Visiting Heaven

amanda stairs

PHOTO PROMPT © Amanda Forestwood

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The gate at the top of the stairs was open. God again allowed mortals to have visiting hours in Heaven. She could see Mom once more. How long since the last visitation? God saw when He first allowed this, it turned into a disaster. No one visiting wanted to leave the bliss of the world to come.

Of course, they were still alive so they had to go. But then came mass waves of depression and suicide. God cut off visitations but that was worse. Now an entire world had come to faith, but only if they could see Heaven.

Time once again to participate in Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ 26 May 2023 edition of Friday Fictioneers The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a poem or story no more than 100 words long. My word count is exactly 100.

Yesterday, a friend of mine put up a meme on Facebook with the words, “I wish heaven had visiting hours so I could see and talk to you again.”

I knew instantly how it would turn out and I said so. Pat wanted me to write a story on that theme and I guess this is it.

To read other stories and poems based on the prompt, visit inlinkz.

To read more of my fiction, consider “Ice:”


At time’s end, in a hot world merchant sailing ships command the oceans. Captain Ki-Moon Yong of the Star of Jindo has discovered a new horror at the bottom of the world. Can he & the Star escape disaster long enough to warn a disbelieving world?

Buy Ice at Amazon.

44 thoughts on “Visiting Heaven

  1. An interesting puzzle – I think you are right, given the choice if such a thing exists, many would chose to stay there over returning to a lonely world without loved ones.


  2. CS Lewis addressed this notion in “The Great Divorce”. But in his world, suicide was deemed a one-way ticket to the other place. So there would be no increase in suicides as a means to get into heaven. As it was, his “gray town” was no picnic, either. But at least, from there, day-trips to heaven were possible, and the possibility to stay was also available — given a willingness to conform with certain requirements that fall into the categories of repentance and realignment of allegiances.


    • I was thinking people would commit suicide after visiting Heaven because they realized how horrible the current world is. Depression would fuel the desire not to live here anymore, but with Heaven denied them, except for occasional visits, until their own eventual demise, despair took over, even though suicide would result in something much worse.


      • Interesting question whether depression after returning to normal non-paradisical life would override the ability for rational thought to reject suicide and the hellish consequences it would guarantee. In Lewis’ gray town, the residents were already deceased but in a sort of interim limbo. There was no mention of any possibility for an analog of suicide. It seemed instead to be an unending dull, bland existence except for the day-trip possibility. Suicides probably didn’t even make it into the gray town. However, there was at least one example among the day-trippers that might be construed as self-annihilation, and one that was able to stay there and pursue progressive greatness. But in your story, the day-trippers were returning to normal life, whether its quality was good, bad, or indifferent. Suicide would have to be discouraged by assuring people that it would prevent them from enjoying any more heavenly day trips and that it would be infinitely worse. I suppose that might require the possibility of short trips into the abyss, whereby to demonstrate that it was by no stretch of imagination a place that anyone would choose if they could avoid it, and that it was characterized by utter isolation rather than visitation with previously-deceased persons. The common misconception that it was a locale for continuous orgiastic partying and debauchery would be clearly debunked. Lewis’ protagonist was, however, not himself deceased, and did return to normal life as if waking from a dream. He was, however, a Christian who had been warned already by one of the characters in that dream or vision not to make of it anything more than a dream, albeit an educational one. It was not by any means to be relied upon as a glimpse into a higher “reality”. It left open the consideration that someone else might have experienced an entirely different hallucination or vision, with imagery tailored from his or her own imagination, it that were more appropriate to the educational purpose. In other words, it was fictional, not ontological, even though it conveyed a true message.


      • The idea of letting such “day trippers” visit the Abyss reminds me of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus from Luke 16:27-31 where Lazarus pleaded with Abraham to let him warn his brothers about the abyss. Abraham said the had Moses and the Prophets to warn them and if they were not persuaded, even someone rising from the dead woudln’t convinced them.

        It would be an interesting story if both Heaven and Hell had “visiting hours” so people could speak with their loved ones.


  3. Setting aside the notion of visiting either a “heaven” or a hell, it occurs to me to remind readers here of what actually is said in 1Cor.15, 1Thess.4, and Rev.10 by Rav Shaul and Yohanan about the events following death. They each referenced the resurrection of those having passed the threshold of physical death which is appointed to humans to pass but once prior to being judged. The first of two resurrections was immediately to preceed the “harpadzo” (“rapture”; catching away), when the Messiah ben-David would return with an army of angels and be joined by these souls. This would be followed shortly thereafter by the establishment of the millennial messianic kingdom on earth, not in the heavens. What is never described is any period during which those who will participate have not yet passed through either resurrection or rapture to be transformed and clothed with a new body. These folks will then be fully occupied for a thousand years of good government on earth, centered in Jerusalem and administered by the King Messiah. After that, the current heavens and earth are to be replaced with new ones, and the redeemed will dwell on the new earth in a sort of restored garden of Eden. There does not appear any life for humans in a “heaven”, paved with clouds, which seems to be a literary notion based on the Greek Elysian Fields. Since there does not appear any time lapse between the end of life and “rapture”, when the Messiah comes, and because “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”, who is not shown doing anything much in the interim between his ascension and his return, should we not infer that he simply skips forward in time to make these a continuous process, and that disembodied human souls likewise skip forward in time from the moment of death to the moment of resurrection, thus to be “present with the Lord” at his return?

    Of course, this alternative biblical model is at odds with the common visions of either heaven or hell. But those visions may be entirely fictional, solely for educational purposes and not descriptive of the actual, biblically-prophesied future conditions.


    • I didn’t put that much thought into a story of 100 words. I was playing to the standard Christian belief that “when people die, they go to Heaven.” Admittedly, that’s at odds with a more detailed Biblical analysis as you point out.


  4. After my younger brother died, my sister-in-law dreamed that he came back to her bedside to tell her that if she could see heaven, she wouldn’t wish he were back on earth. The dream comforted her. Your story stirred that memory 🙂


  5. Wow, you’ve opened up a theological can of worms there. I’ll stick with the story as it stands -an intriguing idea but clearly one with layers and layers of consequences only an Almighty could fathom.


      • I dunno, James. We have here a novel idea, or an idea worthy of a novel, that would borrow from CS Lewis’ “Great Divorce” but translate his heavenly “high country”, that is beyond the view of his day-trippers as a goal devoutly to be desired, into another interim stage of development which is the millennial kingdom. Both the gray town and the day-trip venue would then be part of an educational experience aimed at preparing the deceased for one of two culminations: either the dawning of the resurrection that would admit the day-trippers who chose to stay into the millenial kingdom, or the ultimate sunset and utter darkness of the formerly gray town. Lewis’ story was all about the choice between them, and all the rest was mere innuendo about ultimate consequences.

        But it does illustrate the notion of a sort of “training space” in an alternate reality, in a time-dilation field almost but not quite frozen outside of the flow of time, that exaggerates the distinction between the choices. From the perspective of normal time and reality, it could all occur “in the twinkling of an eye”. Of course, even the alternative training space might be experienced differently by different individuals, depending on just what, or how much, they need to learn or relearn before being deemed ready for their debut into a resurrected and transformed state.

        For example, Jews whose earthly experience of persecution precluded any rational consideration of the redemptive teachings of haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef vis-a-vis the Jewish “kingdom of heaven” would almost certainly require a different course or experience of training than would a secular modern gentile. Both would need something a bit different from Lewis’ bland gray town and the contrasting “hard reality” of his day-trip excursion park. A “one-size-fits-all” training space wouldn’t do. But depicting more than one sort of training space and experience might well illustrate the notion that the training space was not reality itself but rather a visionary experience tailored to the individual or at least to common categories of individuals. For a writer trying to envision and develop and describe several such training spaces, that could be a challenge just as demanding as any scifi worldbuilding effort.


    • I’m sure it doesn’t except in our imaginations. NOTE: Misunderstood. I thought you meant you hoped visiting Heaven was real. Is Heaven real? If your belong to one of the three monotheistic religions, a belief in the world to come is part of all that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I fixed the comment you responded to. Actually, It think a lot of people focus too much on Heaven and the future rather than on the here and now. If you have a faith in God relative to Christianity or Judaism, I believe Heaven will take care of itself.


  6. I’ve been considering whether to ask Alicia Jamtaas what sort of definitions did her Catholic upbringing present her for “heaven”, “hell”, or “purgatory”, that left her so perplexed. If we shift the focus to another misunderstood concept, the “kingdom of heaven” that was a central feature of the teachings of the ancient Israeli rabbi haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef, we can see another case where the definitions have been often unclear. Many people think of it in the same context as “heaven”, and relegate it to some unspecified future, neglecting that it has been in existence as long as the Holy One (blessed is He and blessed is His redemptive purpose) has been King over all the Cosmos. When Rav Yeshua taught that it was coming, right-at-hand, nearby, he was describing something accessible because the veil between heaven and earth is very thin to those with eyes to see and a heart that is open and submitted to HaShem. It was not “pie in the sky when you die”, though certainly it would still be available even more clearly beyond the boundaries of death and the future human resurrection. It was a mindset that could transform ordinary life into something extraordinary in which goodness was greatly abundant. That’s what it means to view the Holy One as one’s King and Father, and His anointed one as one’s Master Teacher. It begins immediately in the present, the moment one embraces it. It takes place on earth, just as much as in heaven. What it becomes in a resurrected future is another matter, the same but more so. But its redemptive transformation begins immediately, insofar as one allows the principles of HaShem’s Torah instructions to be inscribed onto one’s “circumcised” heart. Clearly that is a learning process requiring time, cooperation, and diligence. But that is what Rav Yeshua referred to in Mt.5:20 as entering into the kingdom of heaven. It was a repetitive process, not unlike another repetitive process which is “eating”. We do it continually, because this is how life is sustained and growth fostered.

    Of course, focusing on the entirely positive model of the kingdom of heaven, one has little use even theoretically for the notion of a hellish dark abyss of isolation from the Holy One and from everything else. But even such isolation has its analog in an otherwise ordinary life if one eschews the social principles outlined for humanity by its Creator. Becoming cleansed, purged, and divested of its alternative antisocial ways can be a painful and painstaking process. However, one may bless oneself by choosing to turn away from this model toward the kingdom model, seeking the redemption that it offers and learning to practice it or “walk in it”.

    Perhaps Alicia and other readers here will find this description and definition useful — though it does in some ways blur the distinction between life and afterlife.


    • My understanding is that when Rav Yeshua returns, our resurrected selves will be spending time on a renewed Earth rather than in Heaven. The Heavenly Kingdom is only relevant at some far future date after everything that has to come to pass has passed. However, most Christians seem to believe in an immediate access to Heaven, and fictional tales often show this. It would probably be more accessible to a general audience (though scripturally incorrect) to render a vision of loved ones in Heaven (or Hell) in the present


  7. A very deep story very well told in such few words. I don’t believe in Heaven, but I’ve been recently thinking that suicide was most likely declared a sin that damned one to hell to deter people who believed they would see their loved ones again in heaven otherwise what would stop them from taking shortcuts? I also like the way you wrote god as fallible – it didn’t go well last time and he’s figuring out better solutions – that does make him seem more merciful and compassionate.


    • My understanding of why suicide would be discouraged is that a person would be choosing the time and manner of their own death rather than the Almighty. God has a plan for each of our lives and to “take a shortcut,” would derail that plan. Of course, that assumes that mere man can interfere with the plans of God, which in and of itself would be an interesting story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe there are some choices for which the exercise of free will carries the consequence of sealing one’s fate. Thus, it’s not necessarily either/or, but both. One may choose door number one, or door number two, or door number three — and there could be many more doors — but behind each one is a different sort of prize. It need not be a blind choice, either, because some of the doors have a peephole that allows some glimpse into the consequence of choosing that door. The choice is real. It is not predetermined or coerced. But, once made, its consequences may be inescapable.

        Liked by 2 people

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