The current of my life flowed on in the heavenly ways, until the months began to lengthen into years and my daily studies ascended higher in the scale of celestial mysteries. I never wearied of study, though much was taught and gained through the medium of observation in the journeys that I was permitted to take with my brother-in-law into different parts of the heavenly kingdom. I never lacked time for social pleasures and enjoyments, for there is no clashing of duties with inclination, no unfulfilled desires, no vain strivings for the unattainable in that life, as in the life of earth. Many precious hours of discussion and fellowship were spent in my dear father’s house, and sometimes on rare occasions I was permitted to accompany him to his field of labor and assist him in instructing those lately come into the new life with little or no preparation for its duties and responsibilities.
On one occasion he said to me: “I have the most difficult problem to deal with I have ever yet met in this work. It is how to enlighten and help a man who suddenly plunged from an apparently honorable life into the very depths of crime. I have never been able to get him to accompany me to the river, where these earthly cobwebs would be swept from his poor brain; his excuse being always that God’s mercy is so great in allowing him inside heaven’s gates at all, that he is content to remain always in its lowest scale of enjoyment and life. No argument or teaching thus far can make him alter his decision. He was led astray by infatuation for a strange woman, and killed his aged mother in order to secure her jewels for this wretched creature. He was executed for the crime, of which in the end he sincerely repented, but he left life with all the horror of the deed clinging to his soul.”
“Has he seen his mother since coming here? Does she know of his arrival?”
“No; she is entirely alone in this world, and it was not thought wise to tell her of his coming till his soul was in a better condition to receive her. He was an only child and does not lack the elements of refinement, but he was completely under the control of this vile though fascinating woman. It is said she drugged his wine and incited him to do the dreadful deed while under its influence, because of her hatred for his mother, whose influence was against her. When he came from under the influence of the wine, he was horrified at what he had done, and his infatuation for the woman turned to loathing—but, alas, too late! He would not see her during his entire incarceration.”
“How long was he in prison?”
“Almost a year.”
“Has he seen the Christ?”
“No; he begs not to see him. He is very repentant, and grateful to be saved from the wrath he feels was his just punishment, but though he is conscious that his sin is forgiven, he does not yet feel that he can ever stand in the presence of the Holy One. And here, as upon earth, each must be willing to receive him. His presence is never given undesired. I have not yet appealed for higher help; my ambition is to lead these weak souls upward through the strength entrusted to me. Can you suggest anything that would probably reach him?”
“His mother. May I bring her?”
He thought a moment reflectively, then said: “A woman’s intuition. Yes, bring her.”
I soon was on my way. I found the poor woman, laid the facts gently before her, and awaited her decision. There so was no hesitancy upon her part; in an instant she said, “My poor boy! Certainly I will go with you at once.”
We found my father waiting for us and went immediately to the great home where these “students” stayed. It was a beautiful great building in the midst of a park, with shaded walks and fountains and flowers everywhere. To one just freed from earth it seemed a paradise indeed; but to those of us who had tasted heaven’s rarer joys, something was lacking. We missed the lovely individual homes, the little children playing on the lawns, the music of the angel choir; it was tame indeed beside the pleasures we had tasted.
We found the young man seated beneath one of the flower-laden trees, intently perusing a book that my father had left with him. There was a peaceful look on his pale face, but it was rather the look of patient resignation than of ardent joy. His mother approached him alone; my father and I remained in the background. After a little time he glanced up and saw his mother standing near him. A startled look came into his face and he rose to his feet. She extended her arms toward him and cried out pathetically, “John, my dear boy, come home to me—I need you!” That was all.
With a low cry he knelt at her feet and clasped her knees, sobbing: “Mother! Mother!”
She stooped and put her tender arms about him; she drew his head gently to her breast and showered kisses on his bowed head. Oh, the warm mother-love, the same in earth and heaven! Only the Christ-love can exceed it. Here was this outraged mother, sent into eternity by the hands of him who should have shielded and sustained her, bending above her repentant son with the mother-love with which her heart was overflowing, shining upon him from her gentle eyes. I saw my father turn his head to conceal his emotion, and I know that my own eyes were wet. My father had explained to the mother that the first thing to be accomplished was to get her son to the river, so we now heard her say caressingly: “Come, John, my boy, take the first step upward, for your mother’s sake, that in time I may have the joy of seeing you in our own home. Come, John, with mother.”
She gently drew him, and to our great joy we saw him rise and go with her, and their steps led them to the river. They walked hand in hand, and as far as we could see them, she seemed to be soothing and comforting him.
“Thank God!” said my father fervently. “There will be no further trouble now. when they return he will see with clearer vision.” And so it proved.
After this, by divine permission, I became much of the time a co-laborer with my father, and thus enjoyed his fellowship and his instructions much oftener than otherwise I could have done.
One evening, some three years—counted by the calendar of earth—after I had entered upon the joys and duties of the heavenly life, I sat resting upon the upper veranda of our home, after a somewhat arduous journey to a distant city of the heavenly realm. From this part of the veranda we caught rare glimpses of the river through the overhanging branches of the trees; and just below us, at a little distance, we could see the happy children at their play upon the lawn. Here my brother-in-law sought me out, and throwing himself upon a soft veranda lounge nearby, lay for a time motionless and silent. He looked as wearied as one can ever look in that life, but I felt no anxiety about him, for I knew the rest was sure.
He had been absent on some earth-mission much of the time for many days, and I knew from experience that some of the fatigue and care of earth will cling to us on such occasions, till we are restored by heaven’s balmy air and life-giving waters. He had not told me, as he sometimes did, where his mission had led him, and I had not asked him, feeling sure that he would impart all it was best for me to know. My own duties had of late been unusually responsible, leading me daily to a distant part of the heavenly kingdom, hence I myself had not visited the beloved of earth for a much longer period than usually elapsed between my visits. When last seen, all of the dear ones had seemed in such vigorous health and were so surrounded by earthly blessings that I had ceased to feel they needed my ministrations as in the early days of their sorrow, hence I had thrown all of my energies into the work assigned me by the Master.
At length, after a time of rest, my brother-in-law arose to a sitting posture, and regarding me for a moment in silence, said gently: “I have news for you, little sister.”
A thrill like an electric shock passed through me, and in an instant I cried out joyously: “He is coming!”
He nodded his head with a sympathetic smile, but did not at once reply.
“When will it be? Am I to go to him?” I asked.
He hesitated an instant before saying: “Of course you are permitted to go, if your heart will not be denied.”
“Oh, I must go to him! I must be the first to greet him! Perhaps it may be granted him to see me even while he is yet in the flesh.”
He shook his head sadly at this, and said, “No, dear; he will not know you.”
“Why? Frank, tell me all—and why you think, as I plainly see you do, that it is not best I should go.”
“He was stricken suddenly in the midst of his work, while apparently in perfect health, and has not regained consciousness since; nor will he ever on earth. Hence your presence could be no solace to him.”
“When was this?”
“Three days ago; I have been with him almost constantly by day and night ever since.”
“Oh, why did you not tell me sooner?”
“It was thought wise to spare you the unnecessary pain of seeing him suffer when you could not minister to him, and I have come to tell you now that you may go if you still so desire.”
“He will know me as soon as the struggle is past?”
“Yes, but he will be bewildered and weak; he will need stronger help and guidance than you alone can give, and you will miss the rapture of the meeting as it would be a little later on.”
“What would you have me do? You know I will yield to your wiser judgment even against the pleadings of my heart. But I can wait!”
“I will not say, ‘Do not go.’ You shall accompany me if you wish. I only think that after the first bewilderment of the change has passed, after he has bathed in the waters of the River of Life, he will be better prepared for the delightful reunion which awaits him. You remember what the waters did for you, and how bewildered and oppressed in spirit you were till you went with me that morning into the river. It is the same with all of us, only where there has been serious trouble with the brain at last, it is even more needed than on ordinary occasions. And that is the case with my brother; he will not be fully himself until the magical waters have swept the clouds from his brain.”
“You are always right, my brother, and I will yield to your wise advice, although my heart cries out to hasten at once to his side. When will you return to him?”
“Immediately. There will be little time to wait. With the quickening of the morning light we will be here. My brave-hearted, wise little sister, the delay will be to you neither sorrowful nor long.”
He arose, and, bending over me, dropped a kiss lightly on my brow, and in a moment he had passed from my sight.
How strange, I thought, that even in this matter, so near to my heart, I am able to yield unmurmuringly! Father, I thank Thee! I thank Thee for the glad reunion so near at hand; but, even more than that, for the sweet submission in all things that has grown into my life; that I can yield to Thy will even when Thou wouldst permit it to be otherwise.
I bowed my head upon my hand and gave myself up to mingled sad and happy thoughts. Was he, my dearly beloved, indeed insensible to his suffering? Would the Father mercifully spare him even the pang of parting? Oh, that the morning were here! How could I wait even that brief while for the sight of the beloved face!
Suddenly a soft touch rested upon my bowed head, and a Voice I had learned to recognize and love beyond all things in earth or heaven said, “Have I not said truly, ‘Though he were dead, yet shall he live again’? What are now the years of separation, since the meeting again is at hand? Come, and let us reason a little together,” the Master said, smiling down into my uplifted face. He took my extended hand into his own, and sitting down beside me, continued, “Let us consider what these years have done for you. Do you not feel that you are infinitely better prepared to confer happiness than when you parted from him you love?”
I nodded in glad affirmation.
“Do you not realize that you stand upon a higher plane, with more exalted ideas of life and its duties; and that, in the strength of the Father, you two henceforward will walk upward together?”
Again I gladly acquiesced.
“Is the home-life here less attractive than it was in the earth-life?”
“No, no! A thousand times no!” I cried.
“Then there is nothing but joy in the reunion at hand?”
“Nothing but joy,” I echoed.
Then the Savior led me on to talk of the one so soon to come, and I opened my glad heart to him and told him of the noble life, the unselfish toil, the high aspirations, the unfaltering trust of him I loved. I spoke of his fortitude in misfortune, his courage in the face of sore trial and disappointment, his forgiveness of even malicious injury; and concluded by saying, “He lived the Christianity many others professed. He always distanced me in that.”
The face of the Master glowed in sympathy as I talked, and when I ceased he said, “I perceive that you have discovered the secret which makes marriage eternal as the years of heaven.”
“Oh,” I said, “to me marriage must be eternal! How could it be otherwise when two grow together and become as one? Death cannot separate them without destroying; they are no longer two perfect beings, but one in soul and spirit forever.”
“Yes,” he answered, “but having the marriage rite pronounced does not produce this change. It is the divinity of soul wedded to soul alone that can do it.”
So he led me on until my soul flew upward as a lark in the early morning. He unfolded to me mysteries of the soul-life that filled my heart with rapture, but which I may not here reveal. At length, to my infinite surprise, I saw the rosy glow deepening across the sky and knew that morning—love’s morning—had dawned for me in heaven. The Master arose, and pointing to the radiance, said: “By the time thou art ready to receive them they will be here;” and with a smile and a touch that made a benediction, he departed.
As I arose and stood with face uplifted to the coming day, I caught in the near distance the triumphant notes of the angels’ choral song; and this morning, as though in sympathy with my thought, they sang: “He is risen! Hear it, ye heavens, and ye songs of earth! He is risen, and has become the firstfruits of them that slept!”
I lifted up my voice with joy, and joined their thrilling song; and as they swept onward and the cadence died away, I slowly descended the stairway, crossed the lawn whose flowers never crushed or withered beneath our feet, and sank for a moment beneath the pure waters of the river. I felt no haste, no unwonted excitement or unrest, though I knew that he was coming for whom my soul had waited all these years. The Master’s presence had filled me with calm and peace that nothing had power to disturb, had prepared and fitted me for the great happiness lying just before me.
Uplifted with a new, strange delight, I re-crossed the lawn, stopping upon the veranda before entering the house, to gather a knot of cream-white roses and fasten them to my breast. Then going to the library, I refilled the golden bowl with the spicy-breathed scarlet carnations, laying one aside to fasten upon my husband’s shoulder. I wanted to myself gather the flowers that would greet him on his coming. I twisted up my hair in the manner that he had most admired and fastened a creamy bud within the folds, that I might seem to him as I had of old.
Soon thereafter I heard voices and steps. Listen! Yes, it is the same dear step for which I had so often listened in the old home-life, the step that had always brought gladness to my heart and sunshine in our home! His step in heaven! I flew to the open doorway, and in an instant was held close in the strong arms and to the loving, throbbing heart of my dear husband. Was there anything more for me that heaven could give!
My brother-in-law, with thoughtful care, passed onward to the upper rooms of the house, and for awhile we were alone together, we whose lives had run so happily mingled through the long years of our mortal life. I drew him within the house, and in the vestibule again he took me in his arms and drew me to his heart. “This is heaven indeed!” he said.
We passed into the “flower room,” and on its threshold he stood a moment, entranced with its beauty; but when I would have related to him its history as my brother-in-law had given it to me, he said, “Not today, my dear; I have only eyes and ears for you today; all else in heaven must wait.”
So we sat and talked together as in the olden days, and the happy hours came and went, and the day melted into the twilight glow before we realized it was half spent. Our brother-in-law Frank had come to us about the noontide, and together we had gone over the lovely house, had stood upon the broad verandas and eaten of the heavenly fruit. Then we all sat together where I had spent the hours waiting in the presence of the blessed Master. I told them much that he then had said to me, and how he turned into triumphant rejoicing the hours which I had anticipated would pass in lonely waiting. The eyes of my dear husband were tear-filled, and he pressed my hand, which he still kept in his, in tender sympathy.
“Oh, darling, it is a blessed, blessed life!” I said.
“I already realize the blessedness,” he replied, “for has it not given me back my brother and my wife, my precious wife!”
Early the following morning I said to my husband and our brother, “We must go to father and mother Sprague’s today. They have the first claim after ours, Frank.”
“Yes, we will go at once,” they both replied.
So together we all started. In the earliest days of my heavenly life I had sought out with much joy the home of my husband’s parents, and was by them accorded, as in the earth-life, a warm place in their hearts, and many happy hours had we spent together since. Now we were taking to them a favorite son, and I realized how his coming would bring gladness to their hearts and home. It was a joyful meeting, especially to our mother, and the day was far spent before we arose to return.
“William,” said our mother, fondly laying her hand upon his arm, “yours was a happy home on earth—I used to think a perfect home; it will be far happier here,” with a loving glance at me.
“I am sure of that, mother. I have my dear wife and Frank constantly with me; and you and my father and Josephine”—a favorite niece—“to come to here; and after awhile,” with a little hesitation, “the holier joys and privileges of heaven.”
We turned to go, and upon the threshold met an aunt who in the earth-life—blind and helpless—had been a favorite with us all.
“My dear children,” she exclaimed, “how good it seems to see you all again!”
“Aunt Cynthia!” my husband said fondly.
“Yes, Aunt Cynthia, but no longer groping helpless in the darkness. ‘Whereas I once was blind, now I see,’” she quoted, smiling happily.
And so it was—the Master’s touch had rested on the sightless eyes, and, closing to the darkness of earth, they had opened upon the glories of heaven. Marvelous transition! No wonder we left her singing,
Glory to Him who this marvel hath wrought,
Filling my spirit with joy and delight!
Lo, in my blindness I safely have walked
Out of the darkness into the light!
Days lengthened into weeks, and weeks into months, and these in turn crept onward into years, and the duties and joys of heaven grew clearer and dearer with each passing hour. Our home-life was perfect, though we looked forward with joy to the future coming of our son and daughter to make its ties complete. We had often spoken of going together to the great celestial sea, but the time had never seemed quite ripe for doing so. We realized it was one of the great mysteries of heaven, although we knew not just what to expect, since there no one ever seeks to forestall sight by description.
One evening I said to my brother-in-law: “I have a strange desire to go to the sea, if you think it wise that we should do so.”
“I am glad that it is your desire to go, as it is mine to have you. I was about to propose that you and my brother should take this blessed journey together.”
“Will you not accompany us?”
“Not at this time. We will all take it again together, but it is best that now you two should go alone. You know the way. Through the forest that leads to the Temple, till almost there; then bear to the right and follow the golden path that takes you direct to the shore.”
So, in the quivering light of the glorious morning we started, full of a holy joy that together we might take this special journey. We entered and traversed the great forest, where the golden light fell through the quivering branches overhead, and birds of gorgeous plumage and thrilling song were darting everywhere. We heard, nearer and ever nearer, the regular dashing of the waves against the shore; and now there came to us bursts of triumphant song and the harmony of many instruments of music. At length we emerged from the forest and stood mute and motionless before the overwhelming glory of the scene before us.
Can I describe it as it appeared to me that day? Never, until my lips can speak and your heart understand the language of the royal courts above. From our very feet sloped downward toward the shore a golden strand many hundred feet wide and extending on either hand far beyond the limits of our vision. This strand caught and radiated the morning light until wherever it was visible it glittered and glimmered like the dust of diamonds and other precious stones, and the waves, as they came and went in ceaseless motion, caught up this sparkling sand and carried it on their crests, like the phosphorescence we sometimes see in the wake of a vessel in mid-ocean.
And the sea! It spread out before us in a radiance that passes description in any language I have ever known. It was like the white glory that shone through the windows of the Temple, and beneath this shining glory we caught in the roll of the waves the blue tint of the waters of that sea which has no limit to its depths or bounds. Upon its shining bosom we saw in every direction boats, representing all nations, but in beauty of construction far surpassing anything earth has ever known. They were like great open pleasure-barges and were filled with people looking with eager faces toward the shore, many in their eagerness standing erect and gazing with wistful, expectant eyes into the faces of those upon the shore.
Ah, the people upon the shore! “Numberless as the sands of the sea,” they stood, far as the eye could reach, far as stretched the shore of that illimitable sea, a great mass of beautiful souls clad in the spotless garments of the redeemed. Many among them had golden harps and various instruments of music and whenever a boat touched the shore and its inhabitants were welcomed by the glad voices and tender embraces of beloved ones in the throng, the harps would be held aloft, all of the golden instruments would sound, and the vast multitude would break forth into the triumphant song of victory over death and the grave.
“Do these people stand here always, I wonder?” I said softly.
“Not the same people,” said a radiant being near us, who had heard my question. “But there is always a throng of people here—those who are expecting friends from the other life and those who assemble to share their joy. Some of the heavenly choristers also are always here, but not always the same ones. You will notice that most of those who arrive are led quietly away by their friends, and many others are constantly joining the multitude.”
He passed onward toward the shore, and left us rapt in awe and wonder.
We soon became deeply interested in watching the reunions and found ourselves joining with rapture in the glad songs of rejoicing. Now and then a face we remembered to have seen on earth would be among the eager faces in the boats, but none that had been especially dear to us; still it made us notice more closely and sympathize more heartily with those who welcomed beloved friends. Now we would see a wife caught in the close embrace of a waiting husband; now a little child with a glad cry would spring into the outstretched arms of the happy mother; friend would clasp friend in glad reunion and here an aged mother would be folded to the heart of a beloved child.
As one boat of more than usual strength and beauty came riding gracefully over the waves, we observed the tall figure of a man standing near her prow with his arms about a graceful woman who stood by his side. Each shaded with uplifted hand from their dazzled eyes the unwonted splendor and scanned, wistfully and searchingly, the faces of the crowd as the boat neared the shore. Suddenly with a great thrill of joy surging through our being, I cried out: “It is our precious son, and his dear wife! And they have come together!”
In an instant we were swiftly moving through the throng that parted in ready sympathy to let us pass. And, as the boat touched the shore, with a swift movement they were both beside us—the dear daughter already close clasped to the hearts of her own happy parents who were waiting near the water’s edge, while at the same instant we felt the arms of our beloved son enfolding us; and soon thereafter we were all in each other’s embrace. Oh, what a rapturous moment was that! Our home life in heaven complete, no partings forever! As we stood with encircling arms, scarcely realizing the unexpected bliss, the heavenly choir broke into song; and with uplifted faces radiant with joy, eyes filled with happy tears and voices trembling with emotion, we all joined in the glad anthem:
Glory be unto the Father and unto the Son!
Glory be unto the ever-blessed Three in One!
No more sorrow, no more parting, no more grief or pain;
Christ has broken death’s strong fetters, we are free again!
Heart to heart and hand to hand,
Meet we on the golden strand.
Glory, glory to the Father! Glory to the Son!
Glory unto the ever-blessed Three in One!
The song rose and swelled triumphantly as the vast multitude caught it up, and the surge of the waves made a deep undertone to the melody that increased its solemnity, as with bowed heads and full hearts we passed onward hand in hand; and the light that fell about us was purer, holier, more divine, than it had ever been before.
A time came when one day as I stood in my lovely room that had really become to me a shrine, and looked up into the pictured face of the Christ above me. I fancied that the tender eyes looking down into mine no longer told of a deathless love alone, but carried in their depths a pity, a loving compassion, which I had never noticed there before. Then as I turned toward my couch I even fancied that his hands reached out from the canvas and rested in benediction on my head. I stood a moment in blessed peace before him; then as the hands seemed to be withdrawn, I turned and lay down for an instant’s rest. But strange thoughts and fancies crept into my brain, such as I had not known in years. I felt confused and bewildered and started up restlessly from my pillow, only to fall back again in doubt, and something akin to dread. What could it mean? Could the old unrest of earth find place in this divine retreat? Then I heard unfamiliar voices. Someone said, “Her color is better than it has been for several days, I think.”
“Yes, there is no doubt but she is better today. There is really hope for her now, I am sure. But she came very near passing through the Gates.”
Very near passing through the Gates! As though I had not passed through, and in returning left them so ajar that gleams of the heavenly radiance from beyond them will fall about my life forever!
I have been in my Father’s house.
We shall know each other there!
Chapter Twenty (Supplemental Chapter)
In the many letters received since the publication of Intra Muros, repeated inquiries have been made of me on different points contained in the book, requiring much correspondence, and it has been suggested that possibly the addition of a few pages as a supplement to the book might explain some matters or possibly make more clear some points that have not been fully comprehended by the reader.
Let me in the beginning reassert what I have previously stated: that I have never claimed that this strange experience is either a revelation or an inspiration. It came to me during a period of great physical suffering and prostration, and I have always considered it as sent in compensation for that suffering. Be this as it may, it has been a great comfort and help to me; and through the letters received from others, I am led to believe it has been the same to many who have read it, for which cause I am extremely gratified. I wish that I might give the entire experience just as it came to me, but I find that earth-language is wholly inadequate for me to do so. There were so many mysteries, so many teachings far beyond anything that in this life we have known, that I find myself bewildered and lost when I attempt to convey to others the marvelous things that at that time seemed indeed to me to be a most wonderful revelation.
The question has repeatedly been asked me, “Was this a real experience, or merely a fanciful sketch?” What I have written above will as nearly answer that question as it is possible for me to do. The preface and early pages as given in the little volume are as nearly accurate as I can make them, and anything that I might add on that point would simply be superfluous. To me, at the time, it was as real as any experience in this life could possibly be.
Questions have been asked respecting the comparative distances in heaven and our powers of passing from one point to another; and the question has even been asked if in the other life we developed wings that aided us in passage, as the wings of a bird. These matter-of-fact questions are sometimes quite difficult to answer; for my belief is that if I were really in the other life, as during this experience I seemed to be, my thoughts would be so far above, so lifted beyond such temporal matters, that I would be unable to answer such inquiries satisfactorily on my return to this life.
Looking back upon it now and trying to gather facts from the impressions that I then received, I should say that none who have ever passed through mortal life would in any way be changed from their present personal appearance, except to be etherealized and glorified. When I seemed to stand in that wonderful Temple filled with the Glory of God the Father, four angels with uplifted trumpets stood beside the golden altar on the great platform of pearl, and from their shoulders shadowy pinions enfolded them and touched the floor upon which they stood. And when, in a moment of bewildering emotion I lifted my eyes to the erstwhile cloud-filled dome, I saw about the hitherto invisible choir, the shadowy pinions of which we so often read, half concealing the harps and instruments to gold. Also, when at the close of that wonderful day when I had first met the Savior, we heard the angel voices as we stood together in the great flower room, and looking upward, saw the child faces in the golden twilight above us, they, too, had delicate shadowy wings, half concealing the baby forms. Except for this, I have no recollection of having seen any of those glorious wings of which we so often read.
To me it seems that to the angels of God who have always lived in heaven, these are given; but to those who have suffered and toiled and borne the cross below is given only the glorified form such as our Savior himself bore. We appear to our friends when we meet them over there just as they saw us here, only purified and perfect. Still, we had powers of locomotion given us that carried us from point to point swiftly and securely, as though borne by a boat upon the waters.
I do not know how I can better illustrate this point than by giving a little incident not mentioned in the book. I remember, as I sat one morning upon the upper terrace in the house of my sister whom I had welcomed there soon after my arrival (and who, though really then an inhabitant of earth), she said to me, “I often look across the river to those lovely hills in the distance and wonder if it is all as beautiful there as here. I mean some day to go and see.”
“Why not go today?” was my answer.
“Could you go with me this morning?” was her inquiry as she turned her radiant face again toward the river and the lovely fields beyond.
“With pleasure,” I replied. “I have often wished to go myself. There is something very inviting in the beautiful landscape beyond the river. Where is Oliver?” I asked. “Will he not accompany us?”
“No,” she said, looking smilingly toward me, “he has gone upon an important mission for the Master today; but you and I, dear, can go, and be at home again before his return.”
“Then let us do so,” I replied rising and giving her my hand.
She at once arose, and instead of turning toward the stairway in the center of the building, we turned and walked deliberately to the low coping that surrounded the upper veranda. Without a moment’s hesitation, we stepped over this into the sweet air that lay about us. There was no more fear of falling than if our feet had been upon the solid earth. We had the power of passing through the air at will, and through the water, just as we had the power of walking upon the crystal paths and lawns about us.
We ascended slightly until we were just above the treetops, and then—what shall I say?—we did not fly, we made no effort either with our hands or our feet; I can only think of the word “drifting” that will at all describe this wonderful experience. We went as a leaf or a feather floats through the air on a balmy day, and the sensation was most delightful. We saw beneath us through the green branches of the trees the little children playing and the people walking—some for pleasure, some for duty. As we neared the river, we looked down on the pleasure-boats upon the water and upon the people sitting or lying or walking on the pebbly bottom; and we saw them with the same distinctness as though we were looking at them simply through the atmosphere.
Conversing as we drifted onward, we soon were over the tops of the hills to which we had looked so longingly from the veranda of my sister’s house, and for some time, we had no words to exchange; our hearts were filled with such as only the scenes of heaven can give. Then my sister said very softly, quoting from one of the old earth-hymns,
“Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood.
Stand dressed in living green.”
And, in the same spirit, I answered, “It is indeed a rapturous scene—
“That rises to our sight,
Sweet fields arrayed in living green,
And rivers of delight.”
As we passed onward, in looking down we began to see many suburban villages similar to that in which our own happy homes were situated. Among many of them there was an unfamiliar air, and the architecture of the buildings in many respects seemed quite different from our own. I suggested to my sister that we drop downward a little. On doing so, we soon realized what caused this apparent difference in the architecture and surroundings. Where our homes were situated we were surrounded by people we had known and loved on earth, and of our own nationality. Many of these villages over which we were now passing we found were formed from what, to us, would be termed of foreign nations; and each village retained some of the peculiarities of its earth-life, and these, to us, were naturally unfamiliar. We recognized again the wisdom and goodness of the Father in thus allowing friends of the same nationality to be located near each other in heaven as on earth.
As we still drifted onward, in passing over an exquisitely beautiful valley, between low hills of the most enchanting verdure, we saw a group of people seated upon the ground in a semicircle. They seemed to be hundreds in number; and in their midst a man was standing who apparently, was talking to them. Something familiar, and yet unfamiliar, in the scene attracted us, and I said, “Let us go nearer, and hear, if possible, what he is saying, and see who these people are.”
Upon doing this we found the people to resemble in a great measure our own Indian tribes; their dress in a manner corresponding to that worn upon earth, though so etherealized as to be surpassingly beautiful. But the dusky faces and the long black hair still remained. The faces, with intense interest depicted on each, were turned toward the man who, we could see, was talking to them; and looking upon him, we saw at once that he belonged to the Anglo-Saxon race. In a whisper of surprise I said to my sister, “Why, he is a missionary!”
As so often seemed to me to happen in that experience, when a surprise or a difficulty presented itself, there was always someone near to answer and enlighten us. And so we found on this occasion that our instructor was beside us ready to answer any surprise or question that might be asked. He said at once: “Yes, you are right. This is a missionary who gave his life to what on earth were called the heathen. He spent many years in working for them and enlightening those who sat in darkness, with the result, as you see before you, of bringing hundreds into the kingdom of the Master. But, as you will naturally suppose, they have much to learn; and here he still gathers them about him and day by day leads them higher and higher into the blessed life.”
“Are there many such,” I asked, “doing this work in this beautiful realm?”
“Many hundreds,” he said. “To these poor minds, unenlightened as they were when they first came, heaven is as beautiful and happy a place as it is to any who have ascended higher, simply because we can enjoy only in the capacity to which our souls can reach. There is no one here who doesn’t have much yet to learn of this wonderful country.”
In several instances as we drifted across above the villages, we heard songs of praise arising from the temples, and from people collected in different ways. In many cases, to our surprise, the hymns and the words were those with which we had been familiar on earth; and although sung in a strange tongue, we understood them all. That was another of the wonderful surprises of heaven. There was no language there that we could not understand.
On, and on, and on, through wonderful scenes of beauty we passed, returning finally to our own homes by a different way from that by which we had gone forth, seeming to have made almost a circle in our pleasant journeyings. When I left my sister in her own home she whispered to me as she bade me good-by for the present: “It has been a day of such wonderful rest and pleasure that we must soon repeat it together.” And I answered: “Yes, dear, we will.”
In several instances, the subject of dual marriages has been introduced. More than once it has been suggested. “If a man marrying in early life, and being devotedly attached to the woman he has married, should unfortunately lose her and after many years of solitary waiting find another congenial soul to whom his whole heart goes out and marriage is the result, and they have many years of wedded happiness together before she, too, is called, to whom will he belong in the other life?”
In the many phases of the divine life that seemed to come to me in my vision, such thoughts as the above were never by any means suggested. Speaking from my own natural intuitions, I cannot but think that as soon as the immortal part of us leaves the earthly tenement, it lays down forever with that tenement all thoughts that embarrassed or grieved or pained the spirit. In the homes of heaven there was perpetual love and joy and peace and happiness without measure. This one thing I know: In heaven are no conflicting ties; no questions that vex; no conditions that annoy; the whole heart springs up to do the will of the Father, and nothing less than that will suffice.
In answer to the question in many instances proposed to me, as to whether I consider this experience as a revelation, I can only say, as previously, that I gave it as it came to me; and everyone must draw his own inference concerning it. I can be the guide for no one.
There are some seeming inconsistencies in the book which I myself am aware. Looking back upon it after nearly four years have passed, it seems to me to be more a series of instructions such as we give little children here in a kindergarten. It does not purport to be a revelation of what has been or what will be, in the strict sense of the word. But as I have already suggested, more as we would teach children in a kindergarten. I myself noticed, in transcribing this strange experience, the fact that the first lesson to be taught almost invariably came as an illustration that the picture itself would teach, then followed the revelation, or a general application of its meaning.
For instance, (that I may make my meaning more clear): When I first entered within the gates, I was shown the wonders of the celestial gardens and the magic of the beautiful river; then the meeting with the dear ones from whom I had been so long parted. And so I came to know the rapture of the disembodied spirit on its first entrance “Within the Walls.” Afterwards followed the instruction or first lessons concerning this life into which I seemed to have entered, until, as I said, the first illustrations and the instructions formed for me but one perfect lesson. And when, as time passed, I met and welcomed my dear sister, my husband and my son, I knew the other side of the question—the joy that came even to the angels in heaven when they welcomed the beloved ones who came to them from the world below. And so, all through the book, the instruction was invariably preceded by the illustration. Thus I can but think, if any meaning can be attached to this strange vision, that it is simply a lesson in a general way of what we may expect and hope for when we reach that eternal shore.
Again, the question is many times repeated, “Does this experience retain its vividness as time passes, or does it grow unreal and dreamlike to you?” I can partially forget some of the happiest experiences of my earth-life, but time seems only to intensify to me the wonders of those days when my feet really stood upon the borderland of the two worlds. It seemed to me that at every step we took in the divine life our souls reached up toward something better, and we had no inclination to look behind to that which had passed or to try to solve what in our mortal life had been intricate or perplexing questions or mysteries. Like the cup that is filled to overflowing at the fountain with pure and sparkling water, so our souls were filled—more than filled—with draughts from the fountain of all good, until there was no longer room for anything else. “How then,” you ask, “could you reach out for more when you had all that you could receive?” Because moment by moment, hour by hour, our souls grew and expanded and opened to receive fresh draughts of divine instruction which was constantly lifting us nearer to the source of all perfection.
Some of the letters that have come to me have been so pathetic in their inquiries that they have called forth sympathetic tears and an intense longing to speak with authority upon the questions raised. That privilege God has not given me. I can only tell how it seemed to me in those blissful hours when earth seemed remote and heaven very near and real. One suffering mother writes, “Do you think I could pray still for my darling girl?” How I longed to take her in sympathetic arms and whisper to her that the dear child of her love, I doubted not, was praising God continually and had no longer need of earthly prayer. She loved and trusted the Savior as she went down into the Valley of Shadows, and his loving arms received and comforted her.
To all such I would say: “Look, up, dear friends, and see the loved ones, as I saw those so dear to me, happy and blessed beyond all human conception in the house of many mansions prepared for us by our loving Father.” Oh, those wonderful mansions upon which my longing heart looks back! Believe in them, look forward to them, beloved friends, for we have the Savior’s promise that they at least are there: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” His promises never fail, and I am sure of one thing: they will not be less beautiful than those I looked upon in my vision.
This thought, to me, answers in a measure the questions asked in regard to dual marriages. My own belief, of this mortal life, is that no two friends can occupy the same place in our hearts. Each heart is filled with chambers stately and old, and to each beloved guest is assigned a chamber exclusively for himself. That room is always his. If death, or distance, or even disgrace, separates him from us, still the room is his and his only forever. No other person can ever occupy it. Others may have rooms equally choice, but when a guest has once departed from the room he has held in another heart, the door of that room is barred forever; it is held inviolate sacred to the departed guest. And so, in heaven, each guest has his separate room or home. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place (room) for you.”
I am no advocate of second marriages. The thought of two lives alone as one, is beautiful to me; but I do not, all the same, believe that a man sins against the memory of a wife beloved and lost, when he places by her side (not in her place) a good woman to cheer and brighten his home. She cannot, if she would, take the place left vacant in his home and heart; it is inviolate. I speak, of course, of true marriages, where not only hands are joined, but hearts and souls are knit together as one forever.
“What are the duties of heaven?” So many and varied, I should judge, as to make the question unanswerable. Much in My Dream of Heaven shows the trend of daily life.
“Rest?” One of the duties as well as the pleasures of heaven. Rest does not of necessity mean inactivity. How often in this life does laying aside of one duty and taking up another bring rest to both mind and body! Still, as I found it, there was at times absolute “rest” for both mind and body in that blissful repose that only heaven can give.
In but one instance of the manifold letters received was any feeling produced except that of pleasure and gratitude. I thank our gracious Father that he has so kindly permitted it. The one letter to which I refer contains so many almost childish inquires, that I simply laid it aside with a quotation from St. Paul, “Of the earth earthy,” and asked the Father to lift the heart of the writer into a purer light.
In conclusion I can only reiterate that I am no prophet; I am no seer; but, in my inmost soul, I honestly believe that if the joys of heaven are greater, if the glories “Within the Walls” are more radiant than I in my vision beheld them, I cannot understand how even the immortal spirit can bear to look upon them.—Rebecca Ruter Springer