"SARAH" (a stoy of guilt, pain, and forgiveness)
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Leah Holtz sat slumped in the dirty sofa in the living room of her dingy apartment; hair disheveled, eyes red from the effects of the previous night’s binge with alcohol. Out of her reddened eyes, she gazed around at the almost empty apartment. Around her were a sofa, a few chairs, and an old wooden table, all that remained of a short, failed marriage. She stared at a wedding picture on the wall where she stood beside her husband, who had recently run off with her best friend, leaving her only past bittersweet memories.
Now, alone in the world she thought, she would try to drown out her sorrows with bottles of cheap wine. Her hopes for a long, happy marriage collapsed when she returned home from work one day and found half the furniture gone, an empty bedroom closet with only her clothes hanging, and a “good-bye” note left on the bed from her husband..
What kind of “best friend” would steal your husband? She thought. Her best friend was now her bitter enemy, a home wrecker that deserved all the curses from hell.
‘TO HELL WITH YOU BOTH!” she suddenly screamed, hurtling the empty wine bottle she had in her hand toward the picture on the wall. The bottle exploded in a shower of broken glass against the picture on the wall; now shattered as well , lying on the floor amidst broken dreams of marital bliss.
A sharp pain now came from her abdomen. It had been now a couple of days since the hospital clinic procedure, and she was still in pain, both physically and emotionally. Leah had taken upon herself to lash out at everyone. The hurt she felt would be felt by others. Anger and resentment overcame her being, and the world had better watch out.
Her swollen, reddened eyes slowly closed as she slumped back into the old, worn sofa; the after effects of the alcohol still swimming in her head. All of a sudden, she heard voices and a knocking on the front door.
“Leah, are you there?” A woman’s voice was heard together with the soft knocking.
“It’s Angela and Robert from church, are you OK?”
“Please answer Leah, we’re concerned about you” the knocking continued.
“We’re praying for you, we all are, we miss you at church, please talk to us”
“Leah, We love you, we just want to talk to you and be with you at this time”
“God loves you Leah” responded the voice on the other side of the door “and he always will, you need him now, especially at a time like this”
“God didn’t do that Leah, remember your husband isn’t a Christian, you knew that when you married him. He did that all on his own because he doesn’t live by God’s holy standards” the voice behind the door continued softly “the lost live according the world’s standards, not the LORD’s”
Deep inside, Leah knew that. Her husband had never really accepted the LORD. He had been a high school football hero, with all the girls wanting to date him, and he dated a lot of them too. He always enjoyed flirting with Leah, even when he was with other girls.
He finally asked her out. They went out a few times, then, after graduation, he popped the “will you marry me” question. Leah liked his body, his big muscles, the “Mr. Football” Look. He swore the “I’ll love you for ever” oath. She brought him to church a few times. In the Sunday school class, he looked bored. He told her the “I believe in God, and that’s enough for me” line. They got married any way. The pastor warned her against being “unequally yoked” but she thought she could change him. The ceremony was quick in the downtown courthouse.
Three months into the marriage, she returned home from work to find an almost empty apartment and the “dear Leah” note on the bed. What hurt most was the “thanks for your hubby” note at the end of the letter, signed by “Cindy”. She had been her best friend in high school, so she thought.
Now, Leah was alone in the one-bedroom apartment; her mind filled with ghosts of the past, haunting memories, hurt, pain, remorse, and bitterness toward the world, and toward God.
“Come on Angela” said a male voice outside the door “there’s nothing more we can do here”. Leah heard the sound of footsteps fading away, then the voice spoke again;
“Leah, there’s a letter taped to the door, I’m pushing it under the door to you OK?”
Leah heard the sounds of footsteps returning and she saw a small envelope being pushed under the front door.
“remember, we’re praying for you Leah” said the female voice,
Leah then heard the footsteps fading away for the second time. She was alone again, but this time, her interest was aroused by this strange letter under the door. Slowly, she got up off the sofa and walked over to the door. She picked up the envelope which had the hospital clinic logo in the corner, but her name was hand written on the front. It only had her first name “Leah” nothing more.
She walked back to the sofa; her eyes glued to the envelope. Slowly, she opened the envelope and took out three hand written pages of notebook paper. There was also a map drawn on a piece of white bond paper. She saw a signature on the third sheet of paper with the words, “nurse Becky”
Slowly, Leah’s eyes ran across the words on the first page. As she read, her eyes filled with tears. She read the second page and finally the last. She read the letter over and over again, allowing the words to sink into her embittered soul. She looked at the hand drawn map, and then looked back at the words of hope on the three pages of notebook paper.
Little Sarah ran back and forth, marveling at the sights and sounds of this fascinating place of vivid colors, beautiful sounds, and fragrant smells. She ran through ankle deep lush green grass, with multicolored flowers everywhere. There were blue, red, orange, green, and violet flowers blooming as far as the eye could see, and the fragrance of them all was in the air.
In the distance was a vast forest of trees, fruit bearing trees and flowering trees. As she looked here and there, she spotted a river, a river of crystal -clear water that branched out into streams that lead to the grassy meadows. The main part of the river seemed to melt into the vast forest of trees.
As Sarah continued to look at the river, she saw that it emanated from beneath the walls of a great city. She stared at the walls that surrounded the city, walls that seemed to have no end. A golden glow was all about the walls. She heard music, lovely music, music of a multitude of choirs that came from the city. The beautiful singing voices filled the air and blended in with the fragrance of the flowers and the beauty of this wonderful place.
Here and there, Sarah saw others like herself. They were all dressed in pure white tunics with golden belts around their waists, and feet shod with golden sandals. Sarah walked through the grass towards the river, she stopped before a bridge, a bridge made with vines entwined with flowers growing over the crystal-clear water. She looked down into the water and saw many pebbles and stones that shone with all sorts of vivid colors.
All of a sudden, she felt a soft hand on her shoulder. She turned around and looked up into the smiling face of a tall, beautiful being that radiated a pure white light.
“Hello Sarah” said the being with a soft voice “welcome to your home”.
“Who are you?” asked Sarah, “and how do you know my name?”
“My name is Angel, replied the shining being, “and I know everyone’s name here, and so does the king who lives in that city over there.” as he pointed toward the walled city that had the golden glow to it.
“Wow” cried Sarah in amazement, “is the king nice like you?” asked Sarah as she continued looking up into the smiling face of this beautiful being called Angel.
“Yes” replied Angel “the king is nice and he loves you so very much. He wants to meet you, but first, do you want to go over the bridge?”
“Oh yes, of course” said Sarah taking a step forward to cross over the river. She looked down into the water to gaze at all the multicolored stones. The stones glittered with red, yellow, green, blue, and crystal transparencies. There were also multicolored fish that swam this way and that.
“Would you like to see more?” asked Angel who was right behind her.
“Oh yes” cried Sarah, clapping her hands together with glee.
“fine” said Angel, “just take my hand and off we’ll go”. Sarah grabbed Angel’s hand. Then, all of a sudden, two enormous snow- white wings opened up from Angel’s back. The two soared skyward. Sarah was enthralled seeing all the sites of this strange, wonderful place. The two soared above green meadows, spread out with multicolored flowers, above vast forests with all kinds of trees
From a distance, they could even see into the city of the king. The city was full of people and shining beings all walking, talking, laughing, and singing. There were musicians playing on all sorts of stringed instruments. Some sounded shofars, others sounded long, silvers trumpets. There were hundreds of buildings, large mansions with the shining beings inlaying all sorts of precious stones in their foundations. The whole city was aglow with a radiant golden light which was everywhere.
In the far away distance, there was a long wall made of transparent crystal. The wall stretched as far as the eye could see. Sarah was curious about the wall.
“What’s that long wall?” she asked Angel with wide, wondering eyes.
“Well, let’s go see shall we?” replied Angel, and off they went towards the direction of the mysterious wall of crystal. As the two got closer, they could see many small children beside the wall, all dressed in white tunics with golden belts. All of them were accompanied by tall shining beings, standing by their side.
Angel and Sarah landed in front of the wall, and she could see that there were moving images inside this very long wall of crystal. All the children and the shining beings were all observing the moving images that were inside the wall.
Sarah stood wondering about all this. Angel seemed to know her thoughts.
“This is the wall of sorrows” he said sadly.
“ sorrows?” questioned Sarah. “what are sorrows?”
“Sorrows are sad things that happen” replied Angel. “Would you like to have a closer look?”
Sarah nodded her head, and the two approached a small area in front of the wall. Sarah looked back toward the city of the king, which was now just a tiny golden speck in the far away distance.
“why is this wall so far away from the city of the king?” asked Sarah.
“it is because there is no place for sorrows in the city, only happiness” replied Angel as he stepped forward and passed his hand in front of the crystal clear wall. All of a sudden, an image appeared.
Leah walked along Oakland Street, map in hand. It was a crisp autumn day and multicolored leaves were falling here and there. The letter had indeed aroused Leah. She pulled her worn jacket around her body as the autumn wind picked up.
She finally came to Old Oak Road. There weren’t many houses on this road. She followed the directions on the hand-drawn map. In the far distance, she could see that the road dead- ended near a wooded area. She looked to her left and passed Old Oak church which had been abandoned for years. Next to the church she saw the place marked by an “x” on the map.
It was a small cemetery surrounded by a rusty, iron fence with the words “Old Oak Cemetery” above the entrance. She had heard about this cemetery from friends at school.
It wasn’t in use any more. There were old graves here, going back hundreds of years.
Leah passed under the sign and walked through the rows of old gravestones. The autumn leaves carpeted the grass which was now overgrown with weeds. Leah looked around with curiosity, reading the words carved on a tombstone;
“Joshua Rogers, beloved husband, born 1714, died 1784
She went by some more grave markers, looking at the map and observing the old, worn words inscribed. She came to another one and read the inscription;
“little Angelique Williams, beloved daughter of Jeremiah and Mary Williams
Born August 9th, 1805 died of fever November 20th, 1805, departed but not forgotten, Comforted by Heaven's angels, in the presence of the LORD”
Leah looked again at the map, the letter indicated to follow this grave marker to the end of the row of graves.
Angel and Sarah both stared at the figure in the wall, going in and out among the tomb stones, as if looking for something, or someone.
“What is that place Angel?” asked Sarah “What is that woman looking for?”
Angel looked at Sarah with sort of a sad smile, “She’s……looking for someone” replied Angel, “someone she loves and misses.”
“but there’s no one there” said Sarah, still looking a bit confused.
“that’s the land of the dead” said Angel sadly. “People that are no longer alive lay under those stones with writing, even little people….. like you”.
“like me?” asked Sarah “but I’m alive, I’m here with you” said Sarah with a smile.
“Yes” said Angel, “you are alive indeed”
“Are all those people who lie under those stones here too?” asked Sarah, looking up at Angel with wide, wondering eyes.
“Not all” replied Angel sadly, “some are in the world of darkness, the nether world, A place called Hades. A world absent of love, laughter, and peace. It is a world of pain, torment, and suffering. A place where the presence of the king is not known”
“Why are they there, and not here?” questioned Sarah.
“because they refused the love of the king” replied Angel sadly. “the king made a big sacrifice, and many people rejected it, so, they could not come here.”
“That’s so sad” replied Sarah.
“Yes, it is” said Angel , “but it was their own choice.”
Leah followed the row of grave markers from the one marked “little Angelique”
At last, she found what she was looking for. There, in the corner of the cemetery, was a small mound of dirt covering a freshly dug grave. There were a few wild flowers on the mound and a small wooden cross with a wooden plaque nailed to the top of it.
Slowly, Leah approached the grave. The autumn wind picked up again, blowing brown and yellow leaves here and there. Somewhere in the woods next to the grave yard a crow started to caw.
Leah now stopped and stared at the grave marker. She held the hand written letter in her hand, reading the inscription on the plaque, then read the letter. As she read the name on the little wooden cross, she dropped the letter and fell down to her knees in front of the grave marker.
Angel and Sarah continued to observe the woman inside the wall. She suddenly broke down and started to cry, grabbing hold of the little wooden cross. She released words of sorrow and grief; tears now streaming down her cheeks.
“Oh my daughter, my little daughter, I am so, so, sorry. What did I do? I robbed you of life”. “I robbed you of the life that God gave you through me”. “Those people at the clinic, they lied to me”. “They told me that you weren’t…weren’t really alive, fully human yet, that you weren’t a real person. but you ARE…or you were” . “Oh please PLEASE forgive me.”
Sarah and Angel watched as the woman continued to cry and let loose her feelings of sorrow and repentance.
“Who is she” asked Sarah with a sad countenance. Angel looked down at Sarah, who shared the same look of sadness on his face.
“She’s your mother Sarah”
“My mother?” said Sarah with a bewildered look on her face.
“Yes” replied Angel, “she listened to the wrong people, she received very bad counsel.
“bad counsel?” asked Sarah looking up at Angel with a confused look on her face.
“Sarah” replied Angel as he bent down and picked up little Sarah into his arms, “counselors are people who are supposed to speak the words of the King, speaking wisdom that promotes life, and not death, destruction, and the murder of the innocent. Some counselors serve and worship the King, and give wise and good counsel from his written WORD. But there are others that give bad and evil counsel. They do not serve or love the King. They serve the lord of darkness”.
“The lord of darkness” asked Sarah, “who is he?”
“He has many names” replied Angel. “Some call him Beelzebub, the devil, the father of lies, Mephistopheles, the prince and power of the air, the dragon, and Satan”.
“Ohhhhh”….said Sarah slowly… “I don’t think I like him, he has scary names”
“No one up here likes him” replied Angel, “once he lived up here with us, he was part of our family, but he rebelled against the King, and the King cast him out of here a long, long, Time ago. But you need not fear him Sarah, you’re here with me and are part of the King’s family”
“I am glad I’m part of the King’s family” said Sarah smiling. Sarah and Angel continued to observe the woman inside the wall. She continued to sob and cry out, “forgive me”. There, prostrate on the ground, in front of the little grave marker she continued repeating; “forgive me daughter, forgive me, Oh God forgive me”. Sarah looked into the face of Angel.
“What should I do?”
“What would you like to do Sarah?” replied Angel.
“Forgive my mother” replied Sarah.
“Then tell her” said Angel softly, “Talk to her and tell her that you forgive her”.
Angel put Sarah down and she went up to the wall. She was now face to face with the image of her mother. Her mother, whose image was inside this long, long wall of sorrows was right next to her now. Sarah placed her little hands down to where Leah’s head was. The wall felt warm, as if she was actually touching her mother’s head….then she spoke.
“Mommy, don’t cry, I forgive you, I love you and I really miss being with you. Don’t worry, I’m well., I’m alive here in this wonderful place. I'm with Angel and the King. The King forgives you too, and someday soon, you’ll be here with us and we’ll be together. I don’t feel pain any more”.
The mention of pain brought Sarah’s scant memory to a brief, short past. To a dark, watery place, a place of muffled sounds and voices, sometimes loud, sometimes soft. There was a sudden sharp pain, and then a burning sensation, then….she opened her eyes and found herself in this wonderful place of awe, beauty, and peace.
Leah continued to sob, laying prostrate on the ground; her body covering the little grave marked only by a small wooden cross and a plaque nailed to the top. All of a sudden, she felt something, something warm and soft touching her. A warmth that penetrated the cool autumn breeze that now blew across the old, forgotten cemetery.
It was as if two tiny hands were touching Leah’s head. Then, a strange feeling overcame her, a feeling of calm, of peace, a feeling that she had never felt before. Somehow, she knew that God had forgiven her.
“My mommy feels better now!” said Sarah, looking up at Angel with a broad smile.
“Yes” responded Angel, “you did the right thing”
“Can I send my mommy a gift?”
“sure” replied Angel, “go ahead and send her something nice”.
Sarah looked around, then something caught her eye and it seemed to be just the right gift to send down.
Leah’s sobs subsided as she continued to hold the base of the small, wooden cross. For the first time in what seemed to be an eternity, she felt that the burden of resentment and guilt was taken away. All of sudden, she heard a flutter of wings and a soft cooing sound.

Leah looked up with her tear stained face to see a small, white dove cooing softly, perched on top of the cross. The dove looked down at her, continuing to coo ever so gently. Leah smiled.
“Oh thank you for hearing me my precious, precious daughter”.
“Nice touch” said Angel smiling down at Sarah.
“You sent that” replied Sarah smiling up at Angel.
“No, you sent it” said Angel smiling back.
“We both did!” replied Sarah, grinning from ear to ear.
“Yeah” said Angel, “I guess we both did”. Sarah and Angel continued watching Leah as she finally closed her eyes, falling into a deep, restful sleep, holding the base of the little cross in a lonely, almost forgotten cemetery. A cemetery amidst autumn leaves, and a little white dove still perched on top of a small, crude, wooden cross cooing its heaven sent lullaby.
Sarah backed away from the wall, watching the image of Leah slowly vanishing away until only the crystal clarity of the wall was before her.
“Well” said Angel, “how would you like to go inside the city of the king and look around?”
“Wow” replied Sarah, “that would be great. Can I meet the king too?”
“Sure” said Angel, “He wants to meet you too”. Angel then took Sarah by the hand, and opening his snow white wings the two started back towards the enormous golden city.
“By the way” asked Sarah, “what’s the king’s name?”
“He has many names” replied Angel, “but he goes mostly by King Messiah Yeshua which means Salvation is from God”.
“That’s a pretty name” replied Sarah. “I hope he likes my name”
“Your name means princess” said Angel. “The king has built you a special mansion, fit for a princess like you.”
“Nice” replied Sarah, “I can’t wait to see it.” Angel and Sarah came to rest on a road, a road made of transparent, pure gold. Hand in hand, they started their walk together towards the gates of the City of the King.

written by rabbi Jacob Ben Avraham.