Chapter 32 Fran enters Zion

Carlos finished counting out on his fingers. “This is Fran’s fourteenth jubilee,” he said. Sylvia let out a long sigh.

“Let’s recap her journey so far,” suggested Jesus.

“Fran’s biggest stumbling block to her progression has been her sense of entitlement. She has consistently reverted to her core belief that because she was religious in the Previous Age, she deserves to be rewarded,” said Carlos.

“Fran’s sense of entitlement also stems from her comfortable life in England during the second half of the twentieth century,” continued Sylvia. “Her husband worked hard and she didn’t want for much in her life, so she had little empathy with those who found life challenging. She based her identity on what she owned and judged people according to their level of affluence – she was envious of those who had more and looked down on those who had less. And she enjoyed gossiping about people rather than making friends. These were the attitudes that she brought with her to the New Earth, so when friendships didn’t work out the way she wanted, she just gave up on them rather than wondering what she could have done differently.”

Jesus pursed his lips. “A hard heart can take a long time to soften.”

Carlos nodded. “Yes, she has blamed everyone else for her circumstances and for many jubilees has stubbornly refused to look at herself. But this began to change when you placed her in the same community as Imelda again.”

“Yes,” said Jesus, “I felt at that point that they were finally ready to see each other again. Because they had shared their first jubilee together, I hoped their bond might be the cornerstone for Fran to begin to see the value in people in their own right, rather than just using them or getting them to do what she wanted.”

“It was after being placed with Imelda that Fran began to prioritise relationships with others. I think she was desperate not to be lonely anymore, and Imelda had reached the same point too. It was their shared love of The Beatles that gave them something in common to talk joyfully about as soon as they were reunited,” said Sylvia, smiling at the memory of hearing them singing together through an open window.

“Discovering the joy of friendship was like the first crack in a dam. One positive emotion led to another, and as the jubilees went by, both women became able to welcome and include more people into their lives and enjoy contributing to their communities,” Carlos reported.

“There were numerous setbacks along the way though, and they found that jealousy can easily creep into friendships,” Sylvia added. “Fran sometimes got jealous when Imelda expressed affection for anyone else and wanted to spent time with them. This took a long time to overcome, but when they were in their eleventh jubilee, Fran came to understand the beauty of kairos time and realised that in the ages to come she would always have Imelda as a friend and that they would be able spend as much time together as they could ever wish.”


“Stop!” Fran shouted in between mock screams and breathless laughter. Imelda continued to playfully raise the hosepipe up into the air sending a cold shower down over Fran and three other friends who had been reclining on picnic blankets. They often sat outside together in the evenings and were sometimes joined by other neighbours from their village community in the land of Beulah, near to the city borders of Zion. Imelda giggled with a cheeky final flick of the hosepipe.

“Come on, Imelda, tell us the rest of your story. You were on Top of the Pops, weren’t you? Who did you meet?” Fran wiped the water from her hair and the group of friends settled back down on the blanket again.

“Well, we weren’t supposed to talk to the stars, but we knew which exit they used, so that’s where we used to hang around. It was my lucky day when the pop star Marc Bolan came out and stopped to sign autographs and chat to us. Do you remember his blue eyes and amazing curly hair? Couldn’t believe it when just a few years later he was killed in a road accident.”

“I was in a community with him!” said Harriet, a recent friend of Fran’s. “He was a real gentleman and great fun to be around.”

“It’s funny when you think how long we’ve been alive on New Earth,” said Fran, “and how many people we’ve spent time with in all our different communities. I often wonder where they all are now.”

“It’s true,” said Imelda. “But I know I’ve needed this long to begin to change. Do you remember how awful we were to each other in our first community, Fran? And how I made Dawn work so hard in my dressmaking business just so I could impress you and everyone else?”

“Yes, I’ll never forget how jealous I was of that purple coat with gold buttons you got her to make for you! Honestly, why didn’t we just sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy getting to know each other instead of all that malarkey? But look at us all now. At least we got there in the end.” 

 “You certainly have,” came an unexpected voice from behind where they were sitting.

“Jesus!” cried Fran, as they all turned around and sprang to their feet to welcome him.

“Hello gang!” Jesus greeted them with characteristic affection. “Forgive me, but I do enjoy surprising people.”

“Oh Jesus,” began Fran, “we were just saying how it’s taken a while but we can see our progress. It’s been such a journey, but now I couldn’t be happier.”

“I can assure you that you will be happier!” laughed Jesus. “It’s your time to come to Zion.”


“Yes Fran. You’ve finally understood what agape love is and how to live by it. Just look around.” Jesus motioned with his hand to Fran’s friends, who were all smiling broadly. “You only have friends here, and in the last few jubilees you’ve only spoken kindly about other people. People love you, Fran. You serve without reservation, and you’ve allowed yourself to be loved in equal measure.”

“It’s true, Jesus, she is wonderful in every way,” Imelda said with tears in her eyes. “I am going to miss her.”

“Imelda, I’ll be back for you and each one of you very soon. Ruach has told me about your life here in the community – your daily acts of kindness and selflessness and how you resolve your differences with respect and grace.”

“When we do that, we feel in harmony with all of creation,” said Harriet.

“Ah, Harriet, you have always been a poet. What you feel is shalom, the peace of God that permeates all of creation. It is the fruit of agape love.”

Harriet beamed. “Shalom. What a beautiful word.”


Fran had never been much of a dancer in the Previous Age. She could bop along to ‘Twist and Shout’ but always felt awkward and self-conscious. Later, as a married woman, she would avoid dancing with her husband, ashamed of her weight and the shape of her body.

In Zion that evening, Fran and her children had opted for the Jazz Club. In the Previous Age Fran had always been taught that jazz was ‘the devil’s music’, so it was with relish that she now embraced her freedom and began to dance as never before. The jazz band played with rhythms and unpredictable melodies that she had never thought possible, and people danced together, expressing their emotions.

“Mum, you have all the moves!” Louise shouted over the music.

“Looking good, Mum!” called out Terry with a wink, as he held out her hand to twirl his mother.

In the Previous Age, her children had often ridiculed Fran for not dancing and had regularly disobeyed her by sneaking out of the house for a ‘night on the tiles’. Fran looked over to see where her friend Kelly was dancing with her arms around her own daughter, Clare. They had been in the same community many jubilee periods ago, but in those days. Kelly had been consumed with bitterness and anger after losing her daughter in a road accident and Fran had been too focused on herself to offer friendship or feel any compassion. Kelly looked over her daughter’s raven black hair and her eyes met Fran’s. A look of pure surprise and joy was exchanged between them as they danced with their children and felt the energy surging through their own youthful bodies.

Fran slept so well that night and was delighted to discover her children at her door the next morning to share breakfast together.

“I was so bitter about life when I got older,” she confessed as they sat around the table together. “I was too hard on you because I was jealous of your freedom.”

“We thought so too, to be honest, Mum,” said Louise, stroking the head of Sammy, the family beagle who had been gifted to Louise on her resurrection.

“And we resented the way that you and Dad didn’t try to understand us. You just thought everything we did was sinful,” added Terry. “But now we understand you were genuinely worried about what we were doing. It wasn’t until I became a father that I understood, but you had already passed away by then. Won’t it be great when Dad can join us too?”

“I can’t wait to see him and am looking forward to getting to know my grandchildren too,” exclaimed Fran with delight as she passed her son the marmalade. “Now each generation can see each other through the eyes of agape love, we can understand each other so much better. You see me and I see you!”


“Just look at the colour of those leaves, and can you see those birds perched up there?” Fran said to her daughter, Louise, while out on a walk in the countryside. “Life here is familiar, yet it’s always exciting with so much to discover, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I don’t think we will ever get bored,” agreed Louise. “We never imagined that we could be free to enjoy life like this, did we? I think it’s because we’ve learned to be ourselves without hiding behind the masks we thought we had to wear.”

“I look back and realise how narrow and constrained I used to be,” said Fran. “I think it was because deep down I didn’t like myself very much that I took such delight in focusing on other people’s shortcomings. And I was very controlling, wasn’t I? Always wanting people to behave as I thought they should.”

“We all make mistakes, Mum, and I guess we all believed the lies our culture and our upbringing told us about ourselves. I know I wasn’t the easiest of teenagers, but my journey here on the New Earth has helped me understand that I built up resentment against you and the church because you gave so much time and energy to it, instead of being there for us.”

“And for that I am so sorry,” said Fran, squeezing her daughter’s hand. “I realise now that I was trying to gain approval from my idea of God and from the other church folk. I wanted to impress the vicar, and I thought I was only worth something if I kept the rules and looked good in front of others. I tried to love, but I don’t think I really understood what love was in those days.”

“We’ve all had to learn to take off the masks we wore,” said Louise thoughtfully. “But here is our reward at the end of all the hard learning. We get to be together, forever, and nothing can take away the connection and the love we have for one another.”

The two walked arm in arm along a path shaded by tall trees. Butterflies fluttered around them seeking nectar from the wildflowers that bloomed in profusion at their feet, and birds called from the branches above them.

“Hello Fran!” came a voice from behind one of the trees.

Fran stopped dead in her tracks. Yes, there was no mistaking that voice!

Imelda appeared holding a basket of berries and came up to Fran with a warm smile.

“Well, look at us!” she declared, jubilantly. “Through everything, finally here together.”

“Oh Imelda, how wonderful to see you! This is my daughter, Louise.”

“Great to meet you, Louise. Your mother and I were the best of enemies. It took some time, but now we can’t imagine being anything but the best of friends.”

“We certainly can’t. Come and walk with us a while?” invited Fran.

Imelda opened her arms and Fran hugged her back. Louise stood watching, amazed at the warmth and emotion that flowed so naturally from her mother. Though they had all been through so much, in the Previous Age and on the New Earth so far, it felt as though there was still endless possibilities ahead of them.