The Gates of Heaven The old man was so tired; he closed his eyes and dozed off. He began to dream, a vivid dream... "NO" he thought, this is no dream, and yet, what else could it be? He looked down at his arms, they were the arms of a young man, he was no longer old? He was standing beside a dirt road out in the country it was a beautiful day, the hills were covered with emerald green grass and knurled oak trees, it was so beautiful here? Then, seemingly, from out of nowhere, his dog Shep was by his side. But hadn't Shep been a pet of his youth? Then it dawned on him, he must have "crossed over." He must have died in his sleep. If so, all his fears of death had been silly; he felt better than he has ever felt in his life - this was the most beautiful place, the most beautiful day... Shep dropped a stick at his feet and backed up excitedly, looking down at the stick then up at him, obviously anxious for him to throw it, anxious to play. He knelt down and took Shep's head between his hands and kissed him on the top of his head, his heart filled with joy, thrilled at what seemed to have occurred, thrilled with this new "reality." He felt better than he had ever felt in life... He threw the stick for Shep and watched him bound excitedly after it, bringing it back over and over. He realized Shep was getting thirsty. Looking around he could not see any creek or stream or other place for Shep to get a drink so he decided they should start walking down the road. They hadn't gone very far when they came to a great marble arch with a gold gate and a gold road leading over a small hill. He could see and feel a warm glow coming from over the hill, next to the gate was a large pulpit upon which stood a saintly looking man wearing a white robe and having a long grey beard; very distinguished looking. "What is this place?" he asked. "Why don't you know? You've reached the Gates of Heaven," replied the man. "May I enter?" he asked, in wonder. "Hmmm... Let me look in my book." He turned a few pages and appeared to skim the contents. "Why, Yes! Your name is written here. You are welcome to enter." He gestured with one arm. "And my dog, he can come in too? He's very thirsty." "Sorry, but no. Absolutely not! I'm sorry, but dogs aren't allowed in heaven." The man thought about this for a few seconds. "Well, if my dog isn't welcome then I guess I really don't belong here either." "Suit yourself, but know this: If you turn your back on this gate you will never get a second chance to enter." He turned his back on heaven and continued down the road with Shep by his side. It was odd, all his life he had hoped to enter heaven, now he had turned his back on his only chance to enter. Yet, he felt strangely good about it. In fact, somehow, he could not manage to muster even a slight twinge of regret? In his heart he felt he had done "the right thing." As he walked down the road, the countryside seemed to continue to get more and more beautiful and his sense of well being grew stronger and stronger. He crested another hill and walked down into the most beautiful valley, the most beautiful place, he had ever been. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere, insects buzzed, and gorgeous butterflies he had never seen before flitted from flower to flower. By and by, his walk down the road brought him to another gate, just an old rail fence. There was a man standing off to one side. For the most part, he looked like a farmer. He was sitting on the fence. He was wearing denim coveralls and had on an old straw hat. He was idly holding a stem of grass between his lips. Just off the road on the other side of the gate was a well. "Hello" he said to the farmer. "May I enter here and get a bucket of water from your well? My dog is awfully thirsty." "Of course you may. You and your dog are both welcome here." The farmer smiled. So, he walked through the gate and proceeded to lower the bucket into the well. "Where am I?" he asked the farmer. "Son, you've reached the gates of heaven." The farmer's smile broadened. The man began to notice that the farmer possessed a holy, angelic visage. "Really? Are you sure? A man back there said the other place was the gate of heaven?" "Oh, yes. I know who you mean. He tells everyone that. But then you know 'the devil is a liar.'" The holy man smirked and shook his head. "Did you truly think God would ever let anyone pass through the real gates of heaven who was willing to leave his best friend in life alone and thirsty by the side of the road?"