“I know I must be driving you crazy with all my questions, Seneca, but I noticed you just referred to us as the ‘Millennial Team.’ What’s that all about?”
“You are all from the Millennial Generation—are you not?”
“Well, yes, so far the team appears to be Millennials. I really didn’t think about it. I just noticed we all seemed to be close to the same age. I thought this was connected to our state of well-being in heaven—like the perfect age.”
“That’s true as well. The entire story is, generations have been a very important part of Almighty’s moving throughout the ages. Men would have better predicted wars and other international trends if they had studied his social design. Generations have shared experiences and perspective. They have a personality.”
“Yes, sir. Have you not noticed Millennials are a very bold generation? They have very big personalities—just like the Warriors.”
“Like the Warriors? You mean, like the Warriors living in the Warrior Heaven? Like me?”
“Yes. You have a double share of the Warrior personality traits. This combination of your personal personality with your identical Generational Personality is a big part of why you succeed as a military leader. Warriors are fearless. They are visionaries, fast-paced, determined, and powerful. Have you heard these things said of your generation on Earth?”
“Maybe, but most of the time I just hear that we act entitled.”
“Not so. That’s the wrong label. You are opportunists. You take what you are given—if it is free of strings. When society, or your parents, offers you something freely—like a car, a basement apartment, a new iPhone—you take it. You’re very aware of the value gain. You also avoid volunteering to do things that are at or below your skill level. You only expend energy on things that move you forward—or increase your potential. To others, this looks like you don’t want to pay your dues. Bingo! Why pay dues if there’s a direct path to the objective? Am I right?”
“Well, I’ve never heard it said quite like that, but yes, you’re right. This is the personality to which you referred? You’re saying Millennials are abrasive and head-strong?”
“You tell me.”
“Yes, we are. So, back to the team—are you saying we were picked because we’re Millennials?”
“It’s more a case of Almighty setting the end of Earth when the Warrior Generation is aligned with the governing power.”
“Ok. You lost me.”
“Tell you what—let’s hold this topic until we go into the details of the Great Game. We’ve arrived to the next portal.” Once again, Seneca has pushed back from giving me a full answer, but the big picture is finally coming into view. The thing he said about the generations is intriguing. He seems to be implying there are patterns within society—and Heaven—that define our levels and assignments. Even more intriguing is his hint that the end of Earth was pre-determined by Almighty based upon the generations. I’m looking forward to having this team fully assembled so we can dig into all these mysteries.
The team is growing. This time, there are six of us going through the portal to the Ninth Heaven. According to Seneca, the level of Heaven we are now entering is home to my father. He also told me I won’t be meeting him until the mission is completed. But this won’t stop me from looking for him in the crowd.
“Alright team. We are going to head through the portal. A bit of a ‘heads up’ for you, Grayson, most first-time visitors to the Samaritan Heaven find themselves being inordinately reflective. Nothing is rushed here, and feelings are shared openly. I call this level of Heaven, ‘the land where time stands still.’ For those of you familiar with the plodding pace of us Analytics, you can see this is a bold statement.” The entire team laughs with Seneca. So Analytics do have a sense of humor, if it’s about them. I file that bit of information away for another time.
Laughter is always good for bonding. I like these people, and for the first time, I’m excited about working with a team. In the past, teams have not been my thing. I saw them as being little more than an added responsibility and a source of distraction. I like being responsible for the safety and survival of other people, but not on a personal level.
Other than my mom, I haven’t had the desire to take care of anyone. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I was in love once. I would have enjoyed a lifetime of taking care of her, but it wasn’t meant to be.
While I’m still deep in thought, Kimmy slides up beside me. I can feel her smiling up at me. I have learned something else about the Idealists—they refuse to be ignored. “What?”
“So, tell me about the girl.”
“The one you’re thinking about right now. I can tell.”
“You’re smiling—and you’re in Heaven’s version of Weepsville.”
“You know—the emotional Heaven. Lots of people cry here, in a good way. We have a bit of a walk, and I’m not letting you change the topic, so tell me about the girl.”
Kimmy is sweet and I can tell she isn’t going to let this go—I guess she is in her “pit bull” mode.
“Alright, but it’s a long story.”
“I’m all ears—and heart, so go.”
“We met when I was twenty-four, and she was seventeen. I was half-way through my first three-year service with the Navy. We were brought to Haifa, Israel, on one of the Navy’s aircraft carriers. It was a routine stop. Haifa is one of our Ports of Calls. We do training missions with the Israeli Navy each year.
“Our Captain was looking for a volunteer to stay behind in Israel and continue training with their drone piloting program. I was more than happy to raise my hand. Spending six months on land sounded good. I am not fond of being on a ship for months at a time—a fact that my bunk buddies found hilarious considering my career choice. After looking at the brochures, I honestly believed my entire service with the Navy would be on land.
“When I signed a contract with the Navy at age nineteen, I did it to get them to pay the tuition for my engineering degree. When I graduated, I owed them three years of service. The original story from the Recruiter was I would be assigned to one of the Navy’s communication centers in one of a ‘handful of exotic foreign cities.’ Suspiciously, all the exotic city jobs were filled when I reported for assignment. So I ended up operating the Command Center on the U.S.S. George W. Bush.
“Because of my degree in engineering, the Captain chose me to stay in Haifa. I started bunking down in the barracks of the Israeli Navy. I trained with them every day—doing both physical drills and drone operations training. One night, after winning a fitness challenge, three of us were given passes to the local nightclub to listen to some music.
“When we arrived, it was thumping. The music was so loud we could barely hear each other over the bass. I shouted to my bunkmate that ‘you know the music is too loud when it tickles.’ We worked our way through the crowd, ordered drinks at the bar, and made it to the balcony.
“It was a beautiful night, and I was thinking it was the perfect setting for a romantic date. Minutes after that thought ran through my mind, I met the love of my life. I carelessly stepped backwards and bumped into her. She was carrying a tray of drinks from a table she had just bussed.
“Thankfully, the tray was full of used glasses with just small amounts of leftover liquors. Even so, I felt terrible. I know bussing tables isn’t an easy job. I did it one summer when I was in high school and hated it. I knelt to help her clean up the cups, straws, and lime wedges. One smile from her, and I was smitten.
“Her name tag said Tova, so I said to her, ‘You have an interesting name.’
“Without missing a beat, she replied, ‘That’s because I have an interesting mother.’ We both laughed. As we were picking up the last few items from the floor, I found the courage to introduce myself. In a few minutes, I learned she was a first-year student in a local community college. She was studying international business because her mother was living in the United States for her job. She was hoping it would open some good conversation between them.
“I told her, ‘That’s a beautiful thing you are doing. Not many people think about their parents when making their career choice. You must be the last of the world’s great daughters.’ I knew as soon as I said it that I was both overly-generous with my emotions and lame with the ladies.”
Kimmy grimaced and nodded.
“I hoped she could overlook both if I kept the conversation going. I changed directions and asked Tova how her night was going ‘before I bumped into her and took the smile off her face?’
“She said, ‘Oh, you didn’t take my smile. I still have it, see?’ I looked up and saw that she had put one of the lime wedges across the front of her teeth to make a green smile. I started to laugh. I knew then I was going to fall for her.
“Over the next four months, I found a way to see her almost every day. I was only required to stay on base when I was in drill or drone training, so I slipped off base a little each day.” Kimmy elbows me and makes a motorcycle sound. I choose to ignore it. “Tova introduced me to the grandparents who raised her. They were not fond of me. Her grandmother, Edith, told me that her granddaughter ‘has to marry a Jewish man.’ She told me directly I should move on before someone got their heart broken.
“I’m a guy who believes in respecting the wishes of parents and guardians, but since this girl wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see her, I decided to keep dating her.”
Kimmy chimes in with, “Yeah you did.” Once again, I try not to encourage her.
“It was relatively easy to see her since her dorm was only a few miles from the Israeli barracks. I thought about telling her my assignment in Israel was temporary, but since I hadn’t been given an exit date, I justified keeping it from her. Right at the six-month mark of my stay in Israel, I received orders to leave. I was given a seventy-two hour notice to board the next U.S. Navy ship that was coming to port.”
It’s obvious from the look on Kimmy’s face I just lost her to girlfriend sympathy. This happens every time I tell this story to a girl; they don’t like me much after hearing how I mislead one of their own. I take a quick glance at Kimmy. She seems to be staying with me, so I continue —knowing it’s about to get worse.
“I tried to reassure her a year would go by quickly, and I would be free to see her again. I promised her I would write every week. As I was mapping out a plan for a long-distance relationship, the light left her eyes. She just stood up and walked away. I didn’t go after her. I knew I didn’t own my life at that time—the Navy did. That was the last time I saw her. I tried calling her and writing letters. No response. After three months, I reached out to her grandparents. When her grandmother picked up the phone, she started to cry and told me Tova had committed suicide three weeks after I left Haifa. She told me she died of a broken heart—and she laid the fault right at my feet.”
“I took a hit like never before. I dug myself into my career to keep my mind off my loss—as well as any role I may have played in Tova’s suicide. I know I deserted her when she was too young to process her emotions. Her death haunted me every single day. I began working-out around the clock. I skipped meals and social events. I pushed myself to levels I didn’t even think possible. I was running twenty miles every weekend.
“One of the officers noticed my intensity and suggested I enroll in the testing program for the SEALs. I took the challenge and made the cut. I found that being deployed on top-secret missions kept me from being tortured by thoughts of Tova. Before I left Earth, I was beginning to wonder how I would cope with these emotions when I retired at the end of the year.” Kimmy is looking at the ground instead of me. I’m pretty sure I should have kept this story to myself. This must be what Seneca meant when he told me I would be reflective in the Samaritan Heaven.
Kimmy looks at me like she is going to cry, but thankfully, she doesn’t. I’m pretty sure she’s sorry she opened this can of worms. I decide to change the topic. “This place is exactly as I pictured it to be. The word ‘comfort’ comes to mind. There’s a very peaceful feeling here. Nothing seems to be structured or hurried.” Kimmy roams off, probably in search of a happier conversation.
As I look around the Samaritan Heaven, it seems as if everyone is on a permanent coffee break. The buildings are simple. There’s no flashy colors or signage. The homes are small, but they all have large porches and decks. People are sitting in small groups talking and laughing. Some have picnics on the lawns. Others share a meal on the decks of their homes. There are lots of children here, which I didn’t see in the other heavens. Most are in the playground area—some on swings and others playing “Simon Says” and “Hide and Seek.” Their giggling is infectious.
“Seneca, tell me about the children. Why are they all here in the Samaritan Heaven? How is it that they are not young adults like the rest of us?”
“You know, I get that question from almost everyone. I’m not sure why people doubt children would be a part of Heaven. They epitomize the innocence and love of this place. These children were born here. They all stay in the Ninth Heaven because it’s the perfect environment for nurturing children. Once they grow, they will be assigned to their natural level. Since they were born here—instead of on Earth—they are of different ages. The children who come here from Earth, come at the age they are and finish growing into adults here.”
“If there’s no time, how can there be aging?”
“Aging is growing, not the passing of time. They grow in discovery and knowledge as well as experience. Jesus loves to visit with them at the celebrations in the Seventh Heaven. They bring him great joy. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. I’ll tell you more about the reproduction of children a little further down the road.
“Grayson, I’m not trying to change topics, but I have to prepare you for one of the team members you will meet on this level. She is someone you knew on Earth.”
“What? Not possible.” I don’t recall any family members or girl classmates who died. And, I never worked with female soldiers while in the Armed Forces.
“Does that mean you’ve forgotten me?” The voice comes from behind me and sends a shiver up my spine. I turn and see Tova standing there. She is more beautiful than I remember. She is older now, and even more stunning. She smiles and my legs go limp. Kimmy jumps out from behind her with her second inappropriate “Ta-da!”
“Tova? I didn’t think I would ever see you again. I can’t believe… Tell me you’re not a mirage.” Of all the things I’ve seen today, I would most want her to be real.
Tova doesn’t answer. Instead, she takes the last two steps that remain between us, and lunges forward to wrap her arms around me. She feels and smells incredible. My heart melts. There are hundreds of things I want to say, and hundreds of questions I would like to ask, but I can’t seem to find the words.
When she stops hugging me, and stands back with her hands still in mine, the right thing to say comes to me. “I’m sorry for leaving you. I hope you can forgive me.”
She smiles. “All is forgiven, Grayson. I’ve had some time to prepare for this meeting. I’m very happy to be on this team with you.”
“So, Seneca, is this the team member you were referring to?”
“Yes, it is.”
Seneca laughs. “Well, I guess I don’t have to go over Tova’s background. You know she was seventeen when she arrived. She was a student in college and came here following her suicide.
“I have one other person for you to meet here in the Samaritan Heaven. This is Tony. He’s from Egypt. He was a heart perfusion technician. He came here when he was twenty-eight after losing a short battle with testicular cancer.”
I’m a bit distracted but find my way back to my manners. “It’s nice to meet you, Tony.”
“So, what do you do here in the Samaritan Heaven?”
“We are peacekeepers. We oversee the wellbeing of everyone in Heaven, and sometimes on Earth. We all love living here in complete peace and relaxation. We spend most of our time enjoying each other’s company. The children are a real joy to us. We don’t hurry them through anything. We fulfill our purpose by going to people who are hurting and providing a helping hand.”
Seneca speaks up. “Grayson, the Samaritan Heaven is the opposite of your Warrior Heaven. Almost everything you say and do might be a bit unsavory to the residents here. You won’t have a lot in common, but both sides can appreciate the gifts of the other—just as you and Tova did.
“The Samaritans are at the highest level of development. They have internalized love. Samaritans are also very loyal.”
I smile. It is easy for me to see how Tony and Tova are a great fit for a mission about saving other people. In fact, I am now able to see this is a perfect team.
“If you are ready, we can continue to the Tenth Heaven. It’s home to the Saints. They’re waiting to prepare this team with their wise words and a session of prayer for your safety. Follow me.”
I look over at Tova, and she smiles. With one look at her, any doubts I had about there being a Heaven are completely gone.