We went with Lillie Bell as far as we could, but at the edge of the long gangplank she left us behind, walking toward the great ship alone. I had hoped at some point she would turn and wave, but her gaze never varied and her step never faltered, she was resolute in her desire to reach the next destination.
The sun started to break over the horizon. Brilliant shades of coral and gold defined the line between the sea and the sky. The darkness of the night fled before the piercing rays that announced a new day, a new beginning.
I shielded my eyes in an attempt to make out the details before me. The crew that welcomed her aboard, back-lit by the rising sun, appeared to glow against the azure sky as if they had wings.
The morning breeze picked up as the sails began to unfurl. Even at this distance, I heard the snap as the canvas caught the wind, becoming taunt, straining to be on their way. The ship was ancient, but the workmanship was beyond compare. Each wood plank polished and tightly fitted against its brethren, The sails were as pure a white as I have seen. As the crew cast off the lines and the ship turned slowly toward the horizon, the stern swung around revealing the name, “ZION,” spelled out in letters of gold
Surrounded by family and friends, we exchanged hugs and smiles, unspoken was the sentiment … it was time. We watched as the ship grew smaller and smaller until it was just a white dot. When the vessel slipped over the horizon and out of our sight, we raised our hands triumphantly and cheered.
Lillie Bell’s journey had been long, her pilgrimage lasting 102 years. Through it all she had steadfastly followed her Savior. For 78 of those years she had walked alongside her other great love, Ray. She had never been without those who loved her, and she returned that love in even greater measure.
Though we could no longer see the ship, we knew it was headed for another port. There, a great multitude awaited her arrival, watching as the ship which had disappeared from our sight grew larger and larger in their field of vision.
The gangplank at the port Lillie Bell had embarked from was constructed of wood planks, rough and splintered with age, turned a weathered grey by the sun and salt spray. The gangplank the ship was turning into at this port was of white marble, gleaming under a cloudless sky. It led to a circular courtyard. In the center of the courtyard was an intricate design of three interlocked circles constructed of gem stones and defined on the outer edges by bands of gold.
On either side of the courtyard, halfway around it’s circumference, were a pair of sweeping stairs, also made of white marble. They lead to a balcony that overlooked the courtyard. Built into the wall behind the courtyard and below the balcony was an alcove containing a large marble statue of a lamb, its foreleg resting over a slender gold cross extending over its back.
A solitary figure stood on the balcony, his white robes gleaming under a light-source that had no definable origin. He rested his elbows on the balustrade, fingers locked together, faint scars visible on the back of each hand. Looking down at the assembled crowd on the courtyard a smile crossed his face before he addressed his children. “Lillie Bell has fought a good fight, she has kept the faith. Today I called her home … it was time.”
Among the crowd were old friends and family. Saints who had toiled alongside Ray and Lillie Bell in the vineyard. The Morgans, the Chambers, the Boxes, the Wallaces, Roams and Yadons … too many to name, and of course members of the Boatman and Agnew families.
Standing slightly apart from the crowd was a tall man with dark wavy hair, a slight grin on his face. “It’s about time,” he said with a slow Texas drawl, “She was always running late for everything.” He laughed and started to walk toward the gangplank, “It’s about time.”
Lillie Bell Agnew
December 25, 1915 – March 8, 2018