Friday, April 19, 2013


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In that other life, I might have cried bitterly, but I had only happy tears now. I should have been sad, or angry, or resentful, but those emotions had died along with my diseased and corrupted body.

So I faced my sister in Christ at the corner of Golden Passage and Angel’s Walk with nothing but love in my heart. Heaven is odd—I had never met Sandra on the dark side of eternity, nor any member of her family, but I knew her. I also intuitively felt the link that connected her former life with what had been mine. That’s why I wanted to meet her.

Even though time is endless here, there is no time in heaven for small talk, no need to “work up” to the subject. I simply asked. Sandra had never met me before, but she sensed the connection with me as much as I did with her.

“What happened?”

She smiled, not a sad smile, but a reflective one.

“It seemed so simple then, Mercedes. Why would my daughter and her husband go so far away, take my grandchildren to another world, another life, and deprive them, and me, of each others' company?”

“Not even to serve God?” I said.

“No, not even to serve God. I reasoned that they could serve Him at home just as well as they could in some foreign country—better, in fact. There was no new language to learn, no strange culture to adjust to, less danger, more of the good things of life. What could they do with youth thousands of miles away from me that they couldn’t do three streets over in the neighbourhood we had shared all of our lives.”

“And your grandchildren?”

“They were so small when Susan and Jeff left—three and five. It tore my heart out to see them go. I was determined to convince them to come back home so that I could watch the kids grow, be part of their lives. It just didn’t seem fair. I had the means to visit frequently during that first year they were overseas. I called, sometimes two and three times a week. At every opportunity I reminded them of what they had given up, and of what they were depriving me of. Did you know Susan and Jeff?”

“No, they left before we could meet. I worked at the guarderĂ­a where Susan would have left Toby to do prekindergarten, if they had stayed. She would have been the first real Christian to come into my life.”

The memories were purged. I remembered, but there was no hurt to feel. I had been so young when I began working in the guarderĂ­a: needing and wanting, not knowing how to distinguish between the two, or how to interpret their signals. I followed where others led and ended up pregnant, destitute, and alone. Two bad relationships, two abortions and years of grief later, I was introduced to a missionary who introduced me to Jesus.

“In what was once my culture, family is very important. Being a grandmother, having the children close by, must have been vitally important for you, Sandra.”

“More important than anything, then. I was certain that having them home was the best thing in the world for all of us,” she replied.

“It wasn’t?”

Sandra shook her head. “They had everything being overseas couldn’t give them, and I had everything I wanted—my grandchildren. Susan and I were so close, more like sisters than mother and daughter. After they came back, it wasn’t quite the same. There always seemed to be a piece missing for Susan.”

I thought I saw a shadow appear and then disappear behind Sandra’s eyes. I must have been mistaken because there are no shadows in heaven.

“You were the missing piece, weren’t you, Mercedes? You were Susan’s mission. And I pressured her away before she could get to you, didn’t I?”

“God sent someone else later,” I said softly.

“Yes. Later.”

For eternity’s version of a second, heaven was silent as we acknowledged God’s mercy and His forgiveness—for both of us.

“How did your grandchildren fare?”

“Mercedes, distance isn’t only measured in miles. Danger lurks in familiar places and behind friendly faces. I watched them grow up and grow away from me anyway. Things happened—well, I came to wonder if they might not have been safer if they had stayed where Susan and Jeff felt that God had called them.”

Gently, I said: “But you did it for family. I understand.”

“You’re being kind. No, nothing so noble; I did it for myself.”

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