Folks who have returned to this world after a near death experience often report that they were given a taste of heaven. Some say that it featured beautiful gardens, celestial music, mild weather and a landscape backdrop of Alpine meadows framed by snow covered mountains. They were given a glimpse of a perfect day.
My perfect day would be a bit different. I would wake up on a Saturday morning with my wife Judy beside me in bed. We would both have our twenty something bodies and sharpness of intellect, but would be as emotionally mature as we are now (late fifties, early sixties). Sunlight streaming through partially open blinds would wake us, but we would linger in comfort and warmth beneath our blanket. She would stretch and yawn, roll over and give me a hug and a kiss (neither of us suffering from morning breath), and we would chat for a while and plan our day.
Breakfast would be pancakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Judy would sip on a cup of mint tea, and I’d have strong coffee with sugar and cream. Pages from a newspaper would be passed back and forth, and the stories would be about new discoveries in science and would be reviews of wonderful books and beautiful art exhibitions. News items about political, religious and economic strife would not exist as folks throughout would have finally come to the realization that no one benefits if someone suffers.
After breakfast we would do a few light chores, then go out to a nearby park to go hiking. Judy took me to Hawk Mountain in eastern Pennsylvania when we were first married, and I’d like to return to its paths and climb upward through forests of pine, maple and oak and past stands of flowering rhododendrons. Near the top we would walk out onto a broad ledge and look at hawks soaring in slow spirals on thermals above a checkerboard countryside of farms, forests and small towns.
After our hike we would stop off, magically of course in this version of heaven, at Junior’s Diner in Orlando. I would order a cheeseburger, fries, cole slaw and more coffee, and Judy and I would split a hot piece of apple strudel for dessert.
It would rain on the way back home, and we would get sopping wet. After hot showers and a change into dry clothes we would nestle together on a comfortable sofa and watch a Cary Grant and Jean Arthur movie. We might fall asleep and take a nap before getting up to make a salad, grill salmon, and toast garlic bread.
After supper we would take a walk in our neighborhood and visit with our loved ones as we strolled from house to house. We would sit in my grandparents’ side yard beneath a lilac bush and watch the fireflies come out. A few rabbits would make a timid entrance near sunset and munch on clover, and Grandpa would tell me stories once again about what it was like to grow up in Dayton in the early 1900s when delivery wagons were still pulled by horses and the Wright Brothers could be seen flying new biplanes over the town.
When we return home our children would be waiting for us on our front porch with their children and spouses in tow, and we would go inside and make popcorn. The grandkids play on our carpet while we grown ups discuss work and the weather. When Judy and I get sleepy our guests take their leave after promising to return soon.
As we lie in bed Judy and I talk about how we met and when we knew that we were in love. We might recall a few hard times, but would look at them from the reassuring perspective that we had weathered many storms together and that things had eventually turned out all right. The last thing I’d hear before drifting off would be the sound of Judy’s breath slowing down and taking on a steady rhythm as she falls asleep beside me.
*After rereading this a few times I realized that many elements of my perfect day were a close match to what Judy liked to do when we were in our late twenties and early thirties. As time goes on our tastes and preferences have grown closer. When I was a younger man I would have changed the hike into a baseball game, the simple meal at the diner into a lobster fest, and the movie into The Godfather. What can I say? Judy won me over, and I don’t care.