A Glimpse of Heaven

A Glimpse of Heaven

Throughout his life, Garrett Stanfield had always considered himself a lucky man. He had the good fortune to be blessed with a loving wife and two beautiful children. But, when his son dies in a tragic accident, Garrett descends into a deep pit of despair, shunning the love of his wife and daughter. It is only after the birth of his first grandchild, that he begins to rise up into the light once again, and tries to repair the hurt he has inflicted on his loved ones. Just as he is about to fully regain their love and trust, he discovers that he is dying. As he hovers close to death, he is given a gift that is offered to very few, a glimpse of heaven. But, is he too late to regain the heart of his beloved? Will he be granted the time he needs before he makes that final journey?

Excerpt from ‘A Glimpse of Heaven’:

The last of Garrett’s personal possessions were packed into cardboard boxes and loaded into his car.  It was time to end this chapter of his life.  He leaned against the window seat, his cell phone pressed to his ear, and dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief as he spoke with his daughter. “Thank you for listening, Hun. I know you are about to go on set.”

“It’s okay, Dad. That’s what I’m here for.  You sure everything is okay?”

“I guess I’m feeling a little sentimental.”  The truth was, he felt like a man who knew he was coming to the end of a book.  It’s a bittersweet experience.  Knowing that the story must end, but not wanting it to.  Trying to keep your favorite memories alive.  For Garrett, that meant reminiscing with his daughter, which he had done quite a bit of over the last few weeks.  “I’m sure you have plenty to do. I should let you go.”

“You sure everything is all right?  I worry about you…  Living alone in that big ole drafty house.”

“I know you do.  That’s why I love you so much.  No matter how old you get, you will always be my Honeybunny.”

“Dad… Are you purposely trying to make me cry?”

Garrett needed to end the conversation or he was going to be the one to start bawling.  He tried his best to sound upbeat.  “Sorry, Sweetie. Give my love to John and the kids.”  The phone in his hand

sat quiet for a moment.  “I will, Dad. Call me if you need anything, okay?”

“”You know I will. Bye-bye.”

“Bye-bye, Dad.”

Garrett hit the ‘End’ button and slipped the phone into his shirt pocket.  He had thought long and hard about his decision to sell the house, and knew in his heart that he was doing the right thing.  Still, he couldn’t help feeling the need to walk around his home one last time.  As he walked from the sun porch into the barren living room, he realized that life was about beginnings and endings.  It was about experiencing things for a first time and a last.  The house was the source for many of those moments.  He remembered the sleepless night he and Cheryl spent after signing the mortgage papers.  They were worried about being able to make the payments and at the same time, excited about buying their first home.  As he walked to the steps that led upstairs, he remembered how he used to chase his wife up them when they were first married, crying out, ‘Thumbman!’ and poking her in the butt.  At the time, he thought it was hilarious.  He still did.  Cheryl had laughed too at first. Then it started to annoy her and her laughter turned into threats of breaking off ‘his damn thumbs’.  When he ignored her threats, she warned that she was more than capable of ratcheting up the consequences by removing a body part he might find dearer than a thumb.

As Garrett mounted the first step, he reluctantly admitted that at 69, his days of racing up stairs were long gone.  Living with a hip that was slowly disintegrating put and end to those types of activities long ago.  With a grimace, Garrett reached the second floor landing and walked down the hall and into his bedroom.  Once, it had been shared by another, but now stood empty.  The room held both good and bad memories.  He remembered their first night in their new home and how he and Cheryl made love on the floor because they hadn’t purchased a new bed yet.  And, he remembered that horrible night one year later, when his young wife told him she needed to go to the hospital.  Later that evening, she suffered through a miscarriage.  He also recalled their joy two years later, when they brought home their son and laid him in the bassinet beside their bed.  And, he recalled the terrible loneliness he felt the first night he slept alone after Cheryl left him.

Garrett walked out of his room and down the hall, and stopped at the doorway to Jill’s room and smiled.  This room held wonderful memories.  He pictured it packed full of stuffed animals.  No matter how hard he and Cheryl tried, his daughter refused to throw any away.  He continued down the hall and paused for only a moment at the room at the end.  The door to that room was closed.  It had once been Joey’s room and he couldn’t bear to look in.

Garrett pulled his handkerchief from his back pocket, turned off the hall light, and then wiped his eyes, as he walked downstairs.  He stood in the front foyer doorway and realized that it would be the last time he would set foot in the house.  He turned back and looked into the empty living room and sighed.  I hope your next family brings you love.  He patted the doorframe, turned off the downstairs lights, and walked down the steps to the front door.  He stepped outside into the biting cold air of a mid-November night, closed the front door, and locked it for the last time.

Garrett walked to his Cherokee, unlocked the door and slid in behind the wheel.  The car door squealed on rusty hinges as he pulled it closed.  He let out a deep sigh as he took one last look at the place he had called home for the past forty-four years.  He and Cheryl had purchased the house two years after they were married.  She was 20 and he was 23.  Garrett laughed.  Silly kids.  We thought it would make a great starter home and here I am, 44 years later.  He sat for a moment, both hands on the steering wheel, and looked out the passenger window.  The front yard was covered in newly fallen snow.  The ‘Sold’ sign rising from the lawn was bathed in moonlight reflected by the snow.  For every beginning there is an end and hopefully, for every end there is a beginning, he thought as he looked from the sign to the empty seat beside him, hoping that it would once again be occupied by his wife. 

He turned on the headlights and put the car into reverse.  As he backed down the driveway, he glanced in the rearview mirror.  He couldn’t help but notice the odd collection of cardboard boxes that he had stacked helter-skelter in the back of his car.  It’s funny how you can pack the totality of one’s life into so few boxes, he thought.  He straightened the wheel, put the car into drive, and headed down his street.  When he reached the corner, he turned left onto Elmhurst and then headed south to the entrance of the regional highway.

The story continues in ‘A Glimpse of Heaven’.  Available in paperback and eBook.

http://www.GregGumkowski.com

Greg Gumkowski was raised in Western New York.  His novels and short stories are influenced by his deeply spiritual nature and a never-ending curiosity about the seen and unseen worlds that surround us and influence our lives. He currently lives in Western New York with his wife Kathleen and his three children, Robert, Nathan, and Emily.

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9 Responses to “A Glimpse of Heaven”

  1. This sounds like a heart wrenching tale. Best of luck with it.

  2. Interesting excerpt, Greg. Thanks for sharing

  3. This looks like a good read with very in-depth emotion. I might have to put it on my list. Glad to meet you through the blog hop!

  4. Thank you for taking part, Greg.

    I’m glad to know you and your family are together and okay, because this excerpt sounded so real and so heartfelt I was erring on the edge of tears! In effect, you grabbed me by the throat, and that’s what every author strives for. 😉 Good luck with A Glimpse of Heaven.

    best
    F

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