I run through the tall fields of corn stalks; they slap my hands and face as I pass. Rosy cheeks, the sun shines on my brow, I wipe a loose strand of hair away from my mouth as I smile at the clouds overhead. The wind is strong and insistent on my face as I prepare to leap over the irrigation ditch ahead of me.
Soaring, leaping, landing with the gentle thud of bare feet upon the soil, my hands steady me and stop my fall. I stand, panting, glowing with exertion from my run, the sound of my quick breaths rising above the quiet rustle of the leaves and the crunching of the broken stems.
‘Alive!’ I think, ‘Happy and free; and I am me!’
Twirling in a slow clockwise dance I speed up and as my senses swim, I feel myself falling, laughing to the ground, landing in a tangle of legs and arms. As I continue to spin in my mind, I hug the ground as I spiral down, finally settle in the earth.
Thoughts running through my head, I get up, brush myself off and turn back to the house which rises in the distance like a shining beacon in the afternoon light.
‘My home’, I say with pride as I try to contain my mirth, but fail.
As I retrace my steps back to the small homestead, I hear a faint noise behind me. I jump with fright, but when I look back I see only the tail of a black cat as it disappears into the long grass. I smile, I love cats.
I reach the pathway just before sunset, in time to see waves of crimson and honey ripple across the sky as the sun dips below the horizon. The verandah beckons me as I reach the bottom of the stairs, and in two long strides, I’m at my front door.
A banner with ‘Welcome home Laura’ painted in bright colours hangs above the door, the ribbons swing vigorously as the wind whips my hair about my head. A smile crosses my lips as I step across the threshold.
‘Surprise!’ The lights brighten in an instant and I am blind, for a moment. Faces, smiles, laughing and tears. All look at me with love. Grandpa William, his white hair like a halo around his head; Cousin Barbara, waves her walking stick in greeting. Little Joe runs to me and gives me a pinch before heading back for food, so much food.
‘Trust Mum to make a great spread; leftovers for a week.’ I smile and run to her, burying my head in her lap. Tears fall on my head, moisture shines from my eyes, mirroring hers.
‘Thanks Mum’ I say as I look into her beautiful face; lined from years of hard work, but always perfect to me. A long time has passed since I saw that face, ‘I’ll never go away again’ I say to myself.
I greet every person with a smile and a hug. In every chair they sit, they stand in doorways, children sit on the floor, the older ones are in wheelchairs and toddlers run and crawl around my feet. There must be thirty people in this tiny room, I’ve never seen them all in one place before.
I sing, I dance, I eat and drink. Hours pass. ‘So full, so tired, so happy!’ I say to the room of people as I make my way to my bedroom, eyes swim with tiredness as I throw myself on the bed.
‘Comfy and warm!’ The bed envelopes me in layers of comfort and I struggle to keep my eyes open, my breathing slows and I am in oblivion.
The early morning light streams across the bed and shimmers on my face, urging me awake. Stretching and yawning, I listen to the noises from outside my window. Birds twitter, floorboards creak and tin roof crackles from the warmth of the sun, sounds from the kitchen as the rest of the house stirs.
I lie in the bed, smile and think ‘This is Heaven!’
I hear footsteps approach the bed and feel pressure on my legs. Momentarily frightened, I look down and see the bright yellow eyes of a cat. Smiling with relief I realise it’s the black cat from yesterday and say, ‘Hello there beautiful, and what’s your name? I know, I’ll call you Willow.’
‘Willow’ purrs and approaches me cautiously, allowing me to gently pat her head, before she jumps off the bed and runs out the door. Wanting to see where she goes, I follow closely behind her.
Out the door, across the verandah, down the steps. I run behind the house and catch sight of her disappearing into the garden. I step through the hedge and enter a magical world; tall jacarandas, azaleas of every colour, carnations and roses in baskets and tubs, rows of white and gold. In the heart, a summerhouse sits, glittering bright in the sun, its windows reflecting shafts of coloured light upon the lawn. There is Willow, sitting in the doorway, waiting. I move to the doorway, hesitate for a moment, then enter, Willow following me.
A man sits with his back to me at the front of the room. I look around and find myself in what looks like a chapel, lines of chairs on either side face the front and there is an altar of some sort glowing in candlelight. I feel instantly calm, all fears melt away and I walk slowly to the altar, the cat a shadow at my side.
‘Hello Laura’ the man says as I reach the first row. I turn and meet his face, glowing and peaceful, his smile lights up his knowing eyes.
‘Hello’, I say tentatively as I walk towards him, my hand outstretched in greeting.
He beckons me to sit next to him and I sit in companionable silence in the proffered seat.
Feelings of warmth and safety emanate from him and I relax into the chair.
He looks at me and says ‘I’ve been waiting for you my dear'.
He places a hand on my shoulder. Willow jumps into my lap and purrs affectionately while nudging me. As I look up into the man’s eyes, I feel a sense of wonder as I recognise him.
I throw my arms around his warm neck and close my eyes. Love, awe, joy; my heart explodes with emotions as he lifts my face up to look at him.
‘So, Laura,’ Jesus says, ‘what do you think of Heaven?
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