The brocade curtain separating the voodoo gift shop from the inner recesses appears to be embroidered with black widow spiders. On closer inspection the red and black threads are intricate designs woven into random patterns. I finger the heavy curtain, hesitant to draw it back.
“You coming in or just standing there?” The barking voice from the room behind the curtain almost sends me running. But I have a purpose, so I swallow my dread and push the curtain aside.
The wizened crone inside the dark room is such a stereotype I almost laugh. This could be a Hollywood set for an Anne Rice movie! But it is not. It is me, reeling from bad news and trying to make sense of the death sentence pronounced over me yesterday by my oncologist.
Sensing my panic and despair when I phoned her, Madam Endora had been kind enough to move other appointments around so as to accommodate me this morning. She does not appear so kind now, but here I am with nothing to lose but my life. I step into the room behind the curtain.
For the next twenty minutes I watch her scatter cards and make pronouncements about my future. Two of my closest girlfriends have based life decisions on Madam Endora insights. How could she not know I am dying? I crave information about my next life, and lives to come after that, not this pathetic one. Madam apparently does not know this one is destined to end early with no lasting accomplishments.
The panic rising from my chest forces my hand out of my pocket. I drop a crumpled twenty dollar bill on the table and start to rise. The woman reaches out to take the money I suppose, but instead she wraps stone cold bony fingers around my wrist, forcing me back into the chair. “You do not like my predictions?” Her raspy voice both mesmerizes and terrorizes me.
“It’s just that…” I do not know how to continue.
“Most people pay me for pretty stories. But apparently you want the truth. Fine, I will tell you the truth. I see nothing in your future but separation and darkness.”
I sit in stunned silence, shocked not so much by her confirming opinion that my doctor is right but her dreadful implication of what might lie beyond. As my brain begins to dissolve Madam Endora waves her hand dismissively at me, getting up from the table to retreat further into her dark hovel. Just as I think she is done with me, she stops abruptly and turns back to me.
“I have nothing you need. You should try next door.” And she is gone.
I stumble back through the store past the death masks on the wall and rush into the street. I have no idea what Madam Endora is suggesting, but I stare wildly around me. To my left is an occult bookstore, touting the latest best sellers on Wiccan spells for happiness and awakening your psychic powers. I move in that direction, then stop, suspecting this will offer me only more of Madam Endora’s hopelessness.
I turn around and head to my car. On my right I notice a storefront church, proclaiming, “The Rock of All Nations.” I pick up my pace, but then stop in my tracks as the bold hand written sign below their name grabs my attention:
“It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… “
I feel a stab of apprehension. There is something else written in smaller handwriting beneath that horrible pronouncement. I move closer and peer at the tagline:
“…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” *
Could this be true? My heart stirs with something unfamiliar…hope? On the door is another scribbled sign: “Come on in; no appointment necessary.” My hand trembles as I reach for the doorknob. I turn it almost against my will, not sure if I want it to open or be locked.
*Hebrews 9:27-28, ESV
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