The Gratitude Ride
It was a breezy warm day, the type that makes you restless waiting for work to end.
For Cooper though, work wasn’t a concern yet, as he had just entered summer break.
With excitement running through his veins, eager to make the most out of the months that followed, he and his friends went to a new amusement park that was passing by the town.
What followed was a day filled with high emotions and tons of sugar, the type that you’ll remember when you’re eventually stuck at an office, reminiscent of better times.
For how good of a day it was, it had one last surprise held for Cooper.
In one of the least appealing parts of the park, right by one of the toilets, there was the final attraction he would go on that day.
“The Gratitude Ride”
With bold tones of yellow and red, bringing you back a few decades in the past, it didn’t fit with the overall theme of the park.
Likely why no one was daring to try it.
For some reason though, on that day, it called for Cooper.
With no one there by the entrance, he ventured beyond the black curtains that inhibited the view from the inside. Quite fearful, he would find nothing but a “rocket ship like” vehicle attached to train tracks.
The weird part about it was that it went for about 6 meters straight before coming to an end. Essentially, 4 steps forward.
“They got to be kidding” — Cooper thought to himself — “Why is this even turned on?”.
Despite that, he decided to hop in and, just as a joke, strap the seatbelt inside.
With the curtains closed the room was pitch black, the only thing visible being the 5 buttons on the panel of the “rocketship”.
Above them stood the tiniest neon sign you can imagine “choose the level of gratitude to experience.”, below it, the following buttons showed:
Being the curious young man he was, the last button is the one he clicked.
For a few seconds, nothing happened. Growing impatient, Cooper repeatedly clicked the button — “It must be broken, after all, why is no one eve…” — As he was finishing his thought, small white shiny dots started to appear in the wall in front of him.
What started as a couple, grew to be in the thousands.
All of a sudden, Cooper felt that the “rocketship” was shaking, almost as if it had come loose.
Peeking out the side to check if something had broken he realized these lights were also below him, as a matter of fact, they were all around him.
That’s when the ride really started.
If moments before Cooper was in a small dark room, he would find that to be no longer the case when, out of nowhere, the rocket started beaming forward, so fast you could see the shiny lights dragging as Cooper’s head sunk deeper into the seat.
“Am I in space right now?!” — would Cooper correctly assume.
As fast as the rocket beamed forward, it equally as fast came to a halt.
With his eyes closed, Cooper was hoping this was nothing but some sort of mechanical trick, with his eyes wide shut, he was praying that when he opened them there would be the curtains to his left, ready to allow him to leave.
“3…2…1” — Cooper said to himself before opening them.
What stood in front of him, made him, if even for a brief second, forget about all the concerns in his mind.
The blue marble we all inhabit stood right there in front of him.
So peaceful, so quiet. With a big enough perspective, Cooper could see beyond the hustle and bustle of our daily life, he could see the clouds flying above each continent, the shadow they made over the oceans, and the marvelousness it all brought. He could truly feel how, no matter how different from one another, no matter the conflicts between fellow men, how we are all connected at the end of the day.
If even for a brief moment, he understood the bigger purpose behind our existence.
As he would later find out though, this was just the beginning.
Just as quickly as he was brought to space, he was transported back down, not to the amusement park, but somewhere much better.
It was dark, and he didn’t quite know where he was, but as he looked up his options suddenly narrowed as the northern lights shined above him, dancing in tones of green and red. This time, free from the shock of the first travel, Cooper found himself, probably for the first time in his life, aware of himself.
This immense sense of beauty brought him to the current moment, free of the constant noise going in between his ears, allowing him to fully experience what was happening.
He felt like crying and laughing at the same time, like dancing and dropping to the floor in awe.
For the first time in his young life, he was aware that he wasn’t the voice that speaks inside his mind. For the first time, he truly felt still.
Before he could marvel again in the beauty of the sky, the ship took him for another spin, the final and most impactful of this whole journey.
If before Cooper had been presented with jaw-dropping sceneries, this next one left him quite confused, and if he was being honest with himself, quite scared.
There were no stars, or planets, of incredible lights, this time, the ship landed. The seatbelt came off, and in front of him stood a pale white church with seemingly nothing around.
“Should I go in? Or what?” — Would he ask the vehicle with, obviously, no answer in return.
With no escape in sight, feeling like the horror movie character you scream at not to do something, he slowly walked inside against everything his body was telling him.
Peeking through the door, he saw the church was packed, a priest was speaking.
“Wait a second? Is that my mom?”
Moving closer Cooper realized his whole family was there: his parents, the 2 siblings, grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins.
More confused than he had ever been, a loud — “What is happening here? Where am I?” — was all he could say… There was only a small problem.
No one answered back, as a matter of fact, no one even seemed to hear, it was like he was invisible.
After a few more failed attempts, our protagonist decided to take a seat and try to figure this all out, but as he did, he realized everyone had a horrible look on their faces, almost as if someone had died.
Looking forward, his stomach sank as he realized that was truly the case. There was a casket at the end of the church.
Before he could even guess who it was, the time for people to talk about the deceased arrived:
“I miss him so much already, I wish I would have told him how much I loved him” — Blurted out his sister over tears
“I ca…” — His mother started before falling to her knees, sorrow filling her heart.
Some more family members followed and Cooper was starting to get a terrible feeling in the pit of his stomach, the type that you get when an incredibly uncomfortable decision is approaching.
Finally, his father came to the stand.
A man he would describe as incredibly loving but equally tough, a man Cooper had never seen cry, which now, had his eyes as red as one can have them, tears streaming down his face.
The words that followed made him turn pale — “I will miss my little boy so much, I remember holding you when you fit in the palm of my hand, filled with the joy of knowing I’d see you grow, and now, I’m left with the pain of having to bury you.”
As soon as his dad finished, Cooper rushed to go and be with his family. He wanted to hold them, to tell them how much he loved them, to simply be with them, but as soon as he got up, almost by magic, everyone faded away, the whole church did for that matter…
Well, except for the casket.
Left with a knot in his stomach, the boy knew what he had to do, he was terrified of it, but he knew.
After what seemed like an eternity, Cooper grew the courage and started walking towards it, with each step, the thoughts in his mind racing faster, his eyes moving around, trying to find somewhere to escape to, but with only one thought in his mind.
3 steps away.
He was getting cold but nervously sweating
2 steps away.
Nausea and sickness were all he could feel.
1 step away.
As Cooper reached the casket and peeked inside he felt relieved, but even more, he felt confused.
Expecting to see himself there, he was shocked to see the casket was empty.
“It could only be me they were talking about. What does this all mean?”
Just as quickly as he asked, he realized.
This whole trip wasn’t a mere triad of random events, not at all. Cooper had seen the beauty of life, he had experienced self-consciousness and found a deeper meaning behind it all.
In a way, he had lived a full life.
Knowing full well that even the fullest of lives must come to an end, Cooper understood what was left for him to do.
Having witnessed his own funeral and the incredible pain that came with it, Cooper walked once again towards the casket, this time though, not nervous or anxious, this time he walked with purpose.
As Cooper reached towards, he jumped inside.
The boy was expecting many things, but this sure wasn't one of them. As he lay there, the pillow against which he pressed started to fall deeper and deeper. The longer it went, the further the view from the top of the church seemed.
All around him, nothing but pitch black.
As the view got so further away from that it appeared to be nothing but a dot of light, he found the pillow vanishing away, leaving him floating further and further from where he was seconds before ago, being dragged into the void of nothingness.
With nothing but pitch black around him, Cooper cried.
For the first time in his life, he truly let out all his emotion. He felt extremes of both ends of the spectrum, crying with sadness over the final experience, having to deal with the reality of death and its inevitability, but also shedding tears of joy, having been able to experience the joy and connectedness the other travels the rocket took him on.
Despite this, Cooper couldn’t help but feel guilt: for all the things left undone, all the words never said, for not appreciating his family enough, his friends, his life.
He didn’t want it to end like this.
After being allowed what seemed like infinite time, but also not enough, Cooper saw something.
Besides the tiny white dot of the further casket opening, another light started to shine.
And then another, and another, and slowly, the full void was now lit up by what seemed like a starry sky.
Before Cooper could formulate any thought about what was happening, he started to hear something — “Are those… people?” — with only lights everywhere he turned Cooper couldn’t find the meaning behind this, he only knew that these voices were getting closer and closer.
And then, opposed to before that when he fell he floated, this time Cooper fell straight down with the power of gravity accelerating his movement.
Cooper could feel the intensity of the fall increasing as he went by, but tiny lights are still all he saw.
And then, it was over.
This time though, he wasn’t in the starry void, he was seated down in fact.
Looking around, the same lights were still there, but he could hear the people right next to him, almost as if they were walking by him. With a sense of urgency, Cooper tried to get up but something was pressing against his chest preventing him.
“Is this?” — He didn’t have to finish to realize he was right.
As he untied the seatbelt and rushed to his left, Cooper found himself where he was praying all along he would return:
The amusement park.
Everything was the same; the rides, the cotton candy stand, even the children running around, the only thing that had changed was him.
Well, him and the time of day, it was already night.
As Cooper walked towards the exit, he still didn’t know what to make of this — “Why was that ride there? How was this even possible? Am I dreaming right now still?”
With these ideas in his mind, they suddenly stopped when Cooper made it to the exit, there he saw his father with an upset look on his face, standing by the car.
Before he could start to complain about how late Cooper was, and how he had work to do, the boy couldn’t contain himself and run towards his father, hugging him the same way someone thought they would never see their dad again.
At that moment, all the questions in his mind were answered, and in the arms of his father, the boy realized he had gotten exactly what the ride promised.
On the ride home, with stars shining in the sky, Cooper knew what at least one of those meant, a reminder that would be there for him whenever he needed it.
A reminder to not let it go to waste.
Before You Go…
First of all, thank you for reading. This is quite different from the normal type of articles I write and I truly appreciate you having stuck until the end.
What allows me to dare more in articles like these, giving a new spin on self-help, are all the amazing people who support our page. You guys mean the world to us.
If you enjoy the content and would like to not only help us keep putting the best one forward, but also to get tons of exclusive content to help you on your journey, it would mean the world to me if you joined “Paths of Progress”.
We are having a discount until the 1st of January which means you would only pay $9 per month for all of this!
Other than that, thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!