Unification News for September 1998

Hello, Elmer 2!

by Catherine Ladolcetta-Irvington AL
This is part two of a three-part series

"It is possible, Elmer, but, ya know, nobody has ever asked to go back so soon as this before. At least, not with a sincere heart. Iíll have to ask my boss. Heís my dad, ya know. May be yíll need a little bit more training afore we can send ya back. Yer lucky, though; time was when we couldnít let anybody go back. Not even with the best of intentions. Right nowís the Returniní Resurrection and, as ya might have noticed, itís mighty empty around here. Nearly everybody has gone on back to try to help. Mostly, itís just the newcomers and a few late bloomers as stay around here anymore." Billy dug his long, thin fingers into his denim pockets and hunched up his skinny shoulders. His face took on a far away look and he seemed to be talking to someone as he nodded and shook his head back and forth. "Okay, Boss. I got it. Yep. O.K., Iíll do íer. Back later."

Elmer watched Billy as he slipped back into his usual happy self, lifting his thin shoulders up and down and rolling them to relax. "What was that all about, Billy? Who were you talking to-were you talking about me?" His face with tight with a sudden anxiety. "Come on, Billy, was that your boss? Hey, who is he anyway?"

"Boss says yer not ready yet, Elmer. He says yíve got to learn a few more essential tools of the trade afore ya go back on across to work. Say, havenít ya figured out yet whoís the Boss? I mean, where do ya think ya are, anyway?" Billyís mischievous grin flashed like starlight and calmed Elmerís fears.

***

"Okay, Elmer, now this is the tunnel. Ya remember it? Ya came through here on yer way in. In fact, ya spent quite a while at the Earth end of it. We thought ya might change yer mind and head on back to the living. Uh, yíknow what I mean. Ya stood right here, when ya got to this side, and ya looked over yer shoulder. Then do ya remember how ya put yer hands over yer eyes and just walked on in? We all felt like clapping, but the Boss thought that it might scare ya right back on down the tunnel."

Elmer stood, floating gently to one side of the great brightness that was the tunnel. "I was so scared, Billy, I remember that. I didnít want to be here. I-I knew where I was, but I thought it was a mistake. I guess my real mistake was going on vacation alone and not keeping my promise to my family." Elmerís face was long and sad. His mouth turned down just as far as it could and still be in the right place.

"Why, Elmer, yíve got it all wrong." Billy put his arm around his despondent charge. "Yer not here because ya made a mistake. The Boss said ya were ready to come on. Do ya think He makes mistakes?" At this, Billy turned and looked right into Elmerís eyes. "Believe me, He doesnít. Heís been watching ya all yer life and saw that ya were ready to move to a new place in yer heart. He said it was too hard for ya to keep on growing where ya were and that ya better come on home. The Boss never brings anybody that doesnít need to come. Donít be so hard on yerself, Elmer, this is a good place to grow ya a better heart oílove." Billy hugged Elmer and patted his cheek softly. "Ya got a good heart, ole Buddy, yer gonna do right well." Billy grinned reassuringly. "Now, how íbout some lunch?"

***

"Billy, Billy! Who are those people? Why do they look so unhappy all the time? Iíve been watching them all morning and all they do is wander around looking lost. Donít they have a home or some place they can go?"

Billy craned his neck over the ephemeral side of his favorite observation spot and stared at the crowd of empty-faced folk who walked up and down in the dimness. He sighed. Teaching Elmer about these ones was the toughest job he had met up with so far. He reminded himself that it was always hard, but his boss trusted him to give the newcomers a heartfelt explanation; thatís why he, himself, hadnít gone back as a Returning Resurrectee long ago. "Well, Elmer, itís like this: these people made an easy choice. What I mean is: they took the wide road."

Elmer looked confusedly at his friend and teacher. "What road? I donít see anything like a road. Not even a bike path anywhere." Elmer leaned way out over the edge and searched the plain with serious eyes.

"Fact is, when the time came, those folks couldnít make up their minds to walk on through the tunnel, Elmer. Ya kinda had a hard time, too, right? But, then ya just sorta closed yer eyes and followed yer better feelings. Iím afraid those poor folks down there just plain chickened out. Maybe they couldnít trust the situation-maybe thatís part of their struggle, ya know? Not trusting anybody, that is. Maybe it was just easier to stay on the other side than to trust. Not trusting is a wider road than trusting." He saw Elmer nodding in agreement and he went on.

"Some of them down there are ashamed."

Elmerís morose expression showed his understanding of feeling shame. Billy shook his head sadly as he watched Elmerís profile dissolve into tears.

"Shame is real hard to get over, Elmer. Iím glad ya can feel for those who suffer from it. Ya must try to forgive yerself, though; itís important if ya want to progress. To feel ashamed is the first step toward resurrectiní. To go past the shameful mistake ya made is the next step. That is, ya fergive yerself. Can ya guess what comes third, Elmer?" Billyís watchful eye caught Elmerís expression as he thought about it. Elmerís face began to show hope. Hope and a new willingness.

"Thatís it, Elmo, ole boy! Thatís the thought I was waitiní fer! Ya just say "good-bye" to that ole excuse of being ashamed and start goiní aní growiní! Donít ya feel better aíready?" Billyís wide-open heart lighted up his round face and Elmer had to smile.

"You know, Billy, I do feel better. Maybe I can talk to one of those people sometime. Maybe they donít feel any hope. Do you suppose thatís why theyíre so alone down there?"

"Iíll bet thatís at least part of what they feel, Elmer. Thereís another feeling they might have. I wonder if ya can tell me what that is?"

Elmer looked right into Billyís midnight-blue eyes. "Itís guilt, isnít it, Billy? I wouldnít feel ashamed if I werenít guilty of doing wrong. I did lots of wrong things, especially to my family. I was so ashamed, I didnít think God-I mean, the Boss...." Here Elmer swallowed hard. Billy held as still as he could, hoping Elmer would go all the way. "Gosh, Billy, itís so hard to call Him that, Iím not sure I should...."

"Go ahead, Elmer, Heís waitiní to hear ya say it. Heís been waitiní a long time-all yer life."

"Well, then...Heavenly Father-my Father. I was afraid my father wouldnít want me after-after all that...."

Tears poured down Elmerís thin, pink cheeks. Billy stuck his big, gold-as-the-sun hanky into his hand and wrapped his long, loving arms around Elmer. "Ya gotta cry, ole buddy. Around here, we call it repentiní. Thatís the only way to get it all out of ya. The guilt and the shame, that is. Cryinís the best ole thing ya can do. Dadís cryiní too, ya know; why, Heís so happy!"

***

"Look over there, Billy! Do you see that man? I think I know him. He looks like a man I got convicted of robbing a Speedy Mart back home. He got surprised by a night guard and pulled a gun and shot him. He-he got the death sentence. Heís dead. But that canít be him...heís been dead ten years."

"Well, sure, Elmer, thatís him all right. He couldnít get up the nerve to come on through the tunnel and heís been wanderiní around on the other end for all those years. Just waitiní."

"What do you mean, waiting? Hey-look over there!" Suddenly Elmer pointed far off to his right. Through the cloudy, grayish atmosphere, they could just see the bright glow of the tunnelís end.

"Golly! It looks like somebodyís gonna try to come on through! Gee, Elmer, I gotta go. Itís my job to meet these latecomers. Iíll see ya later. Say, Elmer, why donít ya go on over and have a talk with yer old friend? Heíll be mighty glad to see ya." Billy was gone in a blink, but before Elmer could turn away, he saw Billy step right into the tunnel; he carried a huge, yellow cowboy hat in his hands and wore an even bigger loving smile on his face.

"Heís not going to want to see me," Elmer turned to look toward the dead man. "Heís going to want to kill me." He sat down right where he was in the soft, gray nothing of the lost peopleís world. He watched as the man he knew was dead walked up and down, back and forth in the dim light. "Itís so dark here, how come?" Elmer realized that he hadnít thought about the difference between this dull, cool place and the bright warmth of the world he and Billy lived in. Looking up, he couldnít help himself as he searched overhead for the sun.

"What did Billy tell me when I first got here? Oh! Thereís no sun-the light is the light of love." Elmer felt a chill as he understood. "This place is part of Hell." Nervously, Elmer glanced over his right shoulder to see the fires or at least some smoke. He saw nothing like that. The chill dimness felt like nothing at all. Elmer realized thatís what it was. No feelings. "Well, that means that Hell is a place without love," he thought. "Still, I can see something here. I can see Beau Dillon down there. Maybe there is a little love around here. Maybe this is just the edge of Hell."

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