I wasn’t quite asleep but I also wasn’t quite awake. It wasn’t quite real, but it also doesn’t seem right to call it fake. Like a story that had already been written or like a tale that had already been told, it flashed into my mind in the briefest of moments.
In what must have been some kind of a waking dream, I saw myself lying in bed when an angelic envoy roused me with a message. And as surely as Mary knew, as surely as Joseph knew, as surely as Zechariah knew, in my dream I knew—I knew the messenger was reliable and his message authentic. “God sent me to tell you that Christ will return in exactly one hour.” My heart rose. My mind reeled. My feet raced. Leaping from bed, I ran downstairs, grabbed my coat and keys, and sprinted out the door. I knew exactly where I needed to be.
One scene faded into the next, and I saw myself arriving at Glen Oaks Cemetery. There is no place on earth I like to go less but need to go more. There is no place on earth where I feel greater hope or deeper sorrow. Yet this was just where I knew I ought to be. Flinging the car door open, I leapt into the predawn darkness. Up and down the rows of graves I began to run, shouting out the glad tidings. “It’s time! It’s time,” I cried! “It’s time to rise!” I ran up one row and down the next, up one row and down the next, my feet pounding over the uneven turf.
I watched myself pause briefly by the grave of a young man whose parents had written just three short words on his gravestone. They are words Aslan had once whispered to Lucy when she was overwhelmed with fears and uncertainty: “Courage, dear heart.” And those words have often given strength and courage to me as I’ve passed by that granite monument. “Michael,” I cried “it’s time! It’s time to rise! Just a few more minutes and it’s time!”
I took off running once more, but paused almost immediately, this time by a nearby grave where, just a few short weeks ago, a family had gathered to sing sweet hymns of comfort in both English and Hindi. “It’s time, my Christian sister,” I said in a shout! “It’s time to rise!”
I saw myself run on and on, up and down the silent rows, crying out the news. I stopped again, this time by a plot where another young man is buried, a young man whose parents once approached Aileen and me to encourage us, to console us, to pray down heaven’s comfort upon us. “It’s time” I shouted! “It’s time! Just a few more moments and you will rise! Your body and soul will be joined together and you’ll rise! It’s time!”
The eastern horizon was beginning to glow with the first light of day. The earliest rays of the sun were threatening to break through the clouds hanging low over Lake Ontario. The clock had ticked down to just one minute and now my feet carried me to the spot in that cemetery that has become most familiar.
With my face glowing golden with the sunrise, I paused where I’ve paused so often. On the edge of that patch of grass that has been tended by my hand and watered by my tears, I dropped to my knees. In a tone that was confident and unwavering I said, “It’s time, my boy! It’s time! Just one more minute and we’ll hear the cry of command. Just one more moment and we’ll hear the voice of the archangel. Just a few more seconds and we’ll hear the blast of the trumpet. It’s time, my boy. It’s time! It’s time to wake! It’s time to rise!” I began the final countdown: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …
And then—and then I became aware again. I became aware that I was in my living room, not the cemetery. I became aware that it had been a dream, not reality. But I also became aware that my face was wet with tears and my heart rich with joy. For though it was only a waking dream, it was a dream grounded in the best of all promises, the surest of all hopes.
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”