A Conversation at the Gates of Heaven

This thought-provoking story about being challenged by St Peter at the gates of heaven was written by Sinéad Brady, Convenor of Rathfarnham Quaker Meeting’s Eco Committee:

Once upon a time there was a girl called Sinéad, and one day, when she was minding her own business, she unexpectedly died. After getting over the initial shock of it all, she found herself standing before a tall figure at the gates of heaven.

gates of heaven‘Hi’, she said. ‘You must be Peter. I’m Sinéad’.

‘Yes’, responded Peter. ‘I know who you are.’

‘So, eh, can I go in?’, enquired Sinéad self-consciously.

Peter looked at her, said nothing for a few moments and then reached into his pocket for a hand-written scroll.

‘Sinéad Brady, during your time on earth, did you see ‘that of God’ in the natural world around you?’

Sinéad was surprised by the question and took a few moments to think of a suitable answer.

‘Yes, of course’, she replied ‘...At least I think so.’

Peter noted her response and opened the scroll.

‘Our records indicate this was not always the case. In fact, it has come to our attention that you knowingly committed many crimes against the earth and the environment.’

Sinéad swallowed as her life flashed before her eyes, and the saint began to read out a very long list:

1. Buying clothes, shoes and cosmetics without researching the impact of those items on the environment, its people and animals.

2. Driving a petrol-thirsty car when you knew it emitted more CO2 than other models.

3. Watching an over-sized telly because you coveted so-called High Definition.

4. Buying out-of-season strawberries from Spain to feed your son.

5. Eating battery-farmed animals because you fancied a take-away curry or two.

6. Repeatedly buying plastic bags because you stupidly forgot to put your ‘bags for life’ into the boot of your car.

7. Consuming heavily-packaged food and throwing out unused vegetables.

8. Using chemical-ladened products to clean your home because Tesco in Stillorgan didn’t stock Ecover on the day you were there and you simply couldn’t wait to go to another store.

9. Regularly consuming take-out coffees in disposable cups because you are a very naughty girl.

10. Throwing out thousands of disposable nappies and baby wipes because you felt there was no viable alternative and were too busy to wash dirty cloths.

You knowingly committed these crimes in full awareness. Have you anything to say in your defence?’

Sinéad sighed, shook her head and answered, ‘I’m sorry, Peter. I knew all of those things were wrong - well, not exactly right. It’s just that sometimes I felt like there were no alternatives. I could try to justify these things to you but I guess there’s just no point. All I’ll say is that I’m sorry, Peter...D’ya think does God know?’

‘Yes’, the saint nodded, ‘God knows everything.’

‘Oh. Well that’s it then. So what happens now?’

Peter responded calmly, ‘God made you human to give you the power to think and to reason. He gave you free will and the responsibility for your choices. God knows that, although you were aware of this, you knowingly made poor decisions on numerous occasions because they appeared to be the easier option.’

Sinéad knew that Peter was right. She could have made better choices but always justified her actions because they were legal and deemed to be socially acceptable during the time in which she lived. But she also knew that just because something was legal or socially acceptable, it didn’t necessarily mean that it was right.

‘Peter’, she asked, ‘Is it too late? Is there anything I can do to fix what I’ve done?’

‘Maybe’, replied the saint. ‘I will send you back and give you another chance but you must change your ways. Let simplicity guide you from this point forward and you’ll be all right.’

On hearing his advice, Sinead suddenly woke up. It had all been a crazy dream, just like the time in Dallas when Pam Ewing woke up and Bobby stepped out the shower.