The Rainbow Bridge
One Day, Matthew was walking along a country lane. The day was beautiful, the air sweet, flowers bloomed, and birds sang. He noticed that a skunk was walking along beside him and he was startled. He stopped and stared at the skunk, which also stopped and looked up into his eyes.
Matthew fell to his knees before the skunk and cried out, "Miss Stinky!" He pulled the skunk up onto his lap and gave her a big hug. "Oh Stinky, sweet little Stinky, I've missed you so, ever since you died five years ago life has not been the same and...." Startled by what he just said, he looked around. Then he remembered: A snowy night, an icy road, a big-rig coming toward him suddenly jack-knife, and he was swerving to avoid it....
The little wet tongue on his chin startled him out of his thoughts. He looked down at the little skunk and said, "So, are we both dead then Stinky? Is this the afterlife?" He slowly let go of her and just stayed there on his knees thinking. She slid down off his lap and began to waddle up the lane in the direction they had been headed, then stopped, turned, and looked back. He watched her for a moment. "Oh, I get it, we're going somewhere." He jumped to his feet and began to walk along side his little friend.
They walked along in silence at a leisurely pace for some time, taking pleasure in the day and just being side by side again. In the distance Matthew noticed a tall white wall on one side of the lane. As they drew closer he could see that it was made of some type of white stone, like marble or alabaster, and that it was carved all over with beautiful designs. As the lane led along side the wall, they walked on.
Soon he could see there was a large gate in the wall. It was like one of those ornate wrought iron gates, but this one was made of hammered gold, for it shone and glittered in the sunlight. Stinky began to walk past the gate but Matthew stopped and stared through the bars, so the little skunk stopped and turned to watch what her friend would do.
Looking through the gate he could see a golden path led from the gate and wound around some hills, but he could not see much beyond the hills. Near the gate was a desk that was ornately carved of some rich, dark colored wood, and it had a big book on it. A gatekeeper dressed in white robes was sitting behind the desk and immediately jumped up and approached the gate, taking some golden keys from a fold in his robe as he did so.
Intrigued Matthew asked the gatekeeper what place this was.
"This is Heaven." came the reply as the gatekeeper unlocked the gate and started to swing it open.
Matthew realized he was thirsty and knew Stinky must be too. So he said, "Wow, Heaven. I'll bet you have great water. We've walked quite some distance and we could sure use a refreshing drink."
"We?" said the gatekeeper. He looked around then noticed the little skunk standing in the lane. He wrinkled up his nose and said, "Uggh. We don't allow pets in here. Especially skunks."
Taken aback, Matthew asked if Stinky could come in just long enough to get a drink of water.
The gatekeeper shook his head, "No pets. No exceptions. Not even for a brief visit."
Halfway through the gate, Matthew looked back at Miss Stinky and then suddenly said, "Ahh, I have to find Stinky a drink first." And he quickly turned back toward the lane.
Leaving the gate far behind, the two companions walked along side the wall until it ended. They kept walking. Soon they found themselves walking along side a rough wooden fence. Looking over the fence Matthew could see rolling hills, with meadows, woods, ponds and streams. In the far distance he could see people and animals doing something together, but it was too far to see exactly what. Happy sounds floated over the hills.
After walking along side this fence for some time, they came to an open gate and just inside it, sitting on a wagon, was an old man dressed in coveralls. The grounds near the gate looked like some kind of farm and Matthew thought that this old man must be the farmer. As he and Stinky turned in at the gate he asked the farmer if he could spare any water for he and his little friend.
"Sure, come on in. The pump's right behind those bales of hay over there near the barn. There's a cup on the pump handle and a bowl for your friend." The farmer smiled at them.
So Matthew and Stinky entered the farmyard and went around the hay bales to find the pump. First he pumped some water into the bowl for her, and then he filled his cup. As he sat on the grass next to her he said, "This water is so good and sweet. This is a nice place isn't it? I wonder where we are?"
After finishing their water Matthew rinsed out the bowl and cup and put them back in their places, then he and Stinky wandered back toward the gate.
As he approached, he asked the farmer, "What place is this?"
"Why, this is Heaven," said the farmer.
Startled by his answer Matthew stammered, "But the gatekeeper down the road said that his place was Heaven. I don't understand."
"Oh, him. Yea, that is the story he gives. Actually that place is Hell. They really did a good job disguising it didn't they?"
Matthew thought carefully on what he'd seen. Then he asked, "Don't you get upset that they use the name 'Heaven' and that they try to trick people?"
The farmer replied, "Naaah. Not really. They just weed out the folks who would leave their friends behind."
<end of story>