When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything you gave me.
It’s a deep thought kind of day at the Buckley house. Not thoughts of sadness, but rather reflection. Today is Stephen’s birthday, so I am, of course thinking about him and his remarkable legacy. But days of remembrance like this one also make me reflective about my own mark on the world. What am I leaving behind?
I know it sounds strange, but I think about that quite a bit. And that is something I am tremendously grateful for, each and every day.
With that in mind, I wanted to share one of my favorite passages from my book. I woke up in the middle of the night in March of 2010, and this story was just “there.” I don’t often talk about it, but much of my writing in that first year of grief was like that…just sort of showing up in my head, and me typing feverishly like I was some administrative assistant to a Higher Power. I say that knowing that I will probably offend someone who thinks I am not religious enough to say that, or too religious to say that, but it is my truth. I am not going to deny that any longer, for fear that I will not quite fit into the pre-designed and accepted assumptions of religion or spirituality. I just felt connected to something larger than myself. Perhaps it was because my heart was shattered open, and I had room to let the Divine inspire and guide me. I don’t know, I’m no expert, but I do know that the 365 days following Stephen’s death were the most “awake” days of my life. And I am forever changed.
This 3 a.m. story in particular is one I keep going back to, thinking about how it poured out of me. And, don’t ask me why, but I feel I am not that far off in my description of heaven. Hope you enjoy it my friends.
You see the light. You can’t believe it, the end has come and you cross over to the other side. Heaven. It is everything you imagined and more, and the faces of the people who greet you are welcoming and filled with love. You see the gates ahead, and begin to walk with your loved ones towards the entrance. The worries from your earthly life begin to fade, and although you will miss those left behind, you are happy to be here.
But, as you approach the entrance, you see the ropes are up, guiding you into a theatre instead of through the gates. A beautiful angel sits next to you and passes you some popcorn, buttered of course, because cholesterol is not an issue in heaven. You are confused. It makes no sense. This is not the time for movies. This is the time to get in through those gates and see the magnificence of God’s heaven.
Sensing your discomfort, the angel touches your hand, and tells you not to worry. The movie is part of your welcome. Everyone has to watch it before entering, and each movie is individual to your life. God has made yours special just for you.
The lights dim, and the movie begins. Scenes of your life flash before you; hugs from your mother, the giggles of your childhood, the first kiss, holding your child in those first moments after birth. Favorite songs, and food, and people flash across the screen, and with each glimpse, you remember the emotion of the moments. You watch with tear filled eyes the moments of your life where you were brought to your knees in pain. The moments where life crushed you into the ground, then stepped on you a second time to make sure you could never be put back together quite the same way again. You think to yourself that God saw it all, and you marvel at the fact that He was with you on the entire journey.
But then the movie takes a turn, and begins to show you scenes of your life that are not familiar. Scenes with so much love and happiness. You look at your own face on the screen and you don’t really recognize yourself. There are scenes that show you helping others, changing lives, living your purpose, and making a difference. You tug on the sleeve of the angel’s robe, and say there must be some mistake. This is not your movie, it is someone else’s.
And the angel responds, “No, this is your life. This is just God’s special reel of film. This is how God envisioned it, not how you lived it.”
So, you watch with wonder. And you see what life would have been if:
Instead of anger, you had decided to love, without condition or expectation.
Instead of judging, you had decided to be tolerant of everyone, no matter what the differences.
Instead of bitterness, you had decided to forgive.
Instead of fear, you decided to be fearless and trust that God really did have your back.
And because of those simple decisions, you we able to live more of your life, instead of living through it.
You watch quietly, amazed at how different things could have been with some simple choices.
The curtain closes and the lights come back on, and you look to the angel and ask, “Can I go back and try this over? I know I can do better.”
The angel replies, “No, and God did not show you those scenes to fill your heart with regret. He showed you so you could understand. Life is and always will be about the love. God showed you this, because he intends to show pieces of this to those you left behind on earth as well. In their dreams, and through their hurt, your life will teach them. And maybe, if they are not afraid and open their hearts to see the message through the pain, they can choose differently because of what you and He taught them. And when it is their time, maybe God’s special reel for them will be a bit shorter.”
Today, I am thankful for my imagination and my decision to not leave any more film on the cutting room floor.
Wishing you a picture perfect day,