Jack took one step inside the church, then two. He could remember everything now and for a few moments it was like he was living two lives at the same time. He was walking towards the people he loved; he was also stumbling through the jungle, blood weary hand clutched to his side. Both were joyful.
He understood things now. He could see clearly. He knew all that had happened had led to this moment and that it had mattered. That didn't mean that it had been necessary, but it had shaped their lives and now their deaths.
Locke waited, a look of such happiness and faith on his face that even that man of faith and despair had never before worn. Boone walked toward him and Jack broke into a huge smile - a sadness brought into the light - a failure made a perfection. Charlie, a family man once more, not brought down by his own need, not lifted up by his own sacrifice, simply at rest and loved. Desmond, rooted in one place, a constant love by his side, no need for running away or an escape. Kate looked so happy.
As he came further into the room, he found that the church was bigger than any church had a right to be. With his new sight he could see it spanned down years of destiny. This place, this place was for him and his own - but theirs had only been one story. The island was ancient, if not timeless, as this place most certainly was. He could see what his father had been trying to tell him.
They had needed this place. This place outside of time. Everyone who was connected to the island did. It kept them from drifting away, borne on a sea of hurt, floating aimlessly, without love. It was a reward, it was an effort, it was wholly theirs and belonged to no one man. They had created it to remember, to take away the one sting of defeat they needed gone in order to be able to re-connect. His had been David, or the lack thereof. That love would still be there.
He scanned the room, seeing more with each look. It expanded under his glance and more than just who he expected to see blossomed out from the edges. There was Richard, still unchanged - but Jack had certainly expected to find that here. A beauty stood by his side, protective and shimmering around the edges. They were close to the back of the church where a line of people stood. Jack squinted and could see a woman standing by Jacob, who gave him a slow nod - maybe of approval, maybe of recognition. Ilana stood to one side, that look of restlessness she’d always worn replaced with a look of peace. There were other people there, and a few gaps. Jack supposed they were for him and Hurley. It was a border of guardians around this sacred place. Engaged in Hurley's hug, Jack knew that these two guardians would stay where they were. It was better.
Other people came toward them now and he was delighted to see Frank and Miles, clapped on the back eagerly by Sawyer, whose bravado was heightened to new humility and kindness, probably by the blonde at his side; yet, he was still so ultimately him, Jack had to grin. That connection he was so grateful for. Daniel and Charlotte approached, as linked as most of those around him were. Time had had no mercy for her, but there was no time here. A man stood with his back to them, but Jack saw Penny and Desmond approach him, leading a young boy Jack knew he'd never seen before. He heard Hurley whispering to Locke and Libby about Ben waiting outside, needing Alex to come with him. Others still came, Nikki, Paulo, Ana Lucia, Eko, Walt, Frogurt, Artz, Steve, Cindy, Rousseau, Scott. The list went on and on and each new addition bathed him with more completion. This was as it should be.
Before, he had wondered what it would be like to die. He had considered the possibilities of being confused, sad, angry, disappointed, surprised, of being nothing. But it was not like that. It was...just the way it had to be. It couldn't be anything other than this. Any other course was laughable and he could laugh at himself for ever thinking about it. Either way, the sadness of a life was over. The joy of a death was beginning. The things of life that were good, that were loved, weren't left behind. They were here and they had been here before they were here.
He recalled a children's book his father had once read to him. It had ended right. The dream has ended. This is the morning. The island hadn't been a dream, but compared to this, it was, and it was indeed morning. His father opened the doors and let the light pour in.