Her hair was dark and curly, and she looked slender. She winced, a dimple appearing on her left cheek. I inherited that dimple and also her hazel-green eyes. She was my grandmother, who had died ten years before from a heart attack. All traces of her gray hair, wrinkles and plump figure were gone. This was how she looked in her mid-twenties, right after she and my grandfather married.
Like the countless others, she wore an iridescent white robe, a shade of white too bright, blinding and too spectacular for the human eye to even imagine.
Always friendly on earth, her smile was gone.
“Why are you here so soon?” she finally asked me.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
She hugged me, her grasp being much tighter than it had been on earth. Her body shook against me as she started sobbing again.
“Danny,” she said after she managed to stop crying, “When you took your life at the age of 22, you had so many years left on this earth. You should have lived for many more years—”
“Grandma, how did you know I committed suicide?” I asked, startled.
“I saw it all up here, and Jesus told me He’d tried every possible way to dissuade you,” she explained. “I don’t understand why you would make such a rash decision!”
I told her about my girlfriend, who had just dumped me and was now dating her “friend” Andy.
Tears welled in Grandma’s eyes, trickled down her cheeks and dripped off. I further told her about how hopelessly I felt.
“I can’t believe you actually felt your life was worthless! Why didn’t you talk to someone? Your parents? Pastor Carlson?”
“I was too afraid and ashamed.”
She exhaled, wiping her eyes. “Danny, people can’t help you if you don’t tell them what the problem is. Do you think it makes it any better knowing what they’re going through now with your death? Didn’t you ever consider your future?”
“I felt I had no future. I didn’t see any reason to keep on living.”
“Danny,” a deep, gentle Voice said. “I would like to show you something.”
I turned around and saw a Man whose face shined as bright as his white robe. He held out His Hands to me, and I saw the wrists were scarred from spikes being driven through them from an age ago. There were also spike wounds in His feet. His face carried heavy scars from the savage beatings from the muscular Roman soldiers. The slits where human eyes normally are were as bright as his robe.
Jesus… of Nazareth.
I fell down at his feet and cried. He placed His hand on my shoulder and gently lifted me up.
“Danny, I love you and will always love you,” Jesus said. “But I want to show you that your life had a meaning that you could not understand on earth.”
I saw a jubilant crowd of people; they were apparently some sort of holographic image and not real beings. It was difficult to describe them, since heaven and its environment encompass dimensions of perception completely foreign to the organic limitations of the human mind.
Why are they so happy? I thought.
Then, I saw at the center a bride and groom kissing each other and laughing as the crowd cheered in a ceremony set on a hilltop, overlooking Fredericksburg. The steeples of the Catholic and Lutheran churches poked up into the bright blue sky.
The bride was a very beautiful woman with long, curly black hair and pale blue eyes. The groom, who looked my height and build, turned his face towards me. He looked relieved, peaceful, content. He smiled, that familiar dimple on his left cheek.
“This is what would have happened to you two years into the future,” Jesus said. “You actually would have met your future wife in six months at church. In fact, she is, even as we speak, praying to Me about My Will concerning her husband. Had you and she married, you would have been married for many years and would have had four children. She would have erased the pain of your ex-girlfriend, Sharon. You see, Sharon was not the right one for you: this is why I allowed things to happen as they did. You and Sharon would’ve had an unhappy marriage and would’ve divorced.”
How could I have missed this?
Next, I saw a man sitting at a table in a bookstore. He wore a Houston Astros cap. I could see his features and saw what looked like myself a few decades older and about 50 pounds heavier.
“This is what would have happened 20 years in the future,” Jesus said. “You would have been a best-selling author, a syndicated columnist and host of a Christian radio show based in San Antonio. You would have reached out to so many people and would have been a blessing.”
Then, I saw my mother sitting on her bed. On the nightstand was a glass half-filled with an amber fluid, from which she slowly, reflexively drank. Next to the glass was a Jack Daniel’s bottle, nearly empty. Undoubtedly, there had been many more. There was also an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts, ashes scattered everywhere on the nightstand. The source of the cigarettes was a crumpled pack of Virginia Slims and a plastic Bic lighter. Her eyes glistened and she had tear stains on her face—some dry and some freshly wet. Her lips quivered as if another wave of sorrow was about to arrive. Against her chest she hugged a photo of my high school graduation picture.
“This last image, unlike the others, will really happen,” Jesus said. “Your mother will never recover from your suicide. She will develop cirrhosis of the liver before finally taking her life in 20 years. She will also start smoking again. Danny, this is what breaks My heart the most. You would have grown so strong in My Word. Had you not taken your life, you would have used your suicide contemplations to strengthen yourself and to be an encouragement to others who struggled with suicide. You would have reached out to so many and would have led so many to a saving knowledge of Me.”
I had seen enough. “Jesus, please let me return back to earth so I can make things right,” I sobbed.
Jesus shook His head, tears rolling down his cheeks. “Danny, I’m sorry, but it is too late. Your decision is permanent.”
I protested, “But… You’re God! You’re omnipotent! You can do anything!”
“Yes,” Jesus said. “But I also believe in free will. I do not want people serving Me or worshiping me because they have to, but because they want to. You made a decision, and you must live with it. Once we make decisions, we must accept the consequences.”
Twenty years later in earth time, even after my mother died, I saw my would-be wife frustrated and lonely, still single after her sisters and friends had long since married. She thinks her husband’s still not ready.
He never will be.
Thanks to Richard Zowie for this spiritual story.