Death came for me in a screech of brakes and the smell of burning rubber.
During the investigation that followed, police would discover that the unfortunate driver of the two tonne delivery van had been on a record-time run. Humming a tune from his favourite TV show as he powered towards the intersection, he had seen the traffic light turn amber but decided he could make it before the light went red. Stopping now, he reasoned, would add minutes to his run, and he'd lose his bet with Jimmy, his fellow delivery driver. So he accelerated, only to find that his van didn't handle as well going round corners as his little blue coupé. All too late, he realised that the van was understeering, and that its projected path intersected directly with... me, patiently waiting at the side of the road for the walk signal.
Instinct told the driver to mash his brakes.
Instinct was wrong.
Already at the limits of their grip, the van's tyres promptly locked up. What little control the driver had had turning the corner was lost as his vehicle went into a skid. I had just enough time to look up at his face, drawn tight and pale with sudden horror, before the van smashed into me. Bones shattered with the impact, my torso rotating about the waist to slam my head into the van's front. I had a dim sensation of weightlessness as my broken body was flung away from the vehicle, and then my world went black.
The next few moments are difficult to describe. With multiple fractures in almost every area of my body and severe internal bleeding, I had just seconds to live. In the darkness of unconsciousness there was no sensation, no awareness whatsoever, and then, as my body took its last breath, consciousness returned with an almost jarring snap. I was suddenly awash in bright, pure light, and I knew then that I had died, that I must be-
"Welcome, my child."
The voice crashed over me like a raging torrent, hammering at my senses with endless power. Even as the last echoes of the voice resounded in my soul, I ached to hear its thunder again, for I recognised to whom it belonged.
It belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ.
A flurry of thoughts rushed through my mind. This was it, the moment I had waited for ever since I first accepted Jesus' Lordship over my life. At last I would be with Him, the lover of my soul, my Redeemer, the One who had given His precious, perfect life for mine. No longer would I see Him only with the eye of faith in the words of His Book, but I would finally see Him as He is. He was there, right behind me.
Joy and anticipation rising in my heart, I turned.
Standing calmly before me was a glowing figure in a long robe, beyond blinding in its brilliance. Snow-white hair framed a face that shone like the sun, and a golden sash adorned His chest, glittering with the light of a thousand jewels. As I looked up in awe at my Saviour, the white-hot fire of His gaze swept over me, into me, through me, searching out the very depths of my heart, and I staggered under its weight. My eyes fell upon His hands, held out before me, and with sudden, awful clarity I saw the marks left by the nails. Sorrow flooded me as I understood fully, for the very first time, the price that had been paid for my redemption. The infinitely powerful, supremely glorious, divinely majestic Creator of the universe had humbled Himself to the point of dying a cruel, shameful death on a cross - for me. I, a selfish, prideful, arrogant man, had escaped eternal death because the very Word of God made flesh had sacrificed Himself in my place. I bowed low, aware like never before of my unworthiness before my God, as wrenching sobs took hold of me.
"My child, your sins are forgiven."
The Lord's voice crashed over me again, racing through my soul in a mighty wave and sweeping all of my guilt and fear and shame before it. Peace and joy poured into every corner of my being, leaving me feeling spotlessly clean.
"My Lord and my God," I murmured, fervent gratitude welling up from deep within. "Thank You."
"Come," answered Jesus, and I could hear His smile.
I looked up into eyes that blazed with bottomless love and tender compassion, and then Jesus stretched out His hand. Placing strong fingers under my chin, He raised me up, and then with a gentle nudge turned me around.
It was incredible.
Where before had been white nothingness, I now saw the reality of Heaven. Endless, shimmering light poured from a huge rainbow that encircled a great throne. All around me I could hear the beautiful sound of a million angelic voices, and my soul resonated with their perpetual song of praise. It dawned on me that I was truly alive, with unbounded energy and a clarity of thought and feeling that surpassed anything I could have imagined. On Earth I had known pain. I had known fear, and grief, and inner turmoil. But here I knew only peace, peace that came directly from the reassuring presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. His Spirit filled my soul in deep, intimate communion, forever reminding me of His love. Here, finally, I could rest, and know the joy of boundless freedom.
I looked around for the Lord, my heart bursting with gratitude, but He had vanished. Before I could wonder where He was, He spoke to my heart, His voice resounding with thunderous power and absolute authority.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty," He said. "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
I was home at last.