by Oscar Gruner
The picture began by the appearance of a small glow of light, rounded in form, but indistinct at the edges. It gradually enlarged and brightened, and after attaining a size such as would be if one saw through an aperture a long way off, and yet quite clearly and sharply, shadows and shapes appeared from it until there was a definite picture; and the picture was of the altar-rail and the altar of the Oratory here at Hartley.
Very rapidly it became evident that there was a solitary young figure kneeling in the middle of the rail. It was Douglas. His head was bowed low over the rail.
The tabernacle suddenly became bright; It took the form of the first patch of light and very rapidly became intensely bright, so as to form the Light of the picture. It expanded also, and brightening every moment, became finally intensely bright. As it did so, the form of Our Lord became evident; robed in brilliant golden light; the raiment and He were one.
It was not like our robes which are separate from us. He came forward as He became distinct, and stepped down to the rail, down to the kneeling figure, and then seemed to stop right over him, and as it were envelop him, the upper part of our boy’s body being quite lost to view in the blinding light of Our Lord’s presence.
Then I perceived His Face, sharply visible in semi-profile, among the brightness which extended beyond and all round, almost like thick rays; and as He stooped over the boy, and seemed to embrace him, his shoulders, He seemed to be soothing him and comforting him, and embracing him, as a father might.
Throughout the time during which He lingered over the bowed form, there was a most wonderful fragrance, and yet more than a fragrance. It was like the most exquisite perfume ever to be conceived, combined with not a sense of smell, but a sense of touch; it was something to be felt; and at the same time it was not a touch but a sense of perfect peace and the most absolute security; like an absolute security which no storms without can touch, nor even the most riotous multitudes of man could touch; even were that around one, or the tempest of the ocean and one were within even sight of that Presence, one felt absolutely secure; it was not an atmosphere; it was peace itself; it was living peace.
It was even beyond peacefulness which a person might have in the midst of the most arduous human endeavor which one knew no man could shake. It was beautiful. One can only say it was beautiful. That odor of Peace was all between the place I saw, and right across the gulf down to me, and I was filled with it during the whole time His Form was visible.
After a while the Form changed; and it was no more His Form, but the form of the Host, still whiter, still brighter, and this seemed to move up and down once over the bending form, and blend with his head and shoulders; and then there was another pause in the picture.
After a further while, the light changed in form, and I became aware that our boy was now the center of a multiple form, which encircled him closely and on a level with him; they were angels’ heads with little wings, like cherubs* wings; they were bending round our child — our child — and there seemed a movement among them with their heads - not exactly kissing, but bowing close and as it were breathing very gently upon him. And after this had proceeded a while they moved slightly apart from one another, and it was now clear that they formed a ring round the upper part of his body, and that a space formed, and that his head was in the center of the space.
Suddenly, at his (Douglas’) left side, appeared the form of a most beautiful Lady; Her face was in semi-profile; there was a wonderful expression on it; infinite motherhood; the face was not young; the light She gave round Her was extremely intense, much more than that of the angels; and yet it was less intense than that of Our Lord, different really, it was not that peculiar sense of Almighty-security.
She stooped down to our boy and seemed gently to lift him up, his head lying in Her left elbow; I could not see his features; he was like a babe; and yet I was sure it was still he — still Douglas; he seemed to be sleeping, and yet aware of being in Her arms. His form was indistinct. As She held him thus, the circle of angelic forms rose a little with Her, and there seemed a movement of them all — away from the rail, and towards the Gospel side of the altar, and it was as when a person is carried from among a crowd and the crowd slowly makes as if to follow. At the same time She stood erect, nearly; and was in full profile; and for a moment I saw that Her profile was now exactly the profile of Our Lady of Hartley; but it was not a fancy; She was living; one could tell it was not a statue. The light of the whole scene centered in Her as She moved from the altar rail.
The details became indistinct for a short time now; but when it was all clear again, I saw that Our Lady had handed the soul of our boy into the care of a great multitude — a very great multitude of bright forms, forms like the angelic ones at the altar, but paler; where their features were visible, one could see they seemed sad — but a happy sadness.
They seemed to move greatly as She came; they moved eagerly forward to their new companion; it was a very active movement; and yet they did not seem to move away from their place. It was the movement of a sudden intense interest and eagerness to minister to the newcomer. But when the newcomer was among them he became like unto them; not like a baby-form; and he was quite lost to view to me; so dense was the crowd of beings who came round him.
Meanwhile, the picture had now quite changed again. Our Lady was not visible. There was a band of light across the whole picture which had become suddenly vast. Far away up on the right of me was the Glory, as if from the Tabernacle. And I perceived that this Glory was the Light of Our Lord, and it seemed to come, as it were, out of an ante-chamber. And without seeing beyond it I knew that, if one could enter that Glory, one would find oneself completely bathed in God, Who is beyond it.
The whole landscape, so to say, was formed of living beings. A vast canopy, the canopy of Heaven was between the picture and me; the distance between the bright Light far away above the Epistle side of the altar and the rail was now nothing but a vast concourse of people emitting a pale yellowish-white light, and all looking chiefly toward the Glory in the distance, the light of which was reflected in their faces — the faces were the faces of persons whose thoughts are intent on God. The forms which were nearest the Glory were very much brighter and I thought this was not because of a stronger reflection, but because they actually gave and had, and were, a stronger light.
After all this, the picture came to rest. The peculiar active movement, showing it was all alive, ceased and the whole faded from view and it remains clear, absolutely in every detail, to my mind as I write. And it seemed as though the soul had journeyed and found its position of equipoise, and was absolutely safe, feeling content.
There were other forms behind the paler ones, and these seemed to be those suffering much in Purgatory. The paler forms were those which were only yearning to be released, not suffering. The brighter and brightest forms were those of the saints.
So this was the “day of judgment”; when the Judge was Love, and the remedy imparted was the gift of Love, and the care and motherly nursing were each taking their part in the life of the soul now transferred into another sphere.”
... (About 11:00 p.m. on the night of Jan. 28th; written down Feb. 4, 1926)
Attached to this document was a note —
“I read this: ‘The Message of January 28, 1926 a few moments ago. It was written by my beloved Father-in-law, Dr. Oscar Cameron Gruner, concerning his beloved second son, Douglas. Doug had been killed accidentally near Kerang, Australia just a short while before. He would have been 19 years old in February, 1926. My beloved husband, Malcolm, the elder of Baba’s and Yellie’s two sons, loved his brother dearly. They had a truly beautiful friendship.”
... Jessie Gruner 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, November 5, 1985.