As we journey through Lent and think of our mortality in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I found myself drawn to a photograph of a gate that I had taken several years ago. It tickled a memory that slowly surfaced this past week, of a man, a painting, and a discussion of life and death and the hereafter. Perhaps this picture or story will remind you of some almost forgotten memory that brings you peace and hope.
Several years ago, I found myself visiting a dying man and his wife. As I sat in the living room, my eyes were drawn to an oil painting done by a local artist. The owner saw my fascination and told me that he had bought the painting because it reminded him of a wonderful dream. The painting was a gate leading into a meadow of tall grass and trees, with a beautiful blue sky with a few cumulus clouds rolled up in the distance.
He had a near death experience in a dream during a serious illness. He found himself in a meadow looking at a gate with a man leaning against it looking at him. Beyond the man, there were several groups of people standing, talking. They seemed to be at a garden party or a picnic. He recognized his mother and a few others, all of whom were dead. He felt so glad to see them. With a wave, he walked up to the gate fully intending to head into the field and join them.
The man on the other side of the gate told him he could not come through. It was not yet his time. Everyone would still be there when it was time, some day, but would not say when. Then, he said that he began to wake with such a sense of loss, but also joy knowing that he would once again be with those he loved. In reflection, he realized that he had been talking to Jesus. He had recovered but had never forgotten the dream. When he found the painting, he said he recognized the meadow. He purchased it to remind him of the hope of the life to come. Now, as he neared the end of his life, he sat with the painting to remind him of the dream.
Before the dream, he may have been afraid to die. He said he was no longer afraid. He knew death was coming and still did not know when, but soon. He looked forward to his death with happy anticipation of joining those he loved, with hope for the life to come. Several days after our initial meeting, he joined the picnic in the meadow. I wonder if the gate stood open to let him in, or if the man at the gate opened it just when he got there.
Could heaven really look like a picnic in a meadow? Many of us hope it does.
Have you had a glimpse of another world? Of the life to come?
Perhaps you’ve had dreams that have changed your life, given you inspiration, peace, or hope. I hope you share them with others. In years to come, perhaps the memory of your dreams as told to someone else will be remembered and treasured.