Matthew’s entire worldview was shattered the moment he died. When I met him, he was sitting on the steps of the Missionary Baptist church, holding the railing, head bowed and crying. It took him a few weeks to reach out for my help, but I saw him every time I drove past. I don’t usually converse too much with the ghosts that I help, but Matthew was different. He needed reassurance. This was the day he decided he could swallow his pride and ask a woman for spiritual help. I knew what it had cost him to ask.

“What’s your name?”
“Matthew,” he said, which was significant. He didn’t say Brother Matthew, he just said Matthew. He had preached and believed his whole life that a soul went to either heaven or hell upon death, but here he was, very obviously dead but stuck in some kind of morbid, purgatorial state, aware that he was dead but not sure what to do about it.

“The light is here,” I said, pointing “would you like to go?”
“I always thought the light was Jesus,” he responded.
“The light is Jesus, and that has always been true. See, not everything you believed was false, perhaps just your interpretations of it.”
“I’ve done some bad things, things I preached against, while I was the pastor here.”
“I know,” I said. It’s not my job nor my place to judge the dead, what I do is send them to Jesus, “the good news is that Jesus forgives all sins, I know he does because he’s forgiven me for terrible things. It’s part of why I’m here to help. It’s my penance and my pleasure.”

Matthew hesitated, looked back at me, and walked into the light to meet Jesus.



MaryClare StFrancis, M.A. (she/her)

I write nonfiction essays about a variety of topics, as well as memoir pieces.