The order by which people are admitted to heaven

Author: Brian Doyle ’78

To be admitted without review by committee: children under the age of 12, sixth-grade teachers, the mothers of triplets, janitors, nuns (all religions), nurses, all other mothers, loggers, policemen with more than 10 years of service, Buddhists (see Appendix A), bass players in rock bands, librettists, gardeners, cartographers, eighth-grade teachers, cellists, farriers, veterinarians, magicians, compass-makers, firemen and firewomen, rare-book-room librarians, cobblers, anyone from the former Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific, breakfast cooks in diners, philologists, proofreaders, administrative assistants and secretaries, sauciers, mapmakers, cartwrights, cartoonists, essayists, people who manufacture thimbles, and Presbyterians (see Appendix B).

To be admitted after cursory review by committee: archaeologists, Catholics, Jews, doctors (except orthodontists; see Appendix C), plumbers, taxi-drivers, boatwrights, soldiers actually engaged in defending their clan or country from attack or threatened attack, undertakers, popes without children, longshoremen, tugboat pilots, coaches of any elementary-school sport whatsoever (precedence for basketball and Australian Rules football coaches), all other teachers, cellists, anyone who ever worked on an auction for a nonprofit, scuba divers, publishers of children’s books, people from Finland, people who sell life insurance (it turns out life insurance is something really, really close to the Director’s heart), anyone who ever took a tango lesson, hotel doormen, people who brew beer in their bathtubs, child-care-center directors, emergency dispatchers, detectives, monks, anyone in the peanut-butter industry, paddle surfers (female), bus drivers, fishmongers, anyone who ever repaired a copy machine or a child’s bicycle, and any father who ever wiped or bathed a child other than his own without complaint.

To be admitted under the special Mother of the Lord provision (“the back door”): Unitarians, Pete Maravich, exotic dancers, journalists (see Appendix D).

To be admitted under the special Saint Joseph provision (“the Wauvoo door”): male paddle surfers, Sir Donald Bradman, muleskinners, a man named Wemera who lived 10,000 years ago in what is today Brazil, highway construction and repair crews, and Mormons (see Appendix E).

To be admitted only by special appeal to the Director: theatrical agents, anyone who ever sold marijuana or alcohol to a child, avant-garde artists, mimes, senators, Caesars, pharaohs, preachers, short-story writers (Flannery O’Connor excepted), and any leader of a state who has called himself, or instructed others to call him, The Great Helmsman, The Dear Leader, President for Life, Brother Leader, Father of the Country, etc.

To be admitted only after review by the Screening Board (Catherine of Siena, chairwoman), the Board of Appeals (Meher Baba, chairman) and the Last Gasp Committee (Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, chairman): poets, novelists, buskers, spies, New York Yankees fans.

To be admitted if Hell freezes over: flautists, ethicists, sommeliers, magazine editors, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, also known as Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong. There are any number of other names on this list; two per year rotate to the top for public promulgation, as here. The other names are held in the heart of the Director. Believe me it isn’t worth asking Him about the other names. We have tried and tried, and have invented sly angles for asking the question, like “Your Lovingness, sir, can Hitler be forgiven and admitted into the Ocean of Joy, and what’s the story with Usamah bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Ladin, when he eventually dies when providentially an enormous rock falls on him as he is preening himself for his latest video production?” But He just smiles, you know how He does that, it drives you nuts, that smile, talk about your mysterious gnomic grins, but what can you do, you know what I mean?

Appendix A: Those to whom all life is holy, and who act in accordance to this belief, have worn the seamless garment and are admitted without qualification, no matter what religion they professed, or lack thereof.

Appendix B: Robert Louis Stevenson was a Presbyterian, so all Presbyterians before and after his tenure on earth (1850-1894) are admitted, by direct fiat of the Director.

Appendix C: This class of men and women is under review. For 2009 they are classed with cosmetic surgeons, psychics and the owners of psychedelia shops as probationary.

Appendix D: Unitarians, bless their earnest hearts, are admitted without further ado, but the debates over the qualifications of journalists as a class go back millennia and have generated many planets’ worth of legal records. For the year 2009, print and radio journalists are given precedence over web journalists. Television journalists are, as usual, not admitted, but this year for the first time are allowed to file appeals with Mr. Edward Murrow.

Appendix E: The ways and means of the Director are fascinating and often beyond the ken of the recording secretary. Wemera is said to be the most compassionate man who ever lived, at least according to pub talk up here; details are filed in the Library. Sir Donald Bradman, an Australian of the 20th century after the birth of the Son of Light, was the greatest cricket player who ever lived, and you know how the Director feels about cricket. As regards the Mormons, which is what they are called here, although they much prefer to be called members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they have been, since the year 1912 after the Incarnation, admitted without further ado if they can be made to giggle at the idea of Joseph Smith staring into his hat and reading there the burning words of the new book of holies, but hey, Catholicism, to pick another human religious path, has its own weird adventures, like people praying over the shards of the sternums of saints, and seeing the Madonna on tortillas and cinnamon rolls and stop signs, and making like my boy Joseph of Cupertino and suddenly leaping into the air and floating there for a while, which he liked to do here in his first few weeks, but then he realized that everyone here leaps and floats because we are in the presence of the Director, who is joy incarnate. But you knew that.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices (One Day Hill, Australia).