Day after day, it’s the same thing. Stand at the gate, listen to the stories, open the gate, hand out the welcome packet, and close the gate. The day God offered the job to St. Peter, he jumped at the chance, I mean, it’s a very important job and God had specifically chosen him. Who wouldn’t be honored? For the most part, St. Peter loved the job, welcoming those to the pearly gates. Everyone seemed happy to see him, and in the truest sense, he was heaven’s gatekeeper.
There were some unusual days to say the least, though, and St. Peter had quite a few stories to tell. However, the two that he told most often were the one where he had to use the bathroom, and the one where he finally understood what it meant to see things from another’s perspective.
The day of the bathroom story started like most every day. St. Peter made his way to the pearly gates and took his seat at the entrance. Now, most days the flow of traffic was slow, and St. Peter could take a quick break to use the bathroom without fear of a wayward soul trespassing an unattended gate. But this particular day had been exceptionally busy; it was past lunchtime before St. Peter could leave his post. To make matters worse, he had decided to have an extra cup of coffee when he first woke up, another on the way to the pearly gates, and he still finished the thermos of coffee he brought with him daily. At about quarter to two in the afternoon, his back teeth were floating, but he couldn't chance leaving the pearly gates unattended.
As good fortune would have it, just when things were about to get messy, who should walk by? Jesus himself. St. Peter, in too much pain to stand on ceremony, turned to the Savior and asked, “Jesus, would you watch the gate for me for a few minutes while I run to the restroom?”
“Of course!” Jesus responded, with a beatific smile. “I’d be happy to.” And He really was, after all Jesus is a really nice guy. With that, St. Peter left the pearly gates and headed to the bathroom.
Not a minute after Peter had left, a man with flowing hair as white as snow came to the gate with a look of confusion on his face. Jesus, always being One to assist, asked, “May I help you?”
“I don’t know,” the man replied. “You see, I can’t seem to find my son.”
“Well, if you describe him to me, I may be able to help,” Jesus replied, genuinely wanting to help this poor soul find his son.
“That would be wonderful,” the man said with a smile as he began to describe his son. “Well you see, he has holes in his hands and in his feet.”
Jesus was floored by the description. In a voice barely above a whisper, asked, “Dad?”
“Pinocchio?!” the man exclaimed.
When St. Peter found his way back to the gate, Jesus and Geppetto were still laughing at the misunderstanding. To this day, whenever St. Peter starts to chuckle for no reason, you can be sure he is remembering that story.
The second story St. Peter liked to recount happened on another seemingly normal day. St. Peter was once again in his normal chair outside the pearly gates doing The New York Times’ crossword puzzle. In pen. He had just completed the last clue, a four-letter word for Slaughter of Cooperstown. The answer: Enos. As he filled in the little boxes with great satisfaction, a man walked slowly up to the gate. As was St. Peter’s usual habit, he asked the man how he had died. The story was a short but sad one.
That morning had started out great for heaven’s newest resident. The man had woken up early, showered, shaved, got dressed in his best suit and kissed his lovely wife goodbye before heading out to work. He was young and in love and the sun was shining. In so many ways, it was the perfect day until his meeting was canceled.
“I was thrilled,” the man told St. Peter. “I had been working so hard and now I had an unexpected day off to spend with my beautiful wife.”
“That sounds wonderful,” St. Peter said. “What went wrong?”
“Well,” the man responded, becoming more agitated. “When I got home, I flung open the door, ready to surprise my wife with our good fortune, but what I found was my wife naked in bed and another man’s shoes under the bed!”
“That’s awful,” St. Peter empathized. “But how did you actually die?”
“You see, we live on the third floor of an apartment building,” the man continued. “I ran to the window where I saw a barefoot man running towards a car while trying to put on his pants. In a moment of superhuman strength, I picked up the refrigerator and threw it out the window. The strain was just too much, though. I had a massive heart attack and died.”
“My goodness,” St. Peter exclaimed. “You poor man, please go into heaven and find peace.” With that, he opened the pearly gates and allowed the man in. No sooner had the gates closed when another man appeared.
“Welcome to heaven, my friend. How did you die?”
“It’s the craziest thing,” the man began. “I just got this great new job and I went out last night to celebrate. I had a little too much to drink and I stayed out a little too late and I overslept.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” St. Peter responded, “but how did you die?”
“Well you see, I was so flustered when I woke up that I threw on a shirt, grabbed my pants and ran out the door without even putting on my shoes. I hadn’t made it more than a few steps down the walk when a refrigerator landed on me, killing me instantly.”
“Aha!” St. Peter said. “That makes perfect sense. Please go into heaven and find peace.”
Once again St. Peter opened the gate and allowed the man in.
Finally, as he returned to the pearly gates, he saw a third man approaching. Just as he had with the first two men, St. Peter welcomed the man to heaven and asked him how he died.
“It’s funny you should ask,” the man said, guiltily. “You see, I was hiding in this refrigerator . . .”