Which Way to Paradise?

Sister Alma Rose Asks the Time

Father-Mother God, may each step I take today bring me closer to home. Amen

Religion was a riddle to her. ‘Believe this, and only this, because we say so. If you don’t you’re buying a one-way ticket to everlasting Hell.’

Organized religion baffled her, made her vaguely uncomfortable. Each had followers who were so sure they were right, that their way was the only way. And throughout history, they’d fought wars and shed oceans of blood to prove it…. Religion, at its best, was supposed to guide and comfort, wasn’t it?

Nora Roberts writing as J. D. Robb, Ceremony in Death

Different Journeys


There was a Jehovah’s Witness lady used to knock on Sister Alma Rose’s door, regular-like. Sister Alma Rose don’t have nothing against Jehovah’s Witnesses. One of the loveliest men she ever knew was a Jehovah’s Witness—older gentleman, school-bus driver, went to school for therapeutic massage and got himself into practice with a chiropractor.

The Garden of Eden, by Lucas Cranach, 16th c.

Anyway, this lady, Alice, you could never tell if she was talking to you or to the invisible person next to you because her left eye sorta had a will of its own. She had it in her head that Sister Alma Rose needed—NEEDED to believe that, when the Day o’ Glory come and the dust settled, the Saved would live in Paradise here on Planet Earth.

Sister Alma Rose says to her, “Alice, I don’t really believe that, but you go on ahead, it don’t worry me none. Be a fine place, wherever it is.”

Alice, she don’t like that. She gets right in Sister Alma Rose’s face and says, “Well, we can’t BOTH be right.”

Victorian Depiction of an Angel

Alice’s breath reeks of stale coffee. Sister Alma Rose sets down in her green wicker rocking chair and cocks her head. “Alice, darlin’, what time is it?”

Alice snaps an annoyed look at her watch. “Comin’ on eight-fifteen.”

“Is that so?” Sister Alma Rose muses. “I got a cousin, Dulcie, she’s in Roanoke right now, she’d say it’s nine-fifteen. You’d both be right, wouldn’t you, Alice? Don’t it just depend on where you are?

“See, Alice, we’re all goin’ to the same Paradise, but we’re starting from different places at different times. Is the road gonna look the same? Are we all gonna take the same journey? Is there only one highway to Florida?”

Sister Alma Rose is right partial to Florida. “If it ain’t Paradise,” she says, “it’s right next door.”

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