Three days later when the weather was starting to get cold and wintry, Helen sat by the electric fire and listened to an afternoon performance of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony on the radio, and when it had reached its tremendous close, she noticed the Lady sitting and listening too, calm and content
Helen - Welcome! Nice to have you back.
Lady - It was magnificent! Thank you for allowing me to come into your home. I love being here! I know now why I am in that place of half-shadows. They told me. The sweet-faced sister came again. She brought with her a wonderful spirit, a man with the face of an angel. His eyes were so beautiful, so blue, as if Light was shining behind them. I do not know who he was, or from where he came. I had not seen him before and I am sure I would have noticed that face if he had visited us. His whole figure SHONE. Even to my dark hovel he brought light. It was the first real ray of light that I had seen since...since....
Helen - Since you had died to the earth-world and had come to life in the real world?
Lady - That is correct...if you can call it life! But I have now been informed that this was all the life which I had prepared for myself. This was such a completely new idea...it still is. It was the angel-man who told me that! At first, I was overcome by him and a sort of power that was about him. I suppose he has great authority. I felt timid. You see, he was so different from the horrible creatures who inhabit my present world, and yet he had come there among them. And he spoke to me. He had a kind gentle voice, yet the words he said to me were terrible, frightening! I would never have believed such words, had they not come from one such as he. They were Truth. I knew they were Truth; that made them no less accusing. He said that I had STARVED my soul. He said that I had fed only the EMOTIONS and DESIRES of my personality! Terrible, terrible words. What a denunciation! That I should ever have to hear such an accusation. Starved my
soul? Fed my emotions? I could scarcely bear it, and yet, and yet, I could not deny it. It was true! Suddenly I seemed to see through his eyes. I looked at myself. It was devastating. He said more, but I cannot recollect it. Then he went away. I felt as if I had been squeezed through the mangle that my kitchen maids used on their washing days. All hope had left me. I knew that I was in hell and terror-stricken by the thought that I would be there forever. Do I mean terror-stricken? Perhaps not...it was all confusing. But the sister stayed with me. She must have stayed beside me through all my panic. I'm not sure about that, you see, it was such a shock...those terrible words being true. I mean! Such an indication of failure and the cause of the punishment I had brought upon myself. I had never thought of myself like that. Perhaps I had never thought about myself at all, and I had never really believed about a life after death, only
listening to sermons about heaven and hell. But now I knew! I WAS in hell, that was it. But was I to be there forever?
Helen - Not forever. Not forever.
Lady - That is what the sister said! You believe that, too? She said I wasn't really in hell, only in the precincts of what she called the Shadow Lands. I imagine that must be the real hell, a place that criminals and utterly wicked people make for themselves. I wasn't a criminal, or was I? I hated my child, but I never physically hurt him. Sister said I was not in the real hell, only near it. Near enough! Near enough. But she was very kind. She was certain that I need not stay there. You believe that? At first I couldn't believe it, I mean, but she persuaded me. It was my first glimmer of hope after all my misery. I FELT her compassion. It was too much. Not to have to remain in hell? I, who was always so proud. I wept. [long silence]. I was ashamed of losing my control before her; humiliated because she knew all about me. Yet comforted by what she was saying. The love in her flowed about me; it was like sunshine. I think I
fell asleep, yet, when I woke, she was still there; and I felt refreshed and quiet. I was strong enough then to listen to what she had to explain to me. It was almost like a mother talking to a child. I wonder whether if I had borne a normal child I could have loved him! She made me feel like that. She made me wish I had been kinder. [long pause]. This was my first experience of kindness. The sister stayed with me. We talked together. She was gentle. I even wondered what she had been on earth. I was sure she had been a lady of circumstances; she had the air of good breeding. Strange that one carries over to this other Life WHAT ONE WAS! That was a point she made with me. It was difficult at first for me to understand. I was, she said, exactly WHAT I HAD BEEN. Because of my failures on earth, I was in this predicament. She even quoted the Bible at me. Once I would have been extremely angry at anyone taking such a liberty, but now was
different. She was in authority. I had to listen. 'As ye sow, so shall ye reap,' she quoted. I looked at her calm face. 'So I am reaping.' I asked her, though I knew. Her answer was as I had expected. 'You did not sow love or harmony; you withheld compassion from your son; you scorned your husband; you treated your maidservants harshly.' I couldn't hear any more. 'Stop!' I begged her. 'Are you then an avenging angel?' She shook her head and smiled. 'No, I am but like you...a pilgrim on the Way.' She, a pilgrim on the Way? Then what was I?...a speck of dust? [Without resentment, in a state of remorse] I was seeing myself as I was, and I was appalled. I was stunned by the revelation. I knew then that this was the reason why I was to live amongst these revolting people, these hateful creatures for I was like them. I was one of them. I, too, had sown as they must have sown.
Helen - And the sister?
Lady - That lovely face glowed. Positively glowed. It seemed as though a light burst about the sister. And I shall never forget what she said. 'God IS Beauty. So you loved God, though you never knew. Dear Soul, thus you have His Passport. It will take you from here and darkness into Light and Beauty.' I could have knelt at her feet. 'But now,' she charged me, 'you must learn to love creatures, your fellows, your companions, your son.' 'My son? Is he here, too?' She shook her head and smiled. 'You can help these souls. You can be kind and understanding with them.' I knew then that it was going to be a grim lesson, but I must not fail. She asked me then if there was anything I would like to do to help me during this kind of probation. And I thought of you and your flowers and your plants...and the music. I thought that if I came here sometimes, as I had already done, it would give me strength to succeed, it would be a kind of solace.'
Helen - Bless you! Come as often as you can!
Lady - Thank you! I do sincerely thank you. I have the happy feeling that this is my first step out of the Shadows, my very first step. I am grateful...deeply grateful. [She takes her leave].
Reviewed by Richard Rowley. For the full version with the author's notes, see "The Wheel of Eternity" by Helen Greaves. C.W. Daniel, Saffron Waldon. 1974.
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