THE RETREIVAL SYSTEM
Well, another day. The place was humming with activity, work, work, work. I had no assignment yet. Let me rephrase that, not having checked my in box I felt free to lean back in my chair and relax while sipping a wonderful locally made apple nectar. Ignorance is bliss.
Boss approached, slipped some paper into my in box that I now noticed was a third full, and gave me a casual look over. I had been busted. No words were exchanged but I still felt my cheeks tint to a convicting shade of pink. Boss was good at that, silently convicting people. It’s difficult working for the omniscient. Apparently I was on pick up duty today. I read the first assignment, logged all the details to my magnificent memory and reached for my hat of choice for the day, an Oktoberfest Green Velour Tyrolean with a snazzy feather stuck in the braided hat band then I slipped on my loafers, loafers seemed appropriate as I'd gotten caught loafing. Since my wardrobe is limited to a white robe I like to accessorize to express my individuality. I don’t do ordinary well.
As I got ready to stand I sensed the tension mount in the office. Coworkers started to protect their work spaces, fanning out their wings to cover loose paperwork and anything else not nailed down. I scowled at them, ever since I had caused a mini sized whirlwind a few weeks ago that rearranged everything in the office from filing cabinets to water cooler and everything in between they had isolated my work space to the farthest regions of the cloud. Come on, it’s not my fault I have such tremendously big and awesome wings! It is what it is. Definitely not my fault, I’m just the clay, not the potter. They had at the time plotted to trim my best asset to a more tolerable size and hung a pair of scissors by my desk as a reminder that the possibility of being downsized still existed.
I pulled my wings in close and slowly made my way through the wispy office walls, stunned with my own nimbleness. I didn't disturb anything, not one thing. Work place bullying, that's what it is, I mused to myself. They're so jealous of my wings it hurts.
Before I made my trip downwards I headed to the heavenly scented activity room to invite a woman named Tessie to accompany me since she was a part of the details. I found her sitting in her more immediate family's section, chatting it up with ancestors she had just met mixed with those she had known and lost and refound. Reunions up here are a wonderful and a continuous event. Once Tessie had passed all the admissions procedures; entering one of the pearly gates, passing Peter’s inspection to see if she was listed in the book of life, meeting Him and receiving her crowns, thousands of souls had lined up for miles for a meet and greet. She was their kin after all. All the way down to that first pair of humans…what were their names again?
I signaled Tessie over to my side and explained what was expected of her. She was never to leave my side and most importantly she wasn’t to interact in any way with those we would encounter down there, it was absolutely forbidden.
“But why am I going back?” Tessie asked, nervously fearing a mistake had been made and she was being returned to her earthly package.
“We have a pickup, someone you know.” I explained as I guided her to the takeoff platform. “Oh, but it’s too soon,” she exclaimed.” I just got here; no one I know is ready to leave there yet, was there an accident of some sort?”
“Don’t bother yourself with the whys or where fore’s, It’s just time for someone you know.”
It was never easy to explain the time differences here since forever has no clocks, calendars sundials, or deadlines, actually we didn’t have anything dead up here. Suffice it to say she was wrong. Her father had said the exact same thing as she just did when he had been permitted to accompany her Retriever, that’s what we’re called on pick up duty, because we fetch. If you don’t get it now, you will later.
On the takeoff platform I gave Tessie a slight nudge with my wings holding back most of my enormous potential. I didn’t want her to over shoot our destination and end up on the wrong planet, or in the wrong time zone. Being a good Retriever takes all kinds of talent and specialized training. So many little details.
The trip down was awesome and it could be hazardous, but not fatal, that risk was now long gone, sorry, once deceased always deceased; I didn’t say dead! Countless other Retrievers filled the air, together with their pickups and tag-alongs. Two lanes existed, one for coming and one for going, the incoming lane being more congested and wider. These lanes were filled with the lucky ones, the blessed, the redeemed. The not so fortunate, the damned, didn’t get a Retriever but were gathered somewhere else in a huge net and tossed into a horrible dark…I shuddered. The thought was too hideous even for me to complete. Thinking about it even momentarily caused my large wings to quiver knocking some of the passing souls off their trail creating a domino effect and earning me glares from their Retrievers. Big wings, overcrowded air space, things happen, it’s not my fault. I didn’t ask for large wings.
Down on earth I pinpointed the exact location of my assignment without any difficulty, one of three area hospitals. Having been assigned to him since birth I had kept close tabs on him. I had visited him once in this same Emergency room years ago to provide comfort, wearing a cowboy hat and synthetic ostrich boots, (after all he lived in Fort Worth near the Stock Yards), and now I was here to visit him again, only this time to provide transportation home. Many other Retrievers and tag-alongs were present for similar duties throughout the hospital and surrounding parameters. Unfortunately, I winced; I also spotted some large nets. Shudder.
Tessie followed me into the curtain lined cubicle and curiously peered down at the man on the stretcher. He was older than she remembered his skin more fragile and bruised, his eyes were sunken and had that faraway look that comes on people when they are ready to shed the dirt and chemicals that make them human. Yes time had changed him but she still knew him. Will, the man she had married and shared children with; the man that had cared for her through her life altering illness. Life altering, not life ending.
Tessie leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek leaving the scent of heaven in the air around him.
“What’s that smell?” Will asked his daughter who was sitting next to him.
“I don’t smell anything,” Daughter responded as she inhaled the air and looked into the eyes of the hospital personal caring for her dad. They shrugged, oblivious to any scents. They didn’t smell anything either. “’What do you think you smell?”
“Perfume.” Will answered.
Tessie looked at me sheepishly, afraid she had stepped over the boundaries by interacting with Will.
“It’s okay, he’s almost one of us and his senses for our realm are getting sharper as he releases his hold on this world.”
“Are those my feet?" Will asked peering at the two dirty appendages sticking out from the flimsy white hospital sheet. He had been well cared for by Daughter yet having several pets around his house that constantly hid his slippers he could hardly keep his feet immaculate. He knew we were here. He was ashamed of his feet and didn’t want his bride of 30 years to see them.
“Yes dad, here let me clean them.” Daughter said as she washed his feet and pulled the sheets over them. Daughter then looked around the room. I know what she’s looking for, Tessie and me. This was part of the assignment, Daughter had prayed for years for this moment, to be near her dad when his time came so she could get a glimpse of her mom but to see into the other world was only allowed for those whose spirits were peeling away from their bodies.
Will’s time was near. He had been admitted to a private room and Daughter had gone home to get some sleep after being told that his condition was stable and the current treatment plan was going to be effective. According to the attending doctors he would recover from this relapse. Doctors, what do they know?
Tessie and I accompanied Will to his room where we stayed all night providing succor. His body was weak and his spirit was ready to be liberated but we had to wait for his daughter’s return. She had prayed to be present at this moment for years and it was HIS plan to honor that request. Details.
Daughter went to Sunday school the following morning and returned to the hospital at 11:00. She had time to open his blinds, chide him for lying in the dark, fluff his pillows and offer him a glass of water he requested. Then she sat next to him. Then…. Will laid his head on the pillow closed his eyes and slowly stopped breathing as Daughter watched, holding his hand. A nurse entered the room and called a code blue. Daughter stopped her explaining he was a no DNR,(Do Not Resuscitate) as tears rolled down her cheeks. Once again she looked around for us, actually unknowingly meeting Tessie’s eyes. Tessie inhaled deeply. Her Daughter’s eyes held so much pain. Pain was something she couldn’t identify with anymore. It was a long past and faded memory.
Will sprang to his feet and stared at us. Surprised didn’t begin to define his reactions and I never would get used to the ecstasy expressed when the first day of forever was triumphantly realized. He reached for Tessie, swooped her into a massive hug then he jumped around the room flexing body parts that hadn’t moved in years while swirling Tessie around. Will’s Whooping and hollering mixed with Daughter’s wailing and moaning, total contradictions. As she held Will’s inert physical hand Daughter was deeply regretting the meaning of DNR, wishing she could reverse her decision as she looked around the room for signs of us. Not allowed, I reminded myself again, but she had been allowed the satisfaction of knowing we had been present when Dad smelled heaven. God sometimes answers in a small still voice, not in earthquakes or fires.
“Dad I love you,” Daughter wailed looking upwards. Engulfing her with my wings, which now didn't seem large enough, I leaned over close to her ear and whispered, “He knows.” She didn’t hear as much as sensed my presence, yet the tears still poured forth. Will and Tessie couldn’t comprehend Daughter’s agony. Those emotions were deleted options in their new bodies celestial.
A rejuvenated Will, Tessie and I hit the air waves at 11:30 on Sunday, the day Christians revere as resurrection day, with several other Retrievers and their assignments. No baggage to hinder us. All necessities would be provided free of charge up stairs. Tonight people on earth would see heavenly phenomena they would explain away as shooting stars and comet showers.
Back in the office after I finished writing up and filing my report Boss ambled past my desk with another assignment. This time he found me honestly working, earning me a wink.
I picked up my new assignment and smiled. I logged all the details to my magnificent memory grabbed another flashy hat, slipped on some sandals and went in search of my next tag-along. I found him in the banquet hall with all the other souls waving palm leaves and glorifying the King.
Once I signaled him over to me I explained what was expected of him. He was never to leave my side and most importantly he wasn’t to interact in any way with those we would encounter down there, it was absolutely forbidden.
“Oh, but it’s too soon,” Will exclaimed.” I just got here; no one I know is ready to leave there yet, was there an accident of some sort!”
No, Daughter had been waiting for this day for thirty earth years. Time just stands still up here for us in eternity.
1 kings 19:12
When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.