Jack dies.

He finds himself walking down a dirt lane. In the distance, he sees a gate. As he nears, he sees a man tending a garden. He’s not sure what has happened. He remembers grasping for breath and clutching his chest. And now, he is walking down this quiet country lane. Curious, he walks toward the gate.

Jack greets the gardener. Hello, sir. “Hello, Jack.” How do you know my name? “I know everyone who comes to my gate.” What is your name? “Peter.” Is this the road to Heaven? “Some say so. Some call it the road of good intention.”

Am I in Heaven? “Not yet.” Where am I? Is that the Pearly Gate? “Could be.” That old rickety thing! “What did you expect?” Well, I thought maybe some gold. “Heaven isn’t what you think.”

I’m confused. “Most are.” What’s next? Do I have to answer some questions or something? You know, I’m not perfect, but I did give money to the homeless and went to church most Sundays. “Not quite. And I don’t need a resume’. Before anyone enters Heaven, each must look in this mirror.”

Jack hadn’t noticed the mirror. Surprised, he felt jitters.

“All you must do is look into the mirror. But beware, you will see yourself as you are, not as you think you are.”

Uneasy, Jack looks into the mirror. At first, he sees himself. Slowly, the image changes and he sees Daniel, the black field hand from his Dad’s farm.

Why do I see Daniel? “Because as a child, Daniel looked after you. He was your guardian angel. You loved Daniel and he loved you, but as you grew, you forgot him.” Yes, I did.

Again, the image changes. I remember him. He’s the Priest in Rome. He toured us around the duomo and prayed for us. “Yes, he did. And you thought he was a bit strange. You were also impatient.” Well, I had places to go. Who is he, anyway? “He is the stranger who took you in, who tried to show you how to live in the present.”

Now, Jack sees two doors.

I remember those. They’re replicas of doors in Italy. “Would you like to enter?” No. That man might be inside. We made a mistake when he asked if we would like to see the church and we said yes. I thought we would never shake him. And who is he? “He’s every lonely person wishing for a kind word and someone to value him for who he is.”

I don’t understand. “The answer is simple. Your time with Daniel was when you were closest to God. But as time passed, you traveled farther away. The Priest and the docent were angels who crossed your path to show you the way — God speaking to your soul.

Peter, I’m not worthy to enter. Please forgive me.

At that, the locks fall from the gate and Jack is welcomed.

Peter turned to look down the road. A man is approaching.

Hello, Sir. “Hello, Sam.” How do you know my name?

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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