If he wasn’t so parched, tears would have come. So, this is how my life ends? the man thought. I’ve lived like an asshole, so You crash my plane in the middle of a damn desert and leave me here, with a half-empty bottle of water, which has been gone for over a day. This desert is my personal preview of hell, right? I don’t deserve a goodbye to my kids and wife, to my mother, because I’m such a jerk, right?
“Steven, open your eyes.”
Open my eyes? he thought. I can’t. I’m almost blind from the sun. Then, Great, now I’m hallucinating.
“I’ll stand between you and the sun, Steven. Open your eyes.”
Steven opened them a crack and a dark-haired woman in a white robe stood nearby. He tried to speak, but his mouth was too dry. Nothing came out. He closed his eyes and thought, Thank God! Help me, please.
“Thank who?” she said.
What was she talking about? Look, lady, I don’t know who you are, or how you got here, but please help me. I’m dying. Have you called for help?
“I am your help, Steven. My name is Elouise. Can you open your eyes? I want to tell you something.”
Steven cracked his eyes again. She was kneeling next to him now, still blocking the sun from his eyes. She smiled and caressed his forehead. “I’m here to help you cross over to the other side.”
No! he thought, though he knew it was true. I’m not ready. I need to say goodbye to my family.
“We’ve met before, you know,” she said, ignoring his thoughts. “I am your guardian, Steven,” she added, still smiling gently. “You don’t remember because the last time you saw me was between this life and the one before it. You made a commitment to yourself then, that if you repeated certain stubborn habits of selfishness, you wanted to be ripped away from your family, to die in such a way that you would carry with you the memory of the tearing, never to make the same mistakes again. Thus it is we find ourselves here.”
The pain was more than he thought he could bear. His chest burned with a fire so terrible he wanted to scream, but the urge to listen was stronger than even that.
A silver cup appeared in Elouise’s hand. She lifted his head with her other hand and poured a few drops of water onto his lips. It felt like heaven. He was able to crack his lips and she poured a few drops into his mouth, waited and then poured a few more. After repeating this several times, Steven was able to smile weakly and said, “Thank you. You have no idea how good that feels.”
“I do have some idea, Steven,” she said, smiling. “It’s all in a day’s work for us guardians.”
“My wife believes in angels, but I never did. Until now, when it seems a little late.”
She touched his forehead with a finger. “Try to remember, Steven. It is never too late.”
Picture after picture of memories of his wife and kids, of working too much, then meeting his wife, of college, of high school and football, of his childhood, his mom and dad—it was all too much and tears pooled in his eyes. Then there was a door and he backed through it. His body disappeared. He was a spirit and so was Elouise.
“Shhhh,” she said. “More is coming.”
He rewound through another painful life of–what had she called it, stubborn selfishness?–and then stopped at a monastery. He was a monk and couldn’t believe it. I would never choose that life, he thought.
“Oh, but you did,” Elouise said with a smile. “You grew very close to God in that monastery and as your life came to a close, you asked God if you could experience having a family, a profession, a life among people in your next life. You had made a tremendous effort to be true to your spiritual life, and you transferred that work ethic into these last two lives. But you were uncomfortable with the intimacy of family life and never felt that you fit in as a husband and father. So you worked. And worked and worked. And here we are.”
“So, dying in this desert isn’t a punishment then?”
“Heavens, no!” she said. “How could such a loving being as God treat His children this way? He loves you immeasurably, Steven. All souls have free will. You asked for this, if it became necessary. This is your plan unfolding.”
Suddenly he understood it all and he laughed. Then, tears formed again. “Will Annie and the kids be all right?”
“After a time, they will. It is natural for them to feel deserted, and Tommy will have a void in his heart, but a healer will come into his life and help him later on.” The pain in Steven’s chest gripped him tighter.
“Steven, don’t you remember? Annie, Tommy, and Carrie picked this life with you, for their growth, too? Try to remember,” she said, touching his forehead again.
Images formed in his mind’s eye. Annie, Tommy and Carrie were his family in the life before this one also, only Carrie was his wife, Annie his daughter. “What?” he croaked, pushing her hand away. “How is that possible?”
“Easy there, big guy. On the Great Wheel of Life, all souls take on male and female bodies and become brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, parents and children, kings and slaves, judges and criminals. You get the idea, right?”
“I guess so.”
“It’s for the experience, for developing a full appreciation of what it is like to be human. When we understand completely, when we love ourselves and all others unconditionally, we step off the Wheel and go home to God. Between lives we can see God’s great purpose for physical life and our gradual evolvement toward unconditional love. We choose to evolve when there, even if it includes heartbreaking pain in the next life. Souls travel in groups and you and Annie and the children have traveled together many times. This is the very reason we don’t remember our previous lives—it would be so confusing!” Elouise giggled.
He nodded. He could feel himself leaving his body. “Will they find my body?” he whispered.
“Yes. They’ll find the wreckage.”
“I love them so much,” he said, choking back tears. “And I can’t tell them.”
“Take my hand,” she said. His spirit hand took hers and he came up out of his body. “Let me show you something.” They left the desert and reappeared somewhere above the earth. “See those tiny lights that look like stars? Each of them represents a soul appearing in a dream of someone still on earth. That is how you will tell them how much you love them.”
“Thank God,” Steven said. He felt some of the pain lift off his heart.
Elouise looked over at him, smiled and said, “Thank who?”
He got it the second time.