I was worried. I was seven
and Daddy (as we called him then)
was tucking me into bed.
I was worried about hell.
I was worried I would go to hell.
I had done something pretty bad
maybe told a lie or nicked a coin
from the Craven A tin in his study
so I asked him, “Will I go to hell
or will I go to heaven?”
Not a chatterbox, he always thought
before he spoke.
You could see him thinking
with his eyeballs and his mouth.
He said, “I’m not sure there is a hell
because God is love and God is kind
He doesn’t want to hurt us
but if by chance there is a hell, I’m sure
that only a few, a very, very, very few
would be sent to hell, and only after
doing something very bad indeed.”
“Like what?” I asked, still worried.
Was I one of the very few? Quite likely.
Again he pondered. Then he said, “I think
that they would have to kill another person,
on purpose, and not feel sorry afterwards.”
He was a vicar, and he knew.
He gave me a goodnight kiss
and left me wild with joy: I wouldn’t go to hell!
I knew for sure and certain
I would never kill a person
at least not on purpose and even if I did
I would certainly be sorry—
so I wouldn’t go to hell.
Audio file (mp3)
Thank goodness my father recognised my distress. How easily a parent can miss the gravity of a child’s question, when they can easily seem so absurd! Has that happened to you, I wonder, either as a parent or a child? We felt safe with our gentle Daddy on the case.
Alternative audio file (m4a) in case you can’t access the first one
Photo from the Taylor family archives, poem and recording by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0. That means please do share and reblog, but always name me as writer.