Unification News for

April 1998


Hello, Elmer!

by Catherine Ladolcetta-Irvington AL

"Iím cold!" Elmer was complaining as he had done ever since he was old enough to talk. "Where is everybody, anyway?" He rubbed his hands up and down his arms, shivering, and looked around. All he saw was emptiness. "This is crazy; Iím leaving!" Elmerís voice was emphatic, but somehow he knew that he wasnít going anywhere. In fact, he had a scary feeling that something awful had happened. He was beginning to wonder if he might be dead.

"Hello, Elmer, ya got here!" A pleasant, friendly voice spoke out of nowhere. "We werenít sure ya were coming after all."

Elmer spun around as quickly as he could. "Who said that? Where are you?" He turned in a full circle, slowly this time; looking more carefully-up, down and sideways. Nothing. Nothing at all. "Look, can you tell me where in tarnation I am" Iíve got a plane to catch. People are waiting for me. If I donít turn up on time, theyíll come looking for me." He tried to sound threatening, but his voice faded into a frightened whine.

"Elmer, look over here. Stand still and look straight in front of yerself. Do ya see me yet?"

Elmer stood as still as a tree and stared directly ahead. He saw a blurry, fuzzy sort of nothing that blended into the wavery nothing all around, and yet he knew he saw it. He gulped and held as still as he could. It seemed to him that the blurry nothing was coming his way.

"Look, where am I? What is this place?" He took a deep breath and then shouted as loudly as his fear allowed: "Am I dead?"

"No, Elmer, ya arenít dead. But, ya are passiní over. It took ya a mighty long time to make up yer mind to come but, by golly, yer here?"

Suddenly, like one of those impossible 3-D pictures of dinosaurs or dolphins on sale for $19.99 in the video store, everything came into focus. Elmer was standing in radiant sunshine. He blinked and glanced up to find the sun. He half expected it to be green or purple or something. Instead it simply wasnít there. As he swung around, thinking that it was behind him, he heard the voice again.

"There isnít a sun here, Elmer. Ya see, light here is the light of love. Can ya see me now, Elmer?"

Elmer looked and, sure enough, there stood a young man, dressed in pale blue, stone-washed, boot-cut jeans and a cowboy shirt of sunset-pink and sky-blue plaid with gold threads and the sleeves rolled up to the elbow. His hair was curly and dark brown; it tickled his collar. He wore rather large, creamy-white, suede-side-out, high-heeled cowboy boots. As Elmer struggled to believe his eyes, he searched the cowboy for details that would prove he was real. Deep blue eyes twinkled from under bushy brows and a dimple tugged at each cheek. He was breathing. Elmer couldnít help but notice that he was a healthy-looking 25-year-old.

"Are you real?" Elmerís heartfelt question burst out almost without his permission. "I mean, are you really standing right there, holding that ridiculous yellow hat?"

The cowboy laughed a gentle, kind sort of laugh. "Ya know, almost everyone asks me that. I used to think it was because my boots were so beautiful, but donít worry about them; nothiní ever gets dirty here. After a while, I figured out that folks just plain wondered how an ole bulldogger like me could make it in a place like this. Well, to answer yer question, Iím as real as yíare. And yer pretty doggone real. Arenít ya?"

Elmer was flabbergasted. He thought to himself that he must be dreaming. "Real? Yes-yes, of course Iím real." He pinched his own arm to prove it. There was no pain-no sensation of squeezed skin stinging, no feeling of arm hairs pulling. He turned quizzically toward his odd companion, and found that he wasnít there any longer.

"Over here, Elmer. Iím over here; come on and have a look." He gestured to Elmer to come on ahead. Elmer tried, but he couldnít move a step. "Oh, sorry, I forgot; ya donít know how yet. Well, Iíll help ya this time, just until we have a chance fer a lesson." And Elmer was standing beside the cowboy, looking over the side.

"Ahhhh!" Elmer flung his arms up over his eyes and tried to turn and run. As before, he went nowhere and all his flailing around just caused him to fall down. Over the edge he went, screaming and twisting. Just as suddenly as he fell, he was back, standing beside the cowboy who wiped the sweat from his forehead with a large golden flower-print bandana and grinned in a good-natured way.

"Now look, Elmer, ya gotta take it easy. Ya donít have the hang of it yet and ya canít just go jumping into thin air like a gazelle. Here now, bend over a little so I can show ya the sights. Okay, easy does it. Can ya see?"

Elmer held on tight to whatever not on earth he was standing on and stared at the emptiness below him. It wasnít exactly below, more like beside him, or around him-well, maybe it was above him. He was confused; what he saw wasnít like anything he had ever seen before. People were walking in the air all around where he and the cowboy stood, essentially, on nothing.

"Billy, can you explain something for me?" Elmer was standing in the air beside his teacher, whom he was beginning to think of as his friend. "If Iím dead, how come Iím alive? I guess I believe you when you tell me that I fell down with a heart attack at the airport and died. I mean, Iím certainly not there anymore. But how can I be here talking and breathing and happy sometimes and missing Becky Susan and little Dickie and Sara and Jenny sometimes just like I was still living on the earth?"

Billy smiled. He was a genuinely good-hearted fellow and he wanted so much for Elmer to be happy in this new part of his life. He had already taken Elmer for a trip to visit his family in Life. It had gone quite well. Apparently they had really loved one another because, when Elmer and Billy went inside Elmerís former home, each one had stopped his or her work or play and had come into the den. There, they all stood together holding hands and Elmerís wife, Becky Susan, had started to sing and all three children joined in. It was a song about loving one who had gone on before, and missing him, but feeling that he was often right there with them. Elmer had begun to cry as he listened and Billy had to put his arms around him. They stood and listened to the rest of the song and then, as the family went back to their tasks, the two of them had returned to Billyís place.

"Well, Elmer, itís like this; we were created to live forever. But not in just the same way all the time. Before we were born, we lived in water, right?" Elmer nodded. "Then we came out of our watery home to live in the air and sunlight." Billy nodded at Elmer and smiled happily. "Then, when we had done all we could on the good, ole earth, we came on home. Itís just another part-this life. Now we live in the air and sunlight of everlasting love. Itís great, donít ya think?"

Elmer smiled slightly at this last; he wasnít sure yet whether it was great or just irreversible. He couldnít help but wonder if he had really done all he could on the "good ole earth" as Billy so tenderly put it. From what he remembered, he had been unhappy a lot, complaining about this and that, and often, he thought sadly, he had been pretty selfish. Why, even that last plane trip had been an unhappy affair. Becky Susan couldnít come because she had to teach and the children were so busy in their own schools that he had gone to the airport by himself. He was going on a vacation all alone. He had promised that they all would go, at the beginning of summer, to the Islands. But then heíd felt he couldnít wait any longer, so he had just said he was going by himself for a week.

"Well, I was tired from working so long on that case; I needed a rest." Elmer, as a former lawyer, knew that he was trying to justify his own mistake. "Even now," he thought, "Iím thinking of myself."

"Billy, Iím not sure Iím really supposed to be here." Billy looked up; his face held an expression of wonder. "Boy, ya are in a hurry, arenít ya?"

"What do you mean, Billy?" Elmer frowned. "I donít think I did things right while I was on earth. Does anybody else ever feel that way?" Elmerís brown eyes were sad. "Billy, I want to go back and fix up my mistakes if I can. Is that possible?" Elmer was surprised at his own request. He was even more surprised to realize that he was asking for the deepest thing in his heart.

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