Here is a small portion of the story “The Unknown Land” from Parables From Nature by Mrs. Alfred Gatty (1809-1873):
And the Sedge Warbler changed her note, and sang to her tender little one of her own young days, when she was as happy and as gay as now, though not here among the reed-beds; and how, after she had lived and rejoiced in her happiness many pleasant months, a voice seemed to rise within her that said–”This is not your Rest! ” and how she wondered, and tried not to listen, and tried to stop where she was, and be happy there still. But the voice came oftener and oftener, and louder and louder; and how the dear partner she had chosen heard and felt the same; and how at last they left their home together, and came and settled down among the reed-beds of the great river. And, oh, how happy she had been!
“And where is the place you came from, Mother?” asked the little one. “Is it anywhere near, that we may go and see it?”
“My child,” answered the Sedge Warbler, ” it is the Unknown Land! Far, far away, I know: but where, I do not know. Only the voice that called me thence is beginning to call again. And, as I was obedient and hopeful once, shall I be less obedient and hopeful now–now that I have been so happy? No, my little one, let us go forth to the Unknown Land, wherever it may be, in joyful trust.”
I read this story to my children (it is a Year One assignment for Ambleside Online), and I fell in love with it. My six-year-old got a bit bored around the middle of it, and I was forced (unwillingly) to take a break. But when we got to the exciting ending, all three of my children were leaning in to hear how it would end.
It is a beautiful parable about heaven. My children have attended the funerals of both their paternal grandparents in the past two years. They know about death. My four-year-old recently started asking (with a great amount of concern) if she was going to die sometime. It led to some good discussions about God’s care over us and about heaven. But of course, heaven is unknown, a mystery, and this story does a great job of making the unknown land real without pretending to know what heaven is like.