BEYOND DEATH, COMING HOME
There in a hospital bed, life’s end awaits. Around him soar the angels of death encircling him, an old man. Ready to bear him up.
Amid the constant din of hospital noise and the shuffling of family’s feet, the sound of a mans’ final breathes were barely audible. He who was named Arthur at his birth, had lived a long life, over ninety nine years in fact he was just shy of one hundred years old, 5 more months but it was clear he wasn’t going to make it. The end had come quite suddenly, a flu that had taken a bad turn as sometimes happened to those burdened so greatly with age. His children, all five had quickened when hearing of his illness, to be by side. In his life he had been a beloved father, a husband of 71 years before she passed two years earlier, a much beloved figure in the lives of all he met. His children had grown to be old themselves. He had lived to see much, served in the military, he had seen battle firsthand, lost friends in the fight, and also found love there, he had met his wife there, and they had lived long and loved fully. At any rate he had lived and he had been ready to move on for a long time, knowing that his presence was no longer required. In fact his passing would provide one further gift to his family. His passing would provide financial stability to those of his children who had been racked by poor investment climates or had lost all they had during the economic crisis.
The room was initially filled with hospital staff, providing palliative care. With a faint gasp he asked the nurses to leave so he could take his remaining energy and speak with his children one on one. They obliged and he addressed them one at a time for a couple minutes each, the last details of his estate, and finally where all his banking and investment accounts were recorded. When he had finished he asked for all his children and grandchildren to come into the room. Once assembled he declared his love, his life faded, the embers in his eyes finally dimmed and then the lights went out forever.
* * *
He felt the himself fade, a feeling of gradual reduction in the weight of his body, then a feeling without his body which was indescribable. He then saw, his family slowly falling at first then with gathering speed they fell away. All the world, all that he remembered for a century fell away and with that came a feeling of sadness and also of fear and trepidation at what awaited. Within moments all he knew of this mortal coil was replaced with a dense swirling fog of colors, bright lights, and cosmic sounds. After a moment had passed it seemed that he was on the solid footing so to speak, standing naked, transparent in the light. The wrinkles of his final years were gone, he could not reach up to feel his face, his hand passed through it, but if he could hazard a guess he would think that his face had returned to its youth.
The encircling clouds of light parted as he stepped through like a smoky haze twisting and twirling in the firmament. All before him and all behind him was alien. Nothing was in the least familiar or friendly. The emptiness stretched for what had to be, forever, the last thing he remembered… is this Heaven, did I make it, am I really here? Just then he arrived at what was a terribly bright light, the smoky clouds dissipated and all the colors he’d ever seen danced around, including some that he’d never seen in his life, everything moved in such a way that it seemed it was all in an excited state. Yet there were no smells, but instead a sensation, similar to a waterfall going over his head and then he began to understand, to understand everything he’d ever seen or done, finally the sensation of the water began to lessen and then as if a plastic film had been removed from his mind, the vision before him changed and he saw.
He saw a million cities, a million stars, and a million planets. It was an enhanced sight, nothing his mortal eyes could have ever seen. Hundreds of people in the far distance were milling about, none of them seemed to notice him. Of them he recognized none. In his mind it made sense now, all of it, especially the fact that the dead were numberless there being so many more that had passed into the void than had ever lived. He continued to walk slowly in awe, every question he mused to himself was quickly answered by his new enhanced understanding. Continuing his walk through whatever this was, he saw in the distance a black gate, so stark against the clouds of color, bright lights, and other oddities. Upon closer inspection he saw a hooded figure standing sentinel at the center of these gates. It was hooded in shadow and dressed in an ominous fashion. Ignoring his feelings of apprehension he approached, hoping to find some answers, particularly where did he go from here.
The figure looked up when he was but a few yards distant and it spoke his name, its head which had been bowed tilted up and in the place of eyes where two very bright white lights, “Arthur LaRoux Couch, sent to earth in February 14, 1919 and called here on September 7, 2018. Father of 5 spirits on earth, a man of wisdom, a man respected by his peers. Your judgment awaits behind these gates, be you judged a good man you will be welcome to spend eternity in the way of your choosing, be you judged in violation of the eternal laws, a debt must be paid before peace be granted to your soul, and if you be judged pure evil you will be cast into darkness and destroyed. Proceed.' Soundlessly on shadow hinges the gates swung inward to admit him and immediately he stepped through, the visions of bustling people on millions of planets disappeared and he had stepped through into what appeared to be a vast endless entrance hall type of place, the further inward he walked the brighter the light became, when it became too much he stopped and a voice echoed and boomed. A voice endowed with endless influence and power, one so powerful that even the rocks within the earth would’ve moved had they been told to, as would the seas or oceans. It filled the airspace, surrounded his being, although not a single word was comprehensible, he knew what it had said, “Welcome home, Son'.
I found your first paragraph about Arthur LaRoux Couch to be very descriptive and very informative. I liked how you split up the story into being on Earth and being in Heaven. Something that I didn’t see coming was the hooded man was the gatekeeper, I thought that he was going to be the Devil and he was actually going to take Arthur LaRoux Couch to Hell.
This is a very interesting story, you do well giving the character a background. I did get somewhat bored by the third paragraph. I think I would have preferred to know more about his journey in the afterlife than his last moments on Earth. I felt as though I was almost reading a newspaper obituary. Adding more rising action and a obvious climax would make this a solid read.
I could agree with that any suggestions for more action. I did initially have more in the after death section but I cut it because it reflected to much on personal religious beliefs.
I love the concept of this story! I agree with the previous comment about it being a great choice to organize your story into two parts- one on Earth and one in the afterlife. I appreciate your comment on cutting things out of the after death section because of personal religious beliefs, and I personally think that was smart- as it is, I feel like anyone can relate to it and it isn’t catering to one set of beliefs in a way that would exclude any readers, but you can still tell there is a hint of religious undertones. It’s just enough, in my opinion. There are a few sentences, particularly in the “before death” section that could use some revision as they’re almost run ons, but overall you did a great job and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!
I like the images you created in your story. I could picture a wizened, old man lying in his hospital bed saying his final good-bye’s surrounded by his extended family and unseen spirits. Your description of the embers in his eyes dimming, and then going out was especially poignant. There were a few times where your grammar choices distracted me a little, but overall, I enjoyed your story.
This was enjoyable, to read a life after death story. I was expecting the gate keeper to be death, it was described well. I could hear the heartbeat monitors from the room the father was in. One thing that made me remove myself from the emersion of the story was the use of prepositions at the beginning of some of the sentences. I understood what your intent was, but some sentences came out as a fragment.
Thanks for sharing! I love the sequence of events that are leading the process of his death. It wasn’t short and sweet. From the spiritual standpoints he went through phases and it kind of forces you to think of what we (I) typically evade due to the serious finality. It took me there as a reader and I envisioned the spirits and the light and it seemed like something believable.
I loved the first paragraph. I felt like I knew Arthur and I enjoyed all the imagery, even though it was a hospital setting, you could feel love in the room. I enjoyed the religious theme and felt a great amount of peace in the last sentence.
Delaney E Reece
I thought it was wonderful! I loved the separation of his death and then his personal experience after. I also liked the image you painted of heaven or of judgment. The ending gave just enough closer and peace given the story topic it was very well balanced.
I loved the tone throughout your whole piece. Your story had a strong voice–I felt like I was watching a movie as I read. It was all very different than the things I usually read, so it was very refreshing. Great job!
Thank you all for the positive reviews, and I will take your suggestions very seriously in further versions of this story as it is intended to get longer. For the purposes of this class I did not feel it to be appropriate to add to much detail about religion but after death is inherently a topic that crosses religions path. Again thank you all for your suggestions!
This story was very interesting and kept me reading. I know other comments were saying that his life prior to death was a little boring, but I found that it was perfect. It shows us his character and helped build up to his death!
The separation of the story was with good intent, but since this was so far outside of my normal interest, I found the completion of the first section to leave me not really intrigued for the second section. It’s a great story so I think with a little reorganization would have kept me pulled in a bit more. You did great with the imagination aspect and the character was very strong.
From the first sentence of “angels of death encircling him” I felt the ominous nature of your story. This was well written and creative, I wish that you had included more details on his journey as you had said earlier you left it out because of personal beliefs. I think the personal touch would have been very interesting!