling reds, deepest blues, brilliant yellows and variations he could not describe - he wondered if they were artificial. He would have to examine them more closely. Some sparkled in the light as if made from glass. And the fragrance, oh my, a gentle breeze continually wafted the aroma to his olfactory. Ben breathed in slow and deep, eyes closed. It was so refreshing he wanted to inhale forever without ceasing.
Opening his eyes he realized he was quite nearer the entrance now. So close he could hear music from inside, a happy toe-tapping tune that sounded vaguely familiar, though at this distance he heard mostly the percussion rhythm. Observing the walls around the entrance they looked to be of polished stone or some new type of marble composite - stunning. Having been an architect for thirty years he noticed these things. The deep swirling patterns, barely visible, practically seemed to dance beneath the surface.
The flight here was quick and smooth, though he was nervous at first. Ben believed in keeping both feet on the ground, so to speak. ‘If men were meant to fly they would have been born with wings’ was his motto on the subject. But following his pastor’s suggestion he just relaxed eyes shut and quietly sang a favorite old hymn… ‘I will meet you… in the morning… with a how do you do…’ It worked. He fell asleep and when he awoke the trip was over.
The sky was unusually clear and bright. Not a cloud in sight. And though the mid day light was so intense, the temperature was perfect – around sixty eight to seventy degrees, he guessed.
Finally he reached the gate. Yes, he was very glad he booked this trip in advance.
“Name?” the attendant asked, looking at the list.
“Goodman, Benjamin A. Goodman.”
“Ah, there you are. Welcome, Ben. Welcome.”
Ben was overwhelmed as he stepped through the gate. Yes, he had heard about this place, but nothing could have prepared him. Just inside was an expansive meadow of perfectly manicured brilliant blue-green grass. He knelt and touched it - like fine woven carpet, as he suspected. This same matting spread evenly over countless meadows and endless flowing hills beyond. Ben took a slow panoramic view. Groups of people were gathered in every direction, talking, laughing, and singing. He walked as on soft clouds toward a grove of giant live oak trees. Although the light that poured over their tops was intense it did not hurt his eyes to gaze directly at it. He wanted to locate its source. Someone touched his shoulder and he turned. “Nita!” She was more beautiful, more radiant than ever.
“Ben.” She smiled. “Let me introduce you to someone who has died to meet you.”
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