Eternal Choices

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Early this year I interviewed the Provost of All Saints Cathedral. Everybody called him the Provost. The Provost’s office? Go up those staircases, it’s the last office along that floor. I bounded up the staircases merrily, almost whistling under my breath. [It was a gorgeous day and I had just bought a new pen that I was dying to use]. Oh, from Nation? Kindly have a seat, the Provost will see you in a second. He had the least Provostic hair you will ever encounter on a Provost. Not that I’ve ever met a Provost in my life, but I didn’t think he’d have great hair. He looked like he thought about his hair and gave it a lot of attention: pre-pooing, clarifying, deep conditioning, LOC, the whole nine. It was great hair. I bet some people have saved him on their phones as The Provost with the Good Hair. 

His office had a slanting wooden roof that I liked. A big window let in light that illuminated his hair further. It almost looked like a halo. I asked him many questions – is God a man or a woman? Who put a bee under the bonnet of the Lord of the Old Testament? Does public speaking get easier each progressive Sunday? Do hot congregants hit on you, wanting to touch your hair? Is your position appraisable? What did you and your wife fight about last? Is that your real hair? – but I also asked him about heaven and hell. I’m fascinated by the idea of heaven and hell. I think it would be pointless to “save” ourselves great debauchery for ‘the promise’ only to get there – whatever ‘there’ is – and be told by a man wearing a hat made from goat hide, “heaven? Hang on a second,” then shouts over his shoulder, “Reuben?! REUBEN! There is a gentleman here looking for heaven!” Then Reuben will come out of a blue door with no handle, drying his hands on a tattered cloth with tomato sauce stains, and say, “oh another one.” Sigh. “There is no heaven, mate.” 

“Or hell, for that matter,” the guy with the goat hat will add. 

You will stammer, “but…but…but…” because you drank soya tea all your bloody life and never even shaved your legs or armpits to attain the Kingdom. And Reuben, who will bear an uncanny resemblance to Davido, will chuckle then start laughing hysterically. When he’s done, his accent will suddenly change when he says, “get the frk outta here, young blood.” Then Reuben will growl, “yeah, beat it. And shave your legs for chrissake.” Then maybe you will realise that that is hell. 

Anyway, The Provost. 

I said, “Provost, what if there is no heaven or hell? What if heaven is when you hug your child or wake up in the arms of a woman you love? Or move into a new house with a red roof? What if the idea of heaven and hell is right here with us but we fail to notice it?” 

Of course he expects questions like this, he is the Provost after all. They were warned; the devil isn’t some man with a green face, a horned head and a barbed tail. No, don’t expect that. The devil is sophisticated and a master of disguise. He will come in many different forms. He might come in the form of a journalist with a forehead the size of a small country, planting seeds of doubt or just shaking shit up. Be wary but be cool. You got to be cool to be a Provost, don’t ever lose your shit. 

He draped one long leg around the other [for he can’t be described as a short man] and chuckled. Then he said gravely, in his Provostic voice, “Let me put it this way. After all these years of being a Christian, if I was told there is no heaven, I would not be disappointed. I lived in Heaven. Why do I say that? Heaven is  not a location. Neither is hell. It’s a state. You can live in hell right here on earth. And there are people who live in hell. Hell means absence from God. And heaven is God’s presence in your life -”

So there is a heaven?

“Yes and Jesus demonstrates that very well. But heaven doesn’t start in the utopia or in the futuristic. Heaven for a Christian begins here. And there are people who will suffer here and suffer there. There are people who will live a good life here and there. What we can do,” he held up a finger, which I stared at intently, “is make eternal choices right here.”

Hmm. I said. Which is something I say when I don’t have any further questions.  Eternal choices. I made a point to use that line one day. There are things people say that I save in a little box in my mind called ‘Things I Steal From People: Cool phrases. Sick comebacks. Things that I don’t see coming.’ For example the other day I was having a drink at a bar with this young, bushy tailed anesthesiologist and I don’t know what we were talking about but I was practicing avoidance when I told her ‘well, I don’t like to look a gift horse in the mouth’ and she said, ‘you should. It could be the Trojan Horse.’ Yeah, that went straight to my Things I Steal From People. 

So it came to pass then, that when I met Janey who claims to have been to heaven, I reached into my little box and retrieved the phrase ‘eternal choices’, and I could tell she was slightly impressed by my perspective. Of course I didn’t tell her I plagiarised it from the Provost. I passed it off as mine. Here is how this is relevant. 

In 2013 as Janey was leaving the house she told the house help, “na usisahau kuchemsha maharagwe.” She was holding the hand of her six year old daughter, who was holding a small mirror to glare at her new pussycat hairstyle which wasn’t even new because it had been done three days prior but she was mad about it. Absolutely mad. All she seemed to do the whole day was scowl at herself in the mirror. You know how deranged children can get. 

She dropped her off at her sister’s place in South B and picked up her friend in town. They had one of those chamas, but the type that goes to visit someone’s parents every cycle. The plan was to do some shopping at the Uchumi on Aga Khan Walk, but they drove around and around looking for parking with little success, so the friend suggested they drive to Thika and shop from there before they proceeded to Sagana, where they were visiting their friend’s parents. They were to converge at a petrol station there. Twelve girls and their twelve hairstyles. [The latter is irrelevant, don’t know why I had to write it]

So they drove to Thika, or Dhika, as they popularly call it. On their way, a friend called to ask where they were and they said they were making a small stop at Dhika. “Sawa, I’m right behind you guys.” the friend said, “I will also pitia there as well. I need to pick something from the supermarket.” 

They got a massive trolley and did the bits of shopping assigned to them. Her friend came and bought more sanitary pads because her period was threatening to come earlier than usual, and lately she had been experiencing a very heavy flow. “Unusually heavy and very painful” she told them as they paid up at the till. She remembers them talking about this at length as they made their way to the parking lot. An attendant was helping them push the trolley. At the parking lot the friend she had given a ride looked at the other lady’s car and said, “Oh my God, you bought another car?” It was a silver BMW X5 sitting there at the parking lot, shiny on the nose, pretending he wasn’t taken by the admiration of the girls. “No, it’s my husband’s car.” She said wearily, as if the car had caused them countless fights [“you don’t need a new car, Joshua!” and he eventually overran the Government and bought it anyway]. But the bad decision had grown on her. It was a nice car. 

The friend decided to ride in the BMW because she had never ridden in a BMW and what life are you leading if you haven’t ridden in a BMW X5? Boxy, monstrous and bulky in the ass? Janey followed them as they got back into the main highway towards Sagana. The dual-carriageway ended and the road tapered. Cloudy day, the sky bland and smeared white. 

When people recall how accidents happen they say the same thing. “I don’t know how it happened. It was all too fast.” 

She says, “ I don’t know how it happened, it was all too fast.” 

What she remembers is some idiot honking at her as he overtook her because she’s driving at a leisurely pace. She remembers looking at him as he leaned into his honk. “He was middle-aged, maybe 43, white shirt. Bald headed. He was driving a blue salon car.” To teach her a lesson, to inconvenience her, to show her who was boss, the man decided to get back into lane, but close to her, to force her, to lessen her. Intimidation. You have experienced it before, assholes with driving licenses. Only the guy came back too fast and too close. She pressed on the break but it was a little too late and a little too fast; she clipped the back of his car, a very small flick, a feather lick, but at his speed, maybe 100km/hr, maybe 110km/hr, it caused tectonic results. First, she saw his car flip like a pancake. “It was like in the movies,” she says, “his car looked like a toy going belly up.”

Meanwhile her car was also doing a dance, the boogie-woogie. She veered off the road, hearing the grating sounds of metal scratching and the banging of the other car, other motorists getting out of the way, saving themselves for their children and their loved ones. She remembers her car twisting, like those Olympic gymnasts. She remembers her head hanging upside down, her belt pressing painfully against her right breast, her earrings dangling in the opposite direction. She licked some liquid trickling down her cheeks and realising, without any horror, just plain matter-of-fact, that it was her blood. It tasted like something from the Periodic Table. She remembers thinking, is this death? Is this it? Will my daughter attend my funeral in her old pussy cat hairstyle or a fresh one? She remembers feeling very thirsty as men grabbed at her door frantically, trying to yank it open. “But in my state, I felt like I was in my bedroom and they were trying to break down the door. I’m told I was screaming, asking them to leave me alone.” 

Then blackness. An ambulance or a car with sirens. Voices in mother tongue, Embu or something. Someone slapping a plastic mask over her face then followed by whirring sounds of air passing through a tube. Squeaking feet on linoleum floors. Snatches of images. Blackness. “They put me under an induced coma, they called it.” She says. “Because they needed my brain to stop the swelling. I was under for a week or so and during that week I saw things. I have spoken to people who say they don’t remember anything when they were in a coma, but I do.  I think I went to heaven. There is a heaven.”

A white man with a trimmed beard was playing a harp while wearing Jesus sandals?

“I lived in a house with grass outside. Tall grass. Like grass reaching my knees but it wasn’t like grass that harbours snakes or crawlies. It wasn’t grass that made you itch. It was just grass that felt like feathers against your skin. I lived there. I didn’t have a child or anything. I didn’t have a family. The concept of family wasn’t there, no brothers or sisters or uncles or grandmothers. I didn’t see any of them. I saw lots of people but they weren’t people I knew or had any feelings for, not love or envy or anything. They were just people who were there, like I was. We spoke -”

“What about?”

“I don’t recall. But I recall waking up every morning and going about my business of just walking through the tall grass or sitting under a tree. I recall someone touching my face all the time, someone unfamiliar but who made me feel like I knew them. They didn’t have a face. I lived in that house alone but then it always felt like it had people. The sun never set even though I knew it was morning.”

“Do you remember eating something?”

“Yes, fruits.”

“Yeah, that sounds like heaven. I don’t think heaven has carbs and if they do it’s chapos.”

There was an idyllism to that existence. A place with no dusk. No sounds of the night. A place where you didn’t know which side the world was coming or going, no clock to speak of, no pressure. No fear. “The only face I saw in this place was the last face I saw for a split second; the bald, middle-aged man in a white shirt. The guy who caused the accident. I saw him each single day. He was either sitting on a stone by a river bank, his feet dandling into the clear fresh water, fish swimming around his feet. Or I’d see him at a shop eating ice cream. Or pass him by the road. The weird thing is that I had the urge to speak to him but I couldn’t. But then again I don’t recall speaking any words to anyone. You somehow communicated by existing, being there was enough communication. However, my inability to talk to this person, the only person I wanted to talk to, wasn’t a source of frustration. It’s almost like I understood that I couldn’t talk to him or I wasn’t supposed to talk to him. But I would run into him frequently. 

“After a week or so I woke up, and as I slowly regained my senses I’m told that I kept saying I wanted to be taken back. ‘Take me back, take me back please’, I would cry. So they would sedate me a bit because I was getting very agitated.”

She recovered. She went home. She hugged her daughter who asked, “mom, what happened to your leg?” She was on a wheelchair for two months or so. Her left hip had been shattered. She had sustained a deep cut behind her head from a thermo-mug that had thrashed about within the confines of her car as it rolled, hitting the back of her head. A thermo-mug almost killed her. A thermo-mug! Whodathot? 

“Even when I was well enough to walk and go back to work, I felt saddened. I was sad that I lived. I was also sad that I felt that I was sad to be alive.”

“Was it the survivors’ guilt?”

“I don’t know what it was. All I knew was that it wasn’t very normal, seeing as I have a daughter I love and a reason to live for, but still for the longest time I wished I hadn’t lived. I thought of that place with long grass. The sun that never set. The people who walked unhurried. The memory didn’t fade. It was still very fresh. It was almost like I had lived that life for years. I couldn’t sleep. I’d stay up thinking and reliving that place. I’d day dream. People thought it was the trauma and they suggested I see a therapist and even when I saw the therapist she couldn’t understand. She wasn’t listening to me, it was almost like she was reading from a book. I felt like I was talking to a book, not a person. There was a way she would look at me when I told her about that place, a look you give a child who says there is a ghost under the bed. So I stopped going.”

The guy who had caused the accident died on the spot. He was hurled out of the window; broken neck, broken bones.  He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, it is said. “I set out to find out about him. Who was he? Where was he going? Did he have a family?”

She found his devastated widow; cheeks sunken with grief. He had three children; two from his previous marriage. He had lost his job and had just started a business selling grain. He was going to Nanyuki to meet some suppliers on that fateful morning. He was late. He liked to watch football, an Arsenal fan. He had a brother who he never spoke to because of some family land problems. She told the wife about that place, about heaven. “For the first time someone who didn’t judge me. She seemed to understand.”

“Maybe she wanted to believe that he was at this place that sounded like heaven?”

“Maybe. But I had found an ally, you understand? Someone who didn’t think I was crazy. We became close then we stopped being close because, well, she started making me feel guilty, that I owed her because I survived and he didn’t, so we stopped talking. Plus my family thought it wasn’t good for me. So then I became alone again. Nothing made sense. I started keeping to myself at work and when I was home I’d just stay in my room. I didn’t feel like I belonged here..”

“On earth?’

“Yeah. I felt like if I died I’d go back to that place. I felt pressured to return there. So I started researching ways of killing myself. At this point I didn’t care that I had a child. I knew she would be taken care of by my sister. I just wanted to find my peace. And my peace was waiting at that place. I thought about it for so long, dreamt of the day I’d kill myself, but something was stopping me. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe it’s cowardice, I don’t know. It also helped, I guess, when my small sister moved in with me. I found it easier to talk to her about these things because she was much younger and dreamy so perhaps it didn’t feel wild. She was also very prayerful, a born again, so we would pray together a lot. Maybe that helped. ”

She still dreams of that place. “I don’t want to die but sometimes when I’m very frustrated by life I still want to go there. I still see that man’s face so clearly after all these years it’s spooky. Sometimes I still feel like heaven awaits me. I still believe that it’s present in our existence, here or in the afterlife and that it’s real. Of course this sounds like a madwoman talking, but I do. I think that man is in heaven. I think I went there briefly and came back. Nobody believes it and nobody has to….do you believe me?”

“I do.” 

“You sure?”

“Yes. I do.” I said. Then I told her about the Provost and what he said about heaven. “I think you have already made your eternal choice.”

**

Please drop me a note if you have a compelling story. Any story at all. It could be silly or sad. Or cheesy. Don’t overthink it. Don’t think, arrgh, who would want to read my story. Just send me a paragraph of it. [email protected] 

 

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51 Comments
  1. I believe in heaven and hell right here on earth and wherever else we shall go after death. “We communicate by existing” very profound and more so true when you condole the bereaved ; you don’t need to say anything, just be there, just be present. #speaking from fresh experience.

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  2. I want my heaven to have chapos too.

    It would be very sad to drink soya and ‘save’ yourself all your life only to be laughed at by Reuben and his friend.

    Anyway.. let’s make good eternal choices.

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  3. I have been to that place where you communicate by just being there, only i felt weightless like a ghost or spirit and God was the one with a body. He spoke but i couldn’t, i was there to listen. I wasn’t in a coma or anything just lifted off my body while praying. Confusing to say the least. I remember everything about that experience but the face of God or his voice, his words yes, very clearly but not his voice. I don’t know why it happened because i can’t say it has impacted by life very much, it wasn’t life changing like encounters with God tend to be but probably to act as a lighthouse when an having a crisis of faith like i am right now.

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      1. He told me i had evil on my mind…true i did but not what you want to hear from God. He sounded calm quiet authority like a person comfortable in who he is. Funny too he is not beyond cracking a joke. I remember the first thing i did when i came back was laugh

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  4. Wow! I also do believe in eternal choices….

    Lovely article…

    Oh, and btw, the Provost does have good hair.. That I have seen and acknowledged

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  5. I really fear accidents. I almost went to my “house with grass outside|” in 2020 hapo KU. Even with a 10 year old active DL and street wisdom, I still consider it God’s blessing/ miracle to leave home and come back in the evening.

    Meanwhile, vote wisely and go home gang. Tusibleed ndio walead.

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    1. Dan,
      Wow,
      Do you also have a little box in your mind where you save things ala Biko’s “Things I steal From People”.
      This profound phrase sounds to have come straight outta there!

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  6. I have dreamt about heaven 2 times. True. Lush green grass, well cut, not tall. Very clear waters, where you see all pebbles in different colors, and fish as they swim. There was a gradual valley. They were just dreams, not a comma. The religious ones say the earth we live in is what will be transformed and become both heaven and hell.

    Maybe heaven and hell coexist in the same place. What if we are not real beings. Could it be that we are already reincarnated spirits serving our judgments from a previous life? But then, why would we experience both heaven and hell in a continuum?

    The will to do good is immense, but willpower falters and fails often. Am a total sinner, that only deserves God’s abundance grace and forgiveness. By heaven standards, am way below the heaven cutoff threshold. The provost needs to do practical sessions on how to make eternal choices.

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    1. I Love the idea of the earth we live in being cleansed, clean rivers and green landscapes, friendly animals and no sickness. A paradise same as what Adam n Eve had only without the constant inteference by the devil.

  7. I believe her. I think we all have our moments where faith is confirmed – that’s if we are open to experiencing them. I remember being 10, at a school trip to Mt. Longonot, slipping off a crater & almost tumbling to my death. I remember lifting myself up with a tuft of grass, but it also felt like strong arms pushed me up to safety. That’s my proof that warm loving arms watch over us.

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  8. Very interesting. This could as well be termed as a bold step towards unravelling the mystery called eternal life. Leaves us with great fantasies about the proverbial heaven with streets of gold. We all wanna go to heaven anyway.

  9. I believe her. I think she went to her heaven and mine may be different. I hope she finds comfort in knowing that peace awaits her and she decides to fully LIVE this life before going there. I like the idea of having an assignment on earth. Until she finds it and accomplishes it, she’s not going anywhere. May she find her pockets of heaven on earth.

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  10. The provost….. I didn’t know that name until I read the article you did on BD. It’s surrel how Janwy describes heaven….. Eternal Choices it is.

  11. The whole idea of Jesus being white makes this story sound like ‘story za jaba’.
    I believe there’s no place like heaven or hell. The good we do here creates a heaven for someone and the bad we do creates a hell for someone. The whole idea of dying and going to heaven or hell is a fallacy.

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    1. Beo,

      I wonder why you would make such a sweeping statement or arrive at such a conclusion unless you knew, well, everything to dismiss a first hand experience by someone else! Janney has not told us a tale from someone else – it is not even her relative’s experience and she might be inclined to believe at least one person amongst her close relatives whom she trusts, like her younger sister believes her! But her own experience! Any wise person wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to do so, I doubt!

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    2. Sorry about the accident Janey. If you feel like you want to be back in that lush green place soo much, then maybe to console you it’s okay, a lot of us when life gets too tough wish we could just sleep forever and find that peace that doesn’t mean we have to toil and moil. But guess what, it’s just a moment that happens to most of us as psychology would say, we cannot be 100% there is a 1/2% in there in most of us that wish for the supernatural effects in this our day-day life. To see the heaven in ur daughter’s place, in your house, as you walk, the air that u breathe. start by appreciating each day that you wake up to be around people that love you and that you love is a huge blessing. We will one day get to the end, but while we r still alive, see the little joys in your cup of coffee, tea, water, beer, and wine and stay happy and fulfilled Janey and anyone else out there.

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  12. I believe her 100%. There are things you see whilst in a coma that stay with you many years after.
    People should stop saying Heaven is a ‘state of mind’ or ‘utopia.’ These are very real and distinct places. They are eternal abodes. Jesus Christ spoke more about hell than He did heaven for reason. He doesn’t want anyone to spend eternity in hell. He said it is a place ‘where the worm does not die’ and where ‘the fire is not quenched.’ This is the reason He came and died on the cross, atoning for the sins of mankind through His sacrifice.
    When one returns to dust (death) their spirit and soul go on to an eternal place; of bliss or of horror.
    This world is not our home, even though we live to the age of 120yrs, it is absolutely nothing compared to eternity which is like counting every pebble of sand in the whole world and you’d still not have scratched the surface.
    If we can plan elaborately for our lives or even for a vacation, then we should seriously plan for eternity. If Jesus said in my Father’s house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you, I believe Him and look forward to it.
    One cannot live life imagining this is it. Our spirit lives forever.

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    1. And what happens to our lovely animals? My pet cat, budgie and dog? Will they make it to heaven? How about my cow? the one that follows me around moo-ing? Will I see it in heaven too? Cause what will heaven be like if i’m not re-united with my favourite friends?

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  13. My late parents both went in Augusts (a decade and a week apart), and often when I see them in dreams, we are all back at our house in Nairobi West – yet I can’t say my childhood was ‘heavenly’ (though during August hols, it was lovely in a hellish way, coz of all the Estate Wars where we beat the crapola outta each other in organised inter-estate raids)! Maybe ‘heaven’ is a pleasantish purgatory of a place we once stayed/ lived? (If that’s the case, I hope my eternal is that pub called ‘Griboyedova’ on Six Kazanskaya, St. Petersburg). But for the factually/ scientifically serious, here’s a video link to how our world will end ( about 3 n a half minutes into the video). And for the truly, terrifyingly mentally brave, if ye watch the whole 30 minutes, you get to go on a journey where EVERYTHING ENDS, right up to the edge of ETERNITY! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uD4izuDMUQA

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  14. Waoo another Biko gem! Meanwhile on a driving class for my teen the instructor advised us to do away with the coffee mugs especially thermal ones because they become weapons in an accident! He’s advice get the paper cups if you must. That mug can be a weapon

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    1. Think positive – how those heavy metal thermos can be a weapon during a car-jacking incident attempt (as compared to a flaky paper cup).

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  15. Aaah, heaven. Poor Janey, I hope the daughter gives her reason enough to stay, to not want to go to the place with long knee-length grass.

    I steal “whodathot” from this write up Biko. That, and Trojan horse.

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  16. Here’s a poem I wrote inspired by both this post and an airport. It’s about LIFE between our two eternities.

    Arrivals & Departures

    Life is an airport

    The Unborn are runaways on the runway
    Waiting to access life through multiple Concourse
    The lone nine-month wait in the corridor
    of course, before most are let through by
    ‘Passport Control’
    into a life we have little real control, over.

    Some will walk on sky-bridges
    others will hover on the Walkways,
    the unfortunate spent their time in the underground
    tunnels, trying to funnel their way up …

    Walk around and see the plastic coffee cups
    Sit a while on the stool at the Airport pub
    Check out what’s new and what’s up –
    For a few life is Duty Free.

    (smell the perfume)

    There are those who will spend their time on their feet
    trying to see when their airplane leaves.
    Live. For there are no times, or names of the craft
    that will take you out – on these boarding signs.

    Some will spend their entire time in the Waiting Area
    waiting for something spectacular to happen.
    Others spend their time ‘Here’ lugging around their baggage
    (and asking for direction from anyone who cares to listen).

    They WILL call YOUR name at some point
    Check your boarding pass at the Exit Gate
    and ask you to leave the airport
    (That’s why they call it ‘Terminal.’)

    And the rest, left inside this Connection
    constructed (or construed) of light, glass and concrete
    stare out of the floor-to-sky windows,
    And wonder if there is reincarnation.

    Musing on whether we are Cloud 9 bound souls
    or just a crowd of cargo; if there is a Higher Power
    in the control tower, or just random radar . . .

    Trying to track the flotsam of Arrivals and Departures.

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  17. There is a song which says ……….IN HEAVEN THERE IS NO BEER, THAT’S WHY WE ARE DRINKING HERE AND WHEN we’re gone from here,all our friends will be drinking all our beer………………………….