A Staircase from Heaven Lifted Her Spirits

After her father passed away, her loss felt unbearable. Until she had a peculiar dream...

Posted in , Jan 23, 2019

A woman peering up at a majestic, gold staircase leading to heaven.

The phone rang just as I was getting my five-year-old son ready for school. It was Mom. I could tell she’d been crying.

“Kathy,” she said. “It’s your dad.”

It was the call I’d been expecting. The call I’d been dreading. Dad was homeless. A veteran and an alcoholic who could never seem to land on his feet. My parents divorced when I was little. Dad lived in Anchorage, Alaska, same as me. Though I longed for a relationship with him, we rarely saw each other. How could we? He’d been in and out of shelters since I was a kid.

“I’m so sorry, Kathy,” Mom said.

“He’s gone.”

He’d been found unconscious on the street after a heart attack. Up till then, a small part of me had been hopeful. Maybe Dad would change. Maybe he’d find God, find peace. Find something. But, like most things with Dad, it never happened. His demons always won.

Weeks after his death, I was a wreck. You would think that I’d have been used to his absence in my life. Instead, I could barely get out of bed. Yet at night sleep never came. My mind whirled with regrets, so many things left unsaid. 

One morning, while fixing breakfast for my son, I struggled to pour milk into his cereal. I collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table, exhausted. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to remember a sober Dad from my childhood. Had he ever made me breakfast? Had we ever sat together for a family meal? I searched my mind for happy memories. All I saw was Dad drunk. Dad on the street. Dad out in the cold. Missed birthdays, holidays, school recitals. Missed everything.

One night, I crawled into bed, desperate for sleep. I couldn’t get my last conversation with Dad out of my mind. It had been weeks before he died. He’d just moved into another shelter.

“There are people here who can help you, you know,” I said. “They want to help you.”

“Yeah, okay,” Dad said. “I’ll give it a try.”

I’d slept easily then. At least Dad had a roof over his head. I’d even started making plans. If Dad did okay, he could come over for Christmas. Find a part-time job. Teach his grandson how to fish. Then, just as it always had, the bottom fell out. Dad was back on the streets.

I didn’t have to worry about Dad now, not anymore. Yet my grief felt like even more of a burden. Would it ever lift? How could I go on like this? How could anyone?

I clutched my comforter closer. I couldn’t move, could barely breathe. My limbs were just so heavy. The more I thought about Dad, about that last conversation, the more weight I felt, pressing into my chest like an anvil. We would never get the chance to repair our relationship. More weight. He’d never know his grandson. More weight. He’d never find peace. The weight grew heavier and heavier, pinning me into the mattress until I was overcome with sleep.

And then I was dreaming. I saw myself in the middle of the street. On one side were two gas stations. On the other side was a small forest. It was a familiar part of town, a place I’d been dozens of times. I was standing. Well—no, not exactly. My legs were upright. But I was bent toward the ground. I tried to stand, to straighten out my back. I was stuck. As if an invisible force were pressing me into the ground. I couldn’t stand up, no matter how hard I tried.

I stared at the gravel road, unsure what to do. Still hunched over, I turned my head left, then right. The road was deserted. I was about to yell for help when I saw it. Glinting out of the corner of my eye. I moved to get a better look and gasped.

Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe I was hallucinating after being in such a painful position for so long. But coming out of the sky was the most marvelous thing. A staircase! Gold, ornate and resplendent, like something out of an old Hollywood movie. I gazed at the bottom steps, mesmerized. The steps were dazzling, as if carved from the sun. 

Wind ruffled my hair; leaves rustled in the distance. I heard footsteps. Light as a feather. Someone’s coming! I sensed a person descending the staircase from the clouds. I waited for feet or legs to appear. Nothing ever did. Whoever it was, though, was coming toward me.

Again I tried to straighten out and couldn’t move. The presence got closer. And closer. My body wouldn’t budge. The presence approached. I couldn’t see anyone. The air around me shifted. And I felt something lift off my back. Slowly at first, then all at once. The force that had been weighing me down. It came off, as if a blanket were being pulled from my body.

I stood up straight, stretched my limbs and faced whatever it was that had freed me. I saw no one. Just had the feeling of someone. I wanted to thank the person, to ask the presence questions. Before I could, I felt it ascending the golden staircase.

My eyes snapped open. I sat up in bed. I was in my room, the morning sun peeking through the blinds. Everything was just as I’d left it.

Except something was different. I felt light, weightless. I jumped out of bed. I could breathe! My grief was still there. But the burden I’d felt since Dad’s death? Gone. In its place was the most incredible feeling. Dad was okay! He was at peace. He was loved. I knew—without a shadow of doubt—he was finally free. And so was I.

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