I climbed the marble stairs one at a time. They were enormous, but beyond my notice because at the top of them were the most massive doors I had ever seen. My heart pounded but it was difficult to distinguish if it was the climb or the awe which made it beat so rapidly.
“What is this place?” I whispered to no one in particular.
The doors stretched more than triple my height, and that fact alone was overwhelming. They were a deep chestnut-red with a rich grain that displayed the character of each board. The metalwork on the enormous hinges was exquisite. Like a vine, it flowed across the bottom and top reaching the entire width of the doors, which was considerable. Standing at the top of the stairs, I just stared, taking in the craftsmanship.
I was drawn toward them with a sudden desire to touch the surface of the wood. I had no idea how thick they were, but I knew feeling the wood with my fingertips would not create enough noise to disturb whoever was inside. I just had to slide my hand along the grain. The texture was unusually smooth, like silk. I thought it would be rough, or at least course, but instead it seemed to almost quiver beneath my touch. The more I rubbed the surface, the more I felt a warmth radiating out of the wood. I had only intended one touch, but I could not help more as I admired these doors. With one hand sliding across the timber, the massive door creaked open a few inches. I stepped back for fear of what might be inside, but only for a moment because curiosity pulled me forward again.
I lined my eye up with the crack in order to see within. When my head rested against the door it opened wider. I stepped into a great hallway, trying to see it all from high to low. My anxiety was replaced with a calm once I was inside. The hall appeared to be never ending, and was at least three stories tall. Each floor had doors on both sides. My footsteps clicked along the corridor as I approached the doors on the first level.
“Where am I?” I wondered out loud.
“In my heart,” came a voice.
I smiled because I knew that voice.
“Step into the first room.”
I walked to a door, not nearly as big as the first door, but still formidable in size. I turned the handle and pushed it open. I was immediately in a rowboat on the ocean. It was nighttime and I was alone. The water was inky black, as was the sky. It was difficult to see for the blackness and shadows. In front of me was and outline of what looked like a train. It was hard to make it out, until I slid through the water nearer to the line of barges. They appeared to be like cattle cars, only instead of on land, they were moving across the sea. A Sea Train moving in the darkness. My little rowboat was moving towards it. I felt drawn with the current and the boat I was in, carried me to the side of the train. It was only when I got close, that I saw the cars were full of women and children. One mother threw something which made a loud splash into the water near my boat; it was her baby. I scrambled to get the baby before it sank into the sea, only to see there were hundreds of others already dead and floating in the water. Children from infants to older ones, floated like buoys. Over the edge of my boat the ocean was filled with children sinking into the cold inky black. Some of them reached towards me desperate for me to take their hands, others stared blank dead stares. Some were sinking and disappearing beneath the surface, and others were floating face down. Horrified, I grasped the baby and pulled her out. She was shivering and crying. I had no blanket for her.
The Sea Train continued moving past me and other mothers were reaching through the bars on the windows of their cars. Holding their children out to me.
“Please, take my child,” they urged.
“You must help me,” they cried.
“Here, please take him.”
They called out to me in quiet but urgent voices as I moved as close as possible to their train. Babies and children were being tossed overboard for me to retrieve. I was grabbing for the ones the mothers were holding out to me, while at the same time listening to splashes all around me. My boat was filling up with children, and more and more were raining down. The water was filling with dead and crying babies. The mothers were desperate. All of this was being done in secret, in relative quiet, under cover of darkness, and I knew if I was caught I would be killed. My heart pounded hard. I called out for someone to help me rescue the children, but I was the only one there. I watched, weeping as children sank into the deep black waters. It was impossible.
The mothers kept moving on the Sea Train, towards their deaths. Their hands were on the bars as they looked at me, with a boat full of their children. As they wept, their tears glistened in the moonlight. I wept too. They trusted so completely, that they released their hands and let their babies fall into the sea, in hopes someone would rescue them. I wept that they had no other choice. I wept that I could not save them all. I wept as they died in the water. I wept as I rowed my boat towards the shore in an attempt to keep some of them alive, knowing it was a fraction of those who needed to be rescued. Knowing that hundreds of others were floating alone in the darkness, never to feel their mothers’ embraces again.
Back in the hallway, I asked, “Why did you bring me here?”
“I want to share my pain with you. I weary of carrying it alone.”
“Do all of these rooms have that much sorrow in them?”
“Yes, too much pain. Every one of them,” he said.
“I do not think I could handle that much agony. How do you do it?” I asked.
“I invite people into it with me. It is not up to you to handle it. I simply want to share some of it. I want someone to walk with me into it…someone to be in it with me. It eases the grief to share it.”
“Like when a loved one dies and friends come around to sit with you?” I asked.
“Yes. Like that. All of these are my loved ones, and the weight of their suffering is heavy. And you just went into ONE room. There are hundreds of others.”
“I cannot imagine the ache of your heart,” I whispered.
“I would like to show you…give you a tour. Would you do that for me…take a tour of my heart? Would you write about my broken heart? Share what you see and hear?”
“I will try, if you will give me the words,” I replied.
“I will give them to you…as always.”
I put my hand on the second door handle and pushed it open.
…I woke up from my dream on New Year’s morning, safe and snug in my bed, but with a new ache in my soul. I did not know the full meaning of the dream or what God wanted me to do with it. I have held it for two years, waiting for the release. First, the refugee crisis in Greece, and now there is a refugee crisis in Uganda where mothers are once again saying goodbye to their children. Families are separated by war, and I am seeing from a distance the need for the story to be told, for the grief to be shared. Stay tuned.