Several weeks later, just as Zachary’s hope of finding a Tonka Truck began to grow very thin, he was visited by one of the angels. “Master Zachary,” he began, “Joseph has asked me to bring you to Heaven’s Gate. He said that he has news. You must come quickly!” Zachary jumped to his feet and started running in circles about the angel’s feet. “What did he say? What did he say? Did he find a Tonka Truck for me? Did he? Come on, you have to tell me!” Zachary’s frantic questioning did nothing but make the angel smile. “Let’s go,” said the angel, “take my hand, and follow me.” Grabbing the angel’s hand, and turning quickly to look behind him, nearly tripping himself with the effort, Zachary yelled, “Grandma Lois! Grandma Lois! Come on! Joseph found some Tonka Trucks! Yippee!”
So the angel, Zachary, and Grandma Lois made their way to Heaven’s Gate. Zachary was certain that they could get there quicker if they ran, but the angel reminded him that they needed to proceed at a slower pace so that Grandma Lois wouldn’t be left behind. “Well, can’t you carry us there? Can’t you just pick us up and get us there as quick as a thought?” “I can do that,” said the angel, “but we are only supposed to do that when going down to the Earth, or when we are responding to some kind of danger. Up here in Heaven, we angels are to walk like everyone else.”
Some moments later, the trio arrived at Heaven’s Gate. They found Joseph, as always, just sitting there, rocking back and forth in his favorite chair, humming a little tune. “You found them! You found them! Where are the Tonka Trucks?” said Zachary, as he ran up to Joseph. “How did you get them here? Did one of the angels bring them up from the Earth?” “Slow down there,” said Joseph, “hang on just a minute. I didn’t tell the angel that I found any of your trucks. I just asked him to tell you that I had some news.” With that, Zachary stopped his questions, and with a suddenly very sad face, he just stood there, silent, and unmoving. “What do you mean?” said the little boy, “You didn’t get any Tonka Trucks? That’s not the news?” “Well, in a way, it is,” replied the old saint; “I have found the secret that will allow you to find them for yourself.” Zachary was confused, but when Joseph turned to look at Grandma Lois, the kind woman had a big, beautiful smile on her face, for she, too, knew the secret. “Zachary,” Grandma Lois said, “come here. Come here and listen to Joseph. I know you have already looked in every possible place, but just listen to what your friend has to tell you. He is going to share the secret that we all come to learn after we have been in Heaven for a while. Joseph is going to help you figure it out, so be still, and listen.”
“Zachary,” said Joseph, “come here and sit with me. Climb up here on my lap and sit facing me. There. Now, lean forward and rest your head against mine, like this. We are going to take a little journey, right here, where we are sitting. We’re not actually going to leave, but we are going to go far, far away.” “I don’t know what you mean, Joseph. How can we go somewhere if we’re not going to leave your rocker, if we’re going to stay right here?” said Zachary. “Close your eyes and listen to me,” responded Joseph, “just close your eyes.” Suddenly, Zachary could see inside of Joseph’s mind. “Wow!” he said, “how did you do that?” “Sit still Little One. Lean your head against mine, now, and just sit still.” Again, Zachary was joined with Joseph inside the old man’s mind. He truly did feel that he was going on a journey. He felt almost like he was being carried about on a wing, nearly flying through his friend’s thoughts and consciousness. Zachary felt warm, and at peace. He saw images of Joseph’s life, old people, children, statues, masks, flowers, and an unending sky. His friend was a wonderful man, thought Zachary. He was amazed at all the sensations, emotions, and states of consciousness that were new and strange to his little mind.
After what seemed to be a very long time, Zachary’s feeling of flight stopped and he could see that he and Joseph were standing before a magnificent, ancient building. “Zachary,” the old man said, “we are here.” Looking toward the arch overhead, the little boy, with Joseph’s mind, read the graven inscription ‘hall of answers’ and understood it to mean – ‘Hall of Answers.’ “This, My Little Friend, is where I find the answers to fill all of the holes that Hope brings. It is in this place, that I find my peace.”
In his mind, Joseph took the little boy’s hand and led him up the stairs, through the immense, wooden door, and into the great Hall. Zachary stood in awe of the thousands of shelves, racks, and stands that contained the books of Joseph’s knowledge. The old sage began walking up one aisle, and then back down the next, searching the stacks and piles of monstrous notebooks and ledgers, hoping to find that one hidden something. “Ah! I remember where I put it,” said Joseph, “follow me!” Back to the far side of the building, up two flights of circular stairs, and back again to the middle of the Hall, but on the third floor, the old man led his companion to yet another remote corner of his mind, where they found in a toppled pile, several ancient, cracked, leather-bound manuscripts. “This is it,” said the old man, “this is where the answer lies.” Joseph dug to the bottom of the heap and extracted three small, red, leather-covered books. Their golden edges were dull with time, and in the dim light, Zachary could barely make out the embossed letters of their title – ‘The Contents of Heaven.’
“In each of us,” said Joseph, “there is a precious, secret place that tells us of Heaven. These little, red books tell of my Paradise. Now that you have made the journey with me, Zachary, you are prepared to take that same trek inside of your own, little self.” Joseph’s tiny friend just stood there, hugging the old man’s leg, softly crying to himself, being overcome with the emotion he felt for his wise friend. Then, slowly, Zachary began to smile with the youthful realization that he could now find the Tonka Trucks that he so dearly wanted. “Can we go now?” said Zachary. “We’re already there,” replied his old friend, “just open your eyes.”
Later that night, many hours after Grandma Lois had tucked Zachary into his bed, the unconscious self of Heaven’s little wanderer continued to search the far reaches of his mind, hoping to find his own, ‘Hall of Answers.’ Whether or not he actually found his own ‘Book of Heaven’ is unknown, but it is my understanding that, shortly before waking the next morning, Zachary dreamed that he had found his beloved Tonka Trucks.
Jumping from his feather comforter, Zachary awoke with the full excitement of his discovery. “I know where they are!” he shouted. “Grandma Lois, I know where they are!” Running out of their cottage and down the path through the Cottonwood forest, Zachary continued running, skipping, and hopping until he came to Heaven’s Gate. “Joseph, I know where they are! I know where to find the Tonka Trucks!” And on he went!
One day, not too long ago, a little boy died whose name was Zachary. I wish I could tell you that he passed quietly in his sleep, that his little soul just couldn’t stay here on Earth any longer and had to leave, to go back to that splendid Heaven from which the souls of all the little babies come to us. I cannot tell you this, for it did not happen so.
In recounting this tale of truth, I must confess that the little boy died from wounds he received at the hands of a horrible monster that attacked him over and over again. The details of his death are too sad to repeat here, but let me say that he felt no love at the time of his passing. Never more alone did Zachary feel than when his little soul finally left his battered form to begin its journey home.
Where were the guardian angels, you ask, who were supposed to protect his life while on this planet Earth? That, I do not know for sure, but I believe they were there, for I have been told that their powers were greatly diminished by the same evil that consumed the monster who took Zachary’s life. The angels’ remaining strength was used to take Zachary home to Heaven, where he is to this day.
We have heard since the olden days that the pearly gates of Heaven are guarded by gloriously fierce angels with bright, flaming swords, who are ready at an instant to slay any evil being who might try to enter there. This is just a story, we find out now, that was created by some old, gray men who don’t like children, puppies, and the morning sunshine. The truth, we know, is that Heaven does have a gate, but it is not adorned with pearls. It is, instead, an old wooden gate with one of the boards missing. Furthermore, it is surrounded by brightly flowered bushes and has a spring to help it close so none of Heaven’s puppies and babies get lost.
The returning souls are greeted by an older, soft-eyed gentleman who is rocking there in an even-older, cane rocking-chair. On an overturned garden bucket, setting nearby, the old gentleman, Joseph, has a big book, and a balance. “Let me see your heart,” he says to the approaching wanderer. “Let me see whether you’ve been good or bad in your life on Earth.” You see, this is how a soul is really measured for entrance into Heaven. If one has lived a life of goodness and sorrow, their hearts will be heavy with love and suffering. The scale will tip and release the latch to the old wooden gate, allowing it to open, welcoming the traveler home. If one has been mean in their life on Earth, and has felt no sorrow, their hearts will be empty and the scale will not move. Joseph will tell this errant soul to go back down that long, hot highway to Earth and live there, yet again. When they have learned how to be kind, and how to feel the sorrow that saddens other people’s lives, they may return to Heaven and have their hearts weighed again. “I will gladly let you in,” says Joseph, “when you have learned. Until then, you must spend your life on Earth.”
This is where we find Zachary, now, standing before Joseph with the weakened, tattered angels at his side. “Hello, Little One,” came Joseph’s soft voice, “What are you doing here so early? Are you sure it’s time for your arrival?” Zachary’s tear filled eyes gazed at Joseph with an extreme sadness and bewilderment. “Master,” said the closest angel, “our little friend has come home. He was sorely abused by the Evil One’s monster and it was only by the slightest chance that we all escaped. Please weigh his heart so that he can enter into his rest. You must know that his has been a long journey.”
Leaning back in his rocking-chair, Joseph closed his eyes, and with a slow sigh, finally said, “You are right, my faithful friend, let us delay no longer.” Sitting forward now, Joseph called to Zachary, “Come here Little One; tell me about your life. Let me see what kind of child you have been.” Zachary slowly walked up to the old man, and putting his tiny hand into Joseph’s, climbed up onto his lap and leaned back as if to fall asleep. With his head leaning against the gentle gate-keeper’s chest, Zachary began to cry, saying that he didn’t know what he had done wrong, but it must have been terrible to receive the punishment that he had. Joseph tried to sooth the little boy, softly humming a tune, and gently smoothing his tousled hair. “Let’s see what the book says about you, Zachary.” Joseph flipped through several pages of the mighty book, and at last came to the entry about little Zachary. “What it says here, Little One, is that you have done nothing wrong. You have committed no offense, and your heart is full of sadness and suffering. The short life you had lived was little more than strife, neglect, and abuse.” After a pause and a click of his tongue, Joseph stood-up with Zachary in his arms, and held him close. Standing thus, the love from his heart passed into the tiny, sad heart of Zachary. Then, slowly, as if he were coming to life, yet again, Zachary stirred, stretched, and raised his head to look into Joseph’s eyes. “You are safe now, my little friend. The struggles of your life are over. From this day forward, you shall live in paradise, no longer tormented by the Evil One.” A beautiful smile slowly spread across Zachary’s face, lighting Heaven’s entrance with a glow that it hasn’t seen for many lifetimes. “Welcome home,” said the kindly saint, “enter into your rest.”
With these events, Zachary began his new life in Paradise. You may think that his “life,” as we know it, was over once he had perished, but for this new resident of Heaven, he was still a little boy, and his life was just beginning. Zachary could now run, and jump, and swing to his little heart’s content. Day after day, this little wanderer ran throughout Heaven, playing as he had never played before. In his running about, though, Zachary was searching for something that he just couldn’t seem to find. No matter which expanse of Heaven he explored, he still came back a little disappointed, again not finding the secret thing for which he searched.
One day, after a particularly long romp through the fields and by-ways, Zachary returned to Heaven’s gate to talk to his old friend. “Hello, Little One, how are you today?” Without slowing down to provide an answer, Zachary climbed onto the old saint’s lap and blurted out his burning question – “Joseph, are there Tonka Trucks in Heaven? I’ve looked everywhere, and I can’t find any.” Somewhat surprised, and particularly amused, Joseph glanced around and replied, “Well, I don’t know Zachary, I’ve never looked for Tonka Trucks in Heaven.” With a dejected air, Zachary slumped back into Joseph’s chest and mumbled, “I don’t know what I’m going to do then, that was my favorite thing to play with down there.” Joseph just sat there, rocking back and forth, humming his little tune, waiting for what Zachary might say next. After several moments, and with a certain burst of excitement, Zachary nearly shouted – “Do you think you could get someone to bring some up here the next time they go down to Earth? Could one of the angels bring me one?” “I don’t know,” Joseph said, “we’ll see what we can do. It may take some time, and I can’t make any promises, but we’ll see.” This satisfied Zachary for now, so he hopped down from Joseph’s lap, said goodbye, and skipped away, looking for another game he might play.
A short while later, when Zachary was running through the palm groves, he happened upon a dog sitting in the middle of a flower garden. Crawling behind a bush, Zachary lay down and pretended to be spying on the dog. It was very fluffy with gray and tan hair, had pointy ears, a black snout, and a curled tail. Our little spy was starting to come out from behind the bush when he noticed that there were two cats sitting there as well. The smaller one, colored orange and white, was leaning against the larger cat, who was gray, orange, and white, as if she were her mother. While Zachary thought the bright pink flowers looked like a comfortable bed, and couldn’t blame the animals for lying in the flowers, he was wondering why the dog wasn’t chasing the cats up a tree, “or something like that,” he said aloud. “Because they are friends,” came a voice from behind one of the trees. “You can often see them sitting or walking around together.” Turning quickly, Zachary saw an older lady leaning against the tree. “What? Hey, where did you come from?” said Zachary, “I didn’t see you before.” Stepping forward from the tree now, the woman replied, “I said they are friends, so that’s why he isn’t chasing them around.” “Oh . . . but who are you?” “I’m sorry,” said the woman, “My name is Grandma Lois, and I am the keeper of Heaven’s pets and birds. I’ve been following you since you left Joseph at the gate. I had heard that you were up here, Zachary, and I’ve been looking for you for quite some time now.” Zachary turned around again, and looking more perplexed than he did before, peered behind the tree, then glanced at the dog and cats again, who were just sitting there, looking back at him, and smiling as if they were part of some secret joke. “But, how do you know my name, and why were you looking for me?” “Zachary, I know all about you,” said Grandma Lois, “because I have been watching my granddaughter down on the Earth. She knows all about you, too, Little One, and by watching her, I have come to know you.” Sensing Zachary’s growing unease, Grandma Lois tried to comfort him. “Come here Zachary and let me explain. When a loved one dies and comes up here to Heaven, they are able to watch their family and friends back on the Earth. And sometimes, when we see that they are having trouble, we are able to help them. Well, my granddaughter has been trying very hard to fight the Evil One, but sometimes she gets tired and I need to help her out.” By this time, the animals had come over to get some love from Zachary and Grandma Lois, so while Zachary was contemplating the things he was being told, he absently scratched the dog’s ears and petted the cats, alternating his gaze from the animals to his new friend. “Grandma Lois,” said Zachary, “can I help your granddaughter too? Would I be able to help her be strong and fight the monster that hurt me?” The old woman reached down, picked-up the little boy, and held him close to her breast. With great big tears spilling from her eyes, Grandma Lois softly whispered, “You already do, Zachary . . . you already do.” From that day forward, Grandma Lois and Zachary were the best of friends. Whenever you saw one, the other was not far away. To be continued….