A pilgrim walked a long road. On the road he met Death.
"Where are you bound?" Death asked the pilgrim.
"To that holiest of places." answered the pilgrim.
"Stay a while," Death asked politely, "For the day is yet young. And my work can wait."
"What would you have of me?" asked the pilgrim.
"A story," said Death, "I'd like to hear a story."
"Very well," said the pilgrim, "I shall tell you a tale."
And this is the story he told.
Into a valley of lush meadows and deep forests a man came. He looked at the fertile land, at the mountains in the distance, at the river that wound its way slowly through the valley. This is a good place he thought. And so he began to work the land. All day long every day for years he worked. He cleared brush, planted a garden, found wild fruit trees and transplanted them to make an orchard. He built a simple house and simple furniture and so he was content.
A road passed through the valley and strangers would stop and observe the man working. They would call out to him asking him what he was doing. He always answered the same thing. "I am laboring in the fields of the Lord." The strangers would laugh at this and go their way. Sometimes they would grab fruit from the trees or vegetables from the garden. Some would pay for what they took. Most would not. The man was content either way.
Time passed. The man grew old. Still every day he worked. But his strength was fading and he understood this. The garden became too much for him to weed. The birds and deer took over the orchard eating all the fruit before it had ripened.
One night the man had a dream. His mother stood before him smiling. She gazed at him long and lovingly. "Come to me," she said, "you are tired and it's your time to rest."
When the man awoke he looked around him at the home where he had spent so many years. It looked strange and foreign to him. I must be away from here, he thought.
So he packed a few things and walked to the road. He stood looking at the land he had worked for so many years. The garden and orchard would soon dissolve back to the meadow and forest. His house would rot and crumble and fall into an indecipherable pile. I was content here, he thought, how can that be? Troubled, the man set out on the road.
At first he didn't know where he was going. Nor did he care. But his intuition told him to go eastward and so he did.
"Where does this road lead?" he asked people whom he met on the road. He got different answers from different people. The farmer told him it led to a market where prices were always good. A merchant told him it led to a city where he could find fine wines, foods flavored with heavenly spices and beautiful women. A soldier told him with a gleam in his eye that not far away was a place where the people never had had a war. And a priest told him that the road led to the City of God where the devout sing and chant daily of the great love they feel, and the ecstasy of knowing God.
"And that concludes my tale," said the pilgrim.
"But wait" said Death, "your tale has no ending."
"Then you must wait to hear it another day," said the pilgrim. "For the shadows grow long and I must find a place to sleep. And you may stay or you may go. Either way it makes no difference to me."
"I will go," said Death, "but I will return tomorrow to hear the rest of your tale."
"You are the rest of my tale," said the pilgrim. And so he laid down to sleep.