Kumph! HaKumph! HaRrrrrummph! Why am I coughing? Where am I? It’s so dark. And cold.

Dust. You’re in your grave. Your cough, though, is just a lingering nerve reaction. Remember, you’re dead.

What? Where? Who are you?

I’m your neighbor. You can think of me as your conscience, an old spirit.

What happened?

You died.

How? I wasn’t supposed to.

No one ever is — or think they will. But we all do.

This is not how I envisioned it.

No one ever does, properly of course, the way it really is.

How long have you been here?

Long enough.

What about Heaven or you know, the other place, Gehenna?

That depends.

On what?

Forgiveness.

Forgive what? Hey, I’m a good person — or was.

That’s your first hurdle. No one is good and it’s hard to forgive someone while holding on to your goodness. Until you know this you can’t forgive all the others.

Others? What others? Hey, I went to church.

Ahh, but what about your heart?

Show me.

Ok. Today, you will see.

The two spirits waited while the sun moved past noonday, arcing toward dusk. Then, a man appeared.

Why is he here?

You recognize him?

Yes. Mason Ward. He got me fired. He told lies about me then framed me for embezzlement. I never took that money! I couldn’t prove it because he destroyed the evidence. And you want me to forgive him.

Yes, that’s the idea. Did you wish to harm him?

You bet I did, but I didn’t.

Standing at John’s grave, Mason spoke, “John, I’m sorry for what I did to you. I didn’t have the courage to confess. And now you’re dead. Can you forgive me?”

During my long time here, George MacDonald passed by. He said something that stuck. He said, “The one thing that cannot be forgiven is the sin of choosing to be evil, of refusing deliverance.” He meant refusing would be like taking part in it. Grace offered you forgiveness, but you did not offer Mason the same. You left much undone.

But Mason got away with it.

For now.

Hey, the dark is lifting. My eyes detect some light.

Those are the eternal lights. One is above, bright, brilliant, glowing and glistening through that live oak tree. The other is the lesser light, a sort of perpetual twilight, always moving toward sunset, toward darkness. Eternity is coming into focus for you.

What’s that between the two?

It is the eye of the needle. It’s smaller than you think.

It all seems final.

It is.

Doesn’t sound good. Where did I go wrong?

Forgiveness was the hard task. Nowhere in your spiritual life were you more exposed than your inability to forgive. You chose to wait out forgiveness hoping life would justify your goodness. Forgiveness was an overcoming, a test if you will, between your faith on paper and the very real act of committing such an act of compassion. Goodness did not excuse your reluctance. Forgiveness never forgets, only loves. How else would Grace express itself?

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for some 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Please visit his blog at deckcheatham.com. Email him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.

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