By Alexis, In Her Own Words


As I recall —and memories are growing a bit hazy, the longer I’m down here in The World— you’re never bored in Heaven. You always have something to learn, new souls to meet, older souls returning after their lives. You can take a walk in one or another of the verdant pastures or deep shadows, together with one or another of the resident Celestials who populate the place. It can be very busy-busy-busy up there.

And occasionally, even the most avid soul-in-waiting seeks a little quiet time. That was me, perhaps an earthly week before I was transformed into flesh. Looking back now, I guess I knew it was almost time…

So, like most people here do after a while, I wandered over to the Railing.

As the name implies, the Railing is just that: a waist-high barricade that curves away in either direction until it fades from sight. It’s made of white stone —marble, perhaps? — and quite gracefully constructed. There’s a flat ledge along the top that’s about perfect for resting forearms or elbows while you lean forward from the waist. A smaller ledge near the bottom serves as a comfortable place to rest a foot while you stand. (It could use a chair or two if you ask me; but maybe that’s just nitpicking. It’s really quite lovely just the way it is.)

If you look up, there’s an infinity of blue sky, or the sparkling of stars like fireflies against black velvet, or the orange-pink of dawn or twilight; it all depends on how you’re feeling at the moment.

But if you lean over and look down, you’re seeing The World— not in a National Geographic “the view of Earth from the moon” -sort of way, but as if you were in, say, a shopping mall looking down at the food court. If you wish, you can hear the people there talking (and occasionally, thinking— but that’s another story). It’s a hustling, bustling sort of place to see.

The main reason people in heaven come to the Railing is to check in on the people they left behind when they passed. It’s all one-way, of course —I mean, you can’t have the earth-bound folks constantly being interrupted by commentary from long-dead parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on. For one thing, it wouldn’t be polite; for another, most living people would sprint to the nearest psychiatrist (or exorcist) if that happened all the time.

But it is a nice way for those up there to keep track of what’s happening with still-living loved ones. Family (and most friends) are forever, you know… and up there, there’s no Facebook or Twitter-Now-‘X’ where you can check on things by scrolling down somebody’s homepage posts. You get a little hungry for news, if you know what I mean.

If jealousy existed there, I’d probably felt a bit of it when I saw folks watching their families from the Railing. There’s a lot of laughing from them, no small number of joyful tears, and more than a few bits of shouted advice (which of course, the intended recipient can’t hear anyway). I was at a bit of a disadvantage, you see; not having yet been born into a mortal body — still in the Waiting Line, so to speak— I didn’t have the “been there, lived that” connections, experiences and expertise of the Old Souls who’ve already had their time on earth.

No, no, no, NO!

The shout came from a fellow standing next to me, and was accompanied by a smack on the railing with the heel of his hand. Then he noticed I was staring at him, and he turned a little red.

“Sorry ‘bout that, lil’ one,” he said, with a slightly abashed grin. “It’s just my boy Charlie down thar is bout to do sumptim’ real bone headed. Cain’t stop em, I guess. But dang! It’s like watchin’ a train wreck bout to happen.”

Alarmed, I shot a quick glance over the railing. No train, no wrecks that I could see— just a young man talking to somebody I presumed was his wife. It all seemed calm enough, but my new acquaintance at the Railing was still shaking his head sadly.

“Charlie just got a nice bonus from the place where he works,” he said. “His wife Linn wants to invest it —always liked her, hard worker, good head on her shoulders— but Charlie… he’s pushin’ to buy one of them ATV things to go scootin’ over some dern sand dunes.”

Another sad head-shake. “I got nuthin’ against havin’ fun,” he said. “But you know what my dern fool of a kid just told Linn? He said, ‘After all, we’ll both have Social Security to fall back on, right?’ Didn’t he hear anything I tried to teach em?”

Now I understood; this wasn’t my first rodeo at the Railing on this particular topic.

From those previous conversations, I knew that Social Security wasn’t the most popular way to save for what one fellow called “The Golden Years.” For one thing, you had to contribute: it was a government mandate. But the biggest complaint was that… well, a person could very likely do better on his own.

“I told him soooo many times. Pretend Social Security won’t be there 40 plus years from now. Or at least not as he’s known it. I talked to em till I was blue, red and a couple other colors in my face to follow my 15% rule. In fact, lil’ one, I think it’s because of em I ended up here a couple of years early and am now talking to you.”

I was curious about this 15% rule and asked him to explain more.

“It’s really quite simple lil’ one. Save 15% of everything you make every year, year in and year out, and put it in the stock market religiously.” He snickered a little bit. “Woops, I forgot about the rules on using that word up here. Burn the rest. I don’t care. Just as long as 15% goes into savings for that day that comes all too soon.

Let me give you a lil’ example.”  He turned his head, closed his eyes, and then blurted out. “My boy is lucky he found him a good enough job right out of college. Paid em over $70,000 right out the gate. Heck, I spent almost 50 years working and didn’t end up with much more.

If he took 15% of that amount every year, and like clockwork put it in the market in a Roth 401K, That’s company sponsored, and that’s $875 a month. Maybe earning 8% a year. In 47 years, do you know what it would become when it’s time for em to call it quits?”

I think he was a little surprised when I softly said $5,435,831. I’m not quite sure how I knew that number, but he was a little taken away. “That’s right lil’ one. Not sure how you, who haven’t even been born yet, came up with the right answer. But my son, the college hotshot graduate, can’t even understand what I’m saying. Them there numbers don’t even include no company matchin’ either”

He went on with his story, but I could see he was becoming very frustrated. “I told Charlie if he just earned 5% on that money after he retired that would give em almost” … I interrupted and said $22,649.29 a month for life. Again, I’m not sure where that came from either. It was just there in my mind.

He smiled and proceeded. “Plus, Social Security leaves nuthin’, nuthin’ for yer family. When you run out of time like I did, yer Social Security runs out of payin’ yer family anything to. My way, yer family gets over $5 million dollars! And did I mention it’s all tax free in that Roth 401K after you retire as long as yer 59 and a half years old? That’ll teach those Dang Nabbit Democratic and Republican thieves.

“And, and if Linn did the same, just double them-there numbers and I’m not even talking about adding any extra numbers as their income goes up over their lifetimes.

Charlie’s dad also reminded me, that the money would be in his son’s pocket, not like Social Security which will probably have solvency issues not far down the line. Since it started in 1937, Social Security has collected approximately $2.8 trillion more in payroll taxes and interest than has been paid out: simply stated, that’s what is in the Social Security ‘trust fund.’

He snorted. “When taxes comin in were more than benefits goin out, the government loaned itself the excess by puttin it into an interest-payin Treasury bond. It’s a dagum IOU that it issued to itself, and then they spent that money on unrelated projects like bridge repairs, defense, or food stamps. But the past couple of years, there ain’t been any excess to speak of; benefits being paid are more than worker contributions comin in. The IOU is comin due.”

“Worse, Social Security can only invest its funds in special Treasury bonds,” he said. “Ain’t no tradin em, either. Pays a piddlin interest rate most years, too.”

 Another sad head-shake.

“Social Security Trust Fund, my sore tushie— a real trust fund is money and securities managed and held in trust for its beneficiaries. But not the Social Security ‘Trust Fund,’ oh no. They just track the difference between the ‘pay-as-you-go’ tax contributions of active workers and the benefit payouts to retirees. Some might say they’re the deck watch on the Titanic, just standin round while it sinks.”

He laughed, but not in amusement.

“And you want to know the final kicker? All that money that goes into Social Security… well, you get back your monthly payout. Maybe, sometimes, you get back as much or more as what you put in; maybe not. But when you die, there’s… well, nuthin’. Ain’t no money to pass on to your survivors, no legacy to leave behind. And that’s what Charlie is countin on, so he can ride some motorized stinkpot round the woods?

Tell ya what lil’ one if you can remember. Remember to look up the words ‘Ponzi Scheme’ when you get down to the big game.”

He shook his head and then started again “That’s just dumb, and he—”

 I heard it too: a woman’s voice, wafting up from the kitchen-table conversation below.


It was from Linn, Charlie’s wife.

And as she calmly, even gently, outlined an investment plan for both of them, I looked to the side, at my fellow Railing observer. A broad smile was stretched over his face,

“Always did like that girl Charlie married,” he said, probably to me. “Smartest thing he ever done!”

 — end —

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Alexis and her musings will return to these pages in future editions. But not right now: she’s sleeping.)