Archive for September 18, 2009

Tonka Trucks in Heaven – Part II

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!

Zachary ran through fields of wild flowers and waist-high grass, splashed through a shallow stream, and came at last, to the edge of Heaven’s Lake. “There they are!” he shouted, “just like in my dream!” Joseph and Grandma Lois, assisted by one of the swiftly flying angels, arrived just in time to see their little friend reveal his find. Zachary climbed over the rocks, and disappeared for a moment behind the spilling stream of water, then stepped out again, triumphant, holding a Tonka Truck in each hand. “Yippee, yippee! Look what I found! Joseph! Grandma Lois! Look what I found! There are Tonka Trucks in Heaven!”  The end.
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This story is dedicated to the memory of Zachary Fleshman, a three year-old boy who was murdered by his mother’s boyfriend – for playing too loudly with the new Tonka Truck that he received for his birthday a couple days before his death – April 21, 1996.  I wrote the story to comfort Grandma Lois’ granddaughter, my wife, as she struggled with the horribleness of Zachary’s death.  Whether we hold with the world-view that we might go on to a ‘better’ place when we die, or not, this story speaks to the hope or wish that while we are alive, or while we exist, wherever that is and in whatever form, that our lives and existence can be full of the people and things that we love, be they pets, toys, or whatever else it is that we cherish.