Soon, I thought. Soon.
She glanced over her shoulder at me and smiled so brightly that my entire countenance flared briefly, especially over my heart. She went back to playing with Jacob, and I looked up into the golden tunnel above.
So bright. So welcoming. So beautiful. So warm.
So very warm.
I hadn’t been warm in a long, long time.
And now I noticed for the first time that a crystal stairway led through the tunnel. I hadn’t noticed it before; then again, I hadn’t been this close to the tunnel before, either. I thought of my daughter. Would I see her again? I was sure I would, somehow. I thought of hell, and I glanced over at the wooden cross. The statue of Christ was as unmoving as ever, but I smiled at it anyway. Jesus Christ had said everything was going to be okay, and I believed him.
Pauline was by my side again, and this time she was holding little Jacob’s hand. She passed it over to me. I took it firmly. Jacob looked up at me and smiled excitedly.
“Are we going home?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “We’re going home.”
He bounced and smiled and waved at various spirits flitting about the sanctuary. One was an elderly woman, quite possibly his grandmother.
I looked at Pauline. “I’m a little nervous.”
“It’s going to be okay, James.”
I nodded. I knew it was going to be okay. I knew this in my heart, and I trusted my heart. I also knew it was time to move on. It was time for peace. It was time for rest. It was time for healing.
“Would you do me a favor?” I asked Pauline.
I gave her my request, and she immediately nodded and dashed off. A moment later, she returned with the red scarf my daughter had given me.
“It was still there,” she said, “hidden in the cushions.”
“Please give it back to her, and please tell her that her daddy loves her very much,” I said.
“I will, James.”
“And please tell her good-bye for me.”
“I will, James.”
“You’re an angel, Pauline.”
I smiled and looked up into the tunnel again. Remarkably, it seemed even closer, hovering now just above my head. I could see through it almost all the way to the other side. All the way to God.
“So what do I do?” I asked Pauline nervously.
“Do you see the stairs?” she asked.
The crystal stairs had descended now all the way to the church’s raised, carpeted platform.
“I’m being told that all you need to do is to start climbing, James, and you will be shown the way. But the first step is your choice. No one will do it for you.”
I understood. I gripped Jacob’s hand tightly. Pauline was crying softly now. The stairway was just a few feet away.
I’m really doing this, I thought.
“I want to go to heaven,” said Jacob excitedly, bouncing up and down next to me. “I want to see Grandma!”
I turned to Pauline. “I love you, you know.”
Tears were flowing freely down her cheeks. “I love you, too, James. Now, get going.”
I turned back to the stairway. Yes, I’m really doing this.
Gripping Jacob’s hand, I lifted my bare foot and stepped up onto that first crystal step…And for the first time in a long, long time, I felt warm.