A Glimpse of Heaven is a contemporary romance novel with spiritual themes
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Throughout his life, Garrett Stanfield had always considered himself a lucky man. He had the good fortune to be blessed with a loving wife and two beautiful children. But, when his son dies in a tragic accident, Garrett descends into a deep pit of despair, shunning the love of his wife and daughter. It is only after the birth of his first grandchild, that he begins to rise up into the light once again, and tries to repair the hurt he has inflicted on his loved ones. Just as he is about to fully regain their love and trust, he discovers that he is dying. As he hovers close to death, he is given a gift that is offered to very few, a glimpse of heaven. But, is he too late to regain the heart of his beloved? Will he be granted the time he needs before he makes that final journey?
A Glimpse of Heaven
By Greg Gumkowski
It was a Thursday, and Garrett Stanfield got home late from work. He was tired and aggravated. The rest of the family had already sat down and started dinner. The moment he stepped into the dining room the conversation abruptly stopped. “Okay, what doesn’t everybody want me to hear?”
Cheryl got up from the table and went into the kitchen to fix him a plate of food. “Don’t be paranoid. Why don’t you sit down, take off your tie and say ‘Hi’ to your kids.” She brought out his plate and set it in front of him.
Garrett tossed his tie on the empty chair next to him. “Sorry. It’s been one hell of a red letter day.” He cut off a piece of roast beef and popped in to his mouth. “Not bad, Babe. So, how has everyone else's day gone?”
His daughter, Jill, a gregarious 16 year-old, piped up first. “I got my grade for my math test. An ‘A’ of course and Bobby McIntry asked me to the Formal.”
Garrett frowned and turned to Cheryl. “I thought proms didn’t start till their junior year.”
Cheryl started to answer, but Jill cut her off. “It’s not a prom, Dad. That’s why they call it a…FORMAL.”
Cheryl shot her daughter a disappointed look. “Careful, young lady.”
Jill looked wounded. Her older brother, Joey, stared at his plate, but Garrett could see a smirk on his face. “What about you, young man? What interesting things happened to you today?”
Joey poked at his mashed potatoes with his fork. “Not much.”
Cheryl reached over and gave him a nudge. “Joey…Tell your dad the good news.”
Garrett raised an eyebrow. “What news?”
Jill, who had never been good at keeping a secret or repressing the urge to divulge someone else's, squirmed in her seat and bit her lip.
“Well?” Garrett asked again.
Jill interrupted. “Well, if you’re not going to tell him, I will. Joey asked Katie to the Senior Prom and she said ‘Yes’!”
Joey glared at his younger sister.
Garrett smiled proudly. “Really? Katie Johnson from down the street?”
“Congratulations, Son! She’s a very sweet girl.”
Joey looked up from his plate. His cheeks were red. “Thanks, Dad… By the way, can I borrow the car tomorrow? I’d like to meet some friends at the basketball game after school.”
“Is the team playing at home?”
“No, it’s an away game.”
“Riverside,” Joey said, barely above a whisper.
“Riverside! That’s all the way across town. What time does the game end?”
Cheryl answered for Joey. “The games usually end between ten and ten-thirty. We’ve both said he needs to get behind the wheel more often. This is a good opportunity.”
Garrett knew Cheryl was right. They just had a conversation about that very subject the night before. When it came to driving, Joey was a late bloomer. He never expressed any interest in getting his permit when he turned 16 and by the summer of his 17th birthday, they had to practically force him to take the test. He finally got his license the fall of his senior year.
Garrett knew his son was a cautious driver, but there was snow on the ground and a dozen bars near the Riverside High School. He trusted his son, but not the idiots leaving the bars. On top of it all, his fatherly intuition was waving red flags.
“I’m sorry, son. I’m just not comfortable about you being out with the car in that area of town late at night.”
Jill must have felt the need to defend her brother after stealing his thunder about the prom. “You’re not being fair, Dad. You guys are always bugging him about driving more!”
Garrett’s face flushed with anger. “I put up with enough crap at work today. I don’t need an extra helping from my daughter!”
Cheryl gasped. “Garrett! I’m sorry you had a bad day at work, but please don’t come home and take it out on your family.”
Jill looked from her father to her mother, burst into tears, and ran out of the room.
Cheryl shook her fork at Garrett. “There! Look what you’ve done. I hope you’re happy.”
Garrett felt a mixture of guilt and anger. “Back off, Cheryl. I AM NOT the bad guy here. Are you really going to get on my case because I am concerned about my son’s safety?”
Cheryl dropped her fork onto her plate and turned away from him. “I can’t talk to you when you get like this.”
Garrett got up and dropped his napkin onto his plate. “Fine. You want him to drive to the game? He can drive to the game. But, if anything happens, it’s on your hands.”
Garrett turned to leave the room. As he walked passed Cheryl, he heard her mutter under her breath.
“Sometimes you can be such a jerk.”
“You bet, Babe,” he replied and headed upstairs to his study.
Garrett flopped down on the small couch in his study and grabbed a Sports Illustrated from the magazine rack. He stared blankly at the pages. He knew he was wrong to lose his temper and that he had a choice to make. He could either try to let go of his anger and apologize to Cheryl, or he could wallow in it. He decided he wasn’t ready to let it go. Instead, he replayed the confrontation with his wife over and over in his head. Every time he got to the part where he snapped at her, an off-screen commentator justified his actions. He knew those thoughts did not serve him, but after the day he had, he felt he deserved a bit of self-indulgence.
As he mindlessly flipped the pages of the magazine, he heard a small voice call to him from the hall.
“Daddy… Are you still mad at me?”
Garrett looked up from his magazine. His daughter may have been 16, but standing in the doorway with tears in her eyes, she was still his little girl. “No, Honey. I’m not mad at you.” Garrett reached out his arms. “Come here.”
Jill walked over and sat next to him on the couch. “I’m sorry I made you mad.”
She buried her head against the nap of his neck. Garrett gently stroked her back. Her tears dissolved any anger left within him. He put an arm around her and held her tightly as he hummed a lullaby he sang to her and Joey when they were babies.
Jill lifted her head and wiped her tears away. “Are you sure you’re not mad anymore?”
Garrett kissed her forehead. "Absolutely.”
Jill laid her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes. “Would you mind if I stayed here for a little bit?”
“I would love nothing more, Honeybunny.”
Garrett continued to hum as he read his magazine. By the time he finished the article he was reading, he could tell by the sound of her breathing that his daughter had fallen asleep. She was too big to carry to her room like he did when she was small, so he let her sleep. He decided he would finish reading the magazine and then wake her up.
“Hey, Honeybunny, I hate to wake you, but it’s getting late.”
Jill sat up and stretched. “Sorry, Daddy. She got up, gave him a kiss and walked towards the door. “Thanks for letting me sleep on your shoulder.”
“It was my pleasure. Sweet dreams, Honey.”
He watched Jill walk out and then picked up his magazine. His anger was long gone, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to go down stairs and face his wife.
After twenty years of marriage, he knew that she would still be angry. He looked at his watch. It was 10:00 and he knew that the way he felt, falling asleep would not be a struggle. He decided to let his wife cool off and went to bed. If he woke in the morning and she was snuggled next to him with no clothes on, he knew he was forgiven. But, If he woke to find her in her pajamas, he’d know he was still in hot water.
The moment his head hit the pillow he fell asleep and the dreams started. The one that woke him two hours later would haunt him for the rest of his life...
He found himself walking down an unfamiliar street with Joey. In the dream, his son was 6 years old. The street was lined with identical 3-story, white Victorian style homes. Joey ran ahead, tugging at the string of a large metallic helium balloon. “Joey, slow down!” Garrett was wary of letting his son get too far ahead, especially given his unfamiliarity with the neighborhood.
Joey stopped and brushed his long dark bangs from his eyes and laughed. “Hurry up, slow poke! What do you have, lead in them loafers!”
That’s an odd thing to say, Garrett thought. My dad used to say that to me when I was a kid. Garrett watched Joey fuss with his bangs as he closed the gap between them. “Looks like you need a haircut, sport.”
Joey let go of the string, seemingly unaware that his balloon was slowly drifting away. He laughed and grabbed an invisible hair trimmer with his now empty hand. “Errrrrr! Buzz cut! Buzzzzz cut,” he shouted gleefully. Then he turned and started to run, his arms pin wheeling.
Garrett took off after him. “What’s gotten into you, Son?”
“I’m a helicopter! Werrrr!”
Garrett smiled at his son’s antics. His smile faded when he noticed an old man sitting on his porch several houses down the block take notice of his son. He sat in the shadows, rocking back and forth on his chair and drinking from a bottle hidden in a brown paper bag.
As Garrett got closer, he could make out more details. The stranger’s gray hair was plastered to the top of his head and it looked as though he hadn’t shaved in days. As Joey approached the house, the old man waved. Garrett could tell that he was saying something to his son, but he wasn’t close enough to make out the words.
Garrett watched with horror as Joey turned and started to run up the driveway. “No Joey! Wait for me!” Garrett shouted, as he started to run as fast as his legs would take him. He reached the porch just as his son and the old man disappeared into the house.
“Shit!” Garrett took the front steps three at a time. He threw open the screen door and ran into the darkened hallway. “Joey, where are you?”
“Up here, Daddy. Help me!”
Garrett raced up the stairway and heard his son plead with the old man. ‘Please let me go’.
Garrett reached the first landing and yelled as he raced up the final few stairs. “Let my son go you bastard!” He reached the upstairs hall and heard his son scream.
“NO, NO, NO! I don’t want to go with you!”
Garrett flew down the hall looking into each of the rooms. “I swear I will rip your fricken head from your shoulders if you hurt my son,” he cursed as he ran past a door that was slightly ajar. Joey! He reversed his course and hit the door with his shoulder. Across the room, a disembodied arm was in a tug-of-war with his son, trying to pull him behind a partially opened door.
Joey looked over his shoulder as he fought back, fear etched on his face.
“Don’t let him take me, Daddy.”
Then his son disappeared behind the door. Garrett lunged forward, as the door slammed shut. He grabbed the handle and tried to turn it, but it held fast. He pounded on the door with his clenched fist. “Open this God damn door!” he shouted, as he grabbed the handle with both hands and braced his foot against the frame. He pulled with all his strength. There was the sound of wood splitting as the frame shattered and the door flew open.
Garrett lost his balance and crashed to the floor. The door slowly opened, revealing a small, darkened closet. It was empty.
Garrett pounded the floor with both fists. “NO!” he screamed, over and over…