By Joe Darby
Now, Dear Readers, here is something completely different. I hope you like it.
From time to time, I have this daydream about what, I suppose, is my version of what Heaven could be like.
I’m standing on a hilltop, which is covered with lush, dark green grass. I’m in a circular clearing which is surrounded by lovely shrubbery and flowering bushes, like azaleas, camellias and thornless roses.
There is music literally in the air, old time music like “Shenandoah” and “The Streets of Laredo,” being played on a slow beat by strings — violins, cellos and other stringed instruments.
I’m dancing with my beloved wife Mary when up comes my Mama. She wants to dance with her son, so Mama and I hold each other at arm’s length, slowly twirl to the beautiful music and look into each other’s faces and her face is radiant with beauty and joy, just like it used to be. Over there is Daddy, in a sharp brown suit with a red tie, holding hands with his two girls, my sisters Patsy and Joan.
And there’s Grandpa Armstrong, dancing with his daughter Rita, my aunt and Mama’s younger sister. Grandma Armstrong smiles and looks on, slowly moving her head from side to side in time with the music. They’ve been here more than 50 years already, which seems like no time to them.
And just coming out of the bushes, like the baseball players came out of the cornfield in the movie “Field of Dreams,” are grandparents Dr. J.W. Darby Sr. and his wife, born Maud Baker. I didn’t know them on earth. I must go over shortly and greet them.
And there, also, comes Great-grandfather John Baker, who survived serving in the Civil War with the 10th Missouri Confederate Regiment. He takes his daughter, Grandma Maud, in his arms as Dr. Darby smiles and releases his wife to her father.
Over there is my first wife, Rachel. Our faces light up as we spot each other, because there is no animosity in Heaven and all old hurts are forgiven.
More ancestors are arriving, whom I’ve never met, but I instinctively know who they all are. I see F.O. Darby and his wife Julie Beauvais, who’ve been here well over 100 years. They, too, survived the Civil War although their home was ransacked by Northern troops. I had always thought, for some reason, that Great-great-grandmother Julie would have been an unusually beautiful woman. I was right. She is stunning and her French heritage is obvious in her lovely face.
In the short time we have been gathering, many years have passed on earth, and here come my precious daughters, Becky and Liz. Mama doesn’t mind when I pause in our dance and go over to embrace my beloved girls.
The patch of grass on the hilltop is getting a little crowded but I have never felt such peace, such love, such joy, back on earth. The happiness, as we all gather, pervades the very air itself.
My gosh, here is old St. Denis himself, the founder of Natchitoches. His great granddaughter Constance DeBlanc, married young Francois Darby in New Iberia in 1806. So they, too, also make up a small part of what was my earthly DNA. Even in Heaven St. Denis’ charisma is evident and other ancestors gather around to speak with the tall French Canadian as he recounts a few of his earthly adventures.
More and more people come, the late arrivals now wearing the clothes of the 17th, 16th and 15th centuries, then even more are here, in Medieval garb. Soon my ancestors are wearing clothes of the ancient days. And as more and more of us gather, so grows stronger the overwhelming feeling of love and happiness.
Yes, this is Heaven without a doubt. Because Jesus is here, smiling, walking among us and greeting us one and all, clasping our hands and letting us know we are most welcome in his domain.
Then my daydream is over. And I wipe my eyes.