One Way or Return?

Jessica Macbeth

Once upon a time an old woman died and dutifully trotted up to the pearly gates.

Saint Peter peered at her from under his shaggy eyebrows. "Here! I know you," he exclaimed. "Aren't you the ol' gal that's been saying that God is kind and loving, and that a god like that wouldn't send anyone to hell for eternity?"

"I am," the old woman said firmly.

"And haven't you been saying that the real hell is in folk's own hearts when they forget to be as loving as God?"

"I have," the old woman said.

"And haven't you been saying that God and Love can forgive anything, even without being asked?"

"I have," the old woman said.

"And haven't you been saying that God gives people what they need and what they want and isn't interested in 'punishing' and 'deserving' but just in loving and helping folk grow?"

"I 'spose I have," the old woman nodded.

"And aren't you the kind of ol' gal who would be sorrowful for the suffering folk who haven't made it into heaven? And be agitating 'bout them some way?"

"Probably so," the old woman agreed.

"Just so. And didn't I hear you say once, when someone told you that healing was the work of the devil, that if her god was against healing and her devil for it, then you liked her devil better than her god?"

"I believe you likely did," said the old woman, "'cause I surely said it."

"And didn't I hear you a-calling God 'God/dess'?"

"You certainly did. And more than once, too!"

"And haven't you heard it said that everyone in heaven is joyful all the time and has no thought but for singing god's praises?"

"I have," the old woman said, beginning to worry a bit, "but I didn't believe it."

"And haven't you thought in your heart, in your heart of hearts, I say," Saint Peter said, poking her on the breastbone with a sharp, thin finger, "that God isn't the kind of egotist that expects people to stand around a-singing his praises for twenty-four hours a day for eternity?"

"I certainly have," said the old woman.

"Well, you can't go in there," Saint Peter said decisively, shaking his head. "That place in there is for all them others. We have to have some place to put them until they come to their senses. Here's your ticket back. You go over there and talk to Michael—that feller with the fiery sword—about when and where is best for you to go so's to get on with The Work. And you take better care of yourself next time, too, y'hear me, gal?"

"I do," she said, and went off happily, clutching her ticket back.

Copyright © 1998 & 2005 by Jessica Macbeth.
All rights reserved.