He told me of a day he had awoken sick in his heart, sick in his soul. He didn’t know what to think, he didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know what to believe. After all those years of marriage, all those years of joy, all those years of living life together, his wife had gone to heaven and he had been left on earth. Though days and weeks had passed, still he was in the depths of despair.
He told how he had laid in bed for longer than usual that morning, remembering the years of her decline, the years in which illness had been an unwelcome but constant presence in their home. He thought of how weak she had become and how tired she had been—tired in body, tired in mind, tired in spirit. He thought of how, as she had approached heaven, she had gained an even deeper assessment of her own sinfulness, and an even deeper sorrow for it. The light of heaven, drawing closer in her mind, had given her such clarity. He thought of how often they had wept together—wept for what had been and for what would never be. He thought of her final day, her final words, her final breath.
Desperate to escape the turmoil of his thoughts, he got up, got dressed, and drove to a nearby park where he began to hike a familiar trail. He needed to be alone, but not alone—to be in nature where the heavens declare the glory of God and the mountains proclaim divine majesty. That trail led through deep woods and then up a long, slow incline. Little rocks skittered beneath his feet and great slabs of stone loomed to either side. Then, just before the trail began to loop back and return the way it came, it led to the cusp of a canyon cut like a deep gash across the landscape.
He told how for a time—it could have been moments and it could have been hours—he stood at the edge of the canyon, gazing into its depths, his mind still disquieted, his heart still downcast. And then, almost at a whim, he lifted his voice and shouted into the void, “Will you never be sick again?” And a moment later, first far in the distance and then closer and closer, the echo returned, resounding from rock to rock and crag to crag: “Never—sick—again!”
He shouted again, this time his voice just a little louder, “Will you never be tired again?” “Never—tired—again!” came the reply.
“Will you never weep again?” “Never—weep—again!”
“Will you never sin again?” “Never—sin—again!”
Mustering all the strength that remained, he shouted one more time, “Will you never die again?” And once more the echo returned from the canyon below: “Never—die—again.”
And as the echo faded for the final time, he was aware that the voice that had reached his ear was his own. But he was aware as well that the voice had spoken truth, that the voice had preached to his heart. For he knew that the echo of the canyon was the echo of heaven.