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Death and Children

Six years ago I took my oldest daughter to our current church for the first time.  She fell in love with the choir right away and on Wednesday nights, she would skip out on her class in order to just sit in the back of the auditorium while the choir practiced for Sunday morning.  She was 10 years old and her wheelchair made it easy to spot her.

That’s probably why Ron noticed her that first night.

Towards the end of the practice that evening six years ago, he stepped off of the stage and came over and introduced himself to Lauren.  There was an instant connection between the two.  She was 10 and he was in his late 60’s – she was in a wheelchair and he was bent over at the waist unable to straighten his back to stand up fully.  That night started a pattern of the two looking each other up at church to see how each other was doing.  They would talk about life and how God was good even though they both had to face several surgeries.

Lauren came to recognize Ron’s car because it was a PT Cruiser with a Tasmanian Devil on the front wheel wells and she would make it a point to look for him so that she could give him a hug.  There were times she would call him on the phone to check up on him when he was doing poorly and he would do likewise.

As a parent, it was comforting to see the compassion that they each had for the other.  That compassion has defined Lauren’s response to people around her – especially people who are suffering through health problems.  At church, she always is on the lookout for Ron and for another lady, Millie, who is suffering with Alzheimer disease.  In school, she looks for the lady that used to work in the nurses office who has been battling cancer for years now.  Those three persons are in Lauren’s heart.

Last night we received a call that Ron had passed away.  I sat with Lauren and told her the news and she cried in my arms as she said, “I didn’t get to talk to him one last time.”

Today we found out that Millie passed away a few days ago while we were out of town.  My wife and I have decided not to burden Lauren with that news at this moment – or the news that her friend from school is doing poorly.

As a parent, I am finding myself trying to comfort my children with the same platitudes that my parents used with me as a child.  The words feel no better coming out of my mouth than they did going into my ears as a child.  As adults we have become desensitized to the harsh reality of death.  We lean on the understanding that there is a better life after this one as a way to placate our knowledge that death is a curse. We may giggle at the platitude, ‘everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die’, but there is truth in those words.  God did not create us for death but for life.  Death is unnatural but we repeat the words that its just part of life.

What?  Death is part of life?  Since when?  Death is no part of life.

Children feel that deeply.

Our Christian faith teaches us that death is not the end for those alive in Christ but just the beginning of an eternal reality – life everlasting.  However, we as adults should not be so quick to forget the heinous act of death for what it is – it mirrors in small, through physical  separation, what eternal damnation is in large from a spiritual separation.  Its a reminder of the judgment that God has placed on all sin.

We can thank God for those lives that leave this world in Christ, but we should weep bitterly for those who don’t.

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  1. June 17, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Wow, I wasn’t ready for something that deep. Her compassion is beautiful.

  2. June 17, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    I would rather have my heart broken a thousand times than watch my childrens’ hearts break. For a young woman, your daughter has a HUGE heart for God and His children. She is so blessed with awesome parents to model such compassion.

    My mom is 84 & has friends and extended family dying almost weekly. Her lament to me is “Why can’t I be next?” No wishes, no illness, just ready to meet her Lord after a life well-lived. She cracks me up. I want to be like her when I grow up.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  3. June 17, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    It is one thing to occasionally befriend those in need, but to literally “seek” those in need is an action to be admired.
    We could all learn a thing or two from your daughter. Seek! Such a strong word and this post has impacted me greatly. I will begin my “search” immediately!
    Thank you.
    Thank Lauren!

  4. June 18, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Echoing the words of previous commenters.

    But from a different perspective, i have to disagree with your perception on ‘death’ – or at least an aspect of it.

    Lauren is fortunate that she has (by reason of her young years and non-fatal condition) not yet been too affected by the presence of Death in her short life – but that is clearly changing.

    I understand the temptation to try to protect her from the pain that death brings to us, but it clearly is a part of our everyday life – people die every second of our lives – if we are lucky few of those dying will be well-known or loved by us personally – Lauren has already found that it can and does happen.

    It is a lesson we all need to keep in mind, if not to obsess about.

    You cannot protect people from death – He does not ask us to ever do that!

    He says in Scripture that we are to praise Him in ALL things, good and ‘bad’.

    Don’t protect Lauren by hiding the Truth of life (and our physical/spiritual death) from her, but teach her how to accept this natural part of everyday life in the style He has asked us all to adopt.

    It is right to grieve, it is not right to ‘protect’ people from Truth, but to help them see how He is Good in ALL things.

    Children are, in many things, far more ‘resilient’ than we are or we give them credit for. And frequently have a greater capacity for understanding; when things are explained to them as simply and truthfully as we are capable of doing.

    Which as a loving Father, i am sure you realise and will do at the appropriate time 🙂

    <B

    • June 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm

      My post may have presented a different light than I had expected it to. We are not trying to hide the facts of life and death from her. Though we are choosing how and when we will give her news as a way to give her time to digest each situation. Our younger daughter, who is 11, has a stronger mentality than Lauren and we have already shared with her the news of each event because she is better equipped mentally for it.

      Lauren is going through the grieving process well concerning her friend, Ron. Last night she spent some time with people from the choir talking about him, his health, and his death. That was a good thing for her to go through. We will share the news of the other two people in her life when the time is appropriate.

      I had hoped that my post would bring to light how we as adults can become accustomed to the ‘facts-of-life’ and equate death as part of that mix. Death is not life.. it is the opposite. It is a curse that God put on all men for their rebellion.

      The scripture celebrates victory over death… not death itself.

      Truth tells us that our belief allows us to escape eternal death through Christ’s work of redemption on the cross. We can and should celebrate and sing praises about that great and wondrous work.

      In my discussions with Lauren, I have told her that we should be thankful to God for allowing us to know Ron for the period of time that we were given. Death is just a temporary separation for those that know Christ but its ok to feel sad about that separation as long as we don’t forget the blessing that knowing the person was to us.

      However, if a person dies not knowing Christ.. which part of that would we praise God for? Death should be a reminder to us to be diligent about giving truth in order that people would know life.

      • June 19, 2009 at 6:25 am

        i think i may be a little ‘overly sensitised’ to some perceptions humans can have about life and death. 😉

        i hope i wasn’t taken as thinking we should celebrate or praise death – i was trying to overcome the ‘taboo’ many humans place on it – especially to our younger citizens. To bring a greater understanding of what it may mean to us ‘to die’ – many of us develop an unnatural and paralysing fear of it.

        i believe i do understand where you are coming from concerning dying with or ‘without’ Christ.

        i happen to think that many people are living in a ‘fools’ paradise’ though concerning their being ‘In’ Christ today and that Matt 7:23 confirms this, so that praising the death of those we may think are in Christ and weeping for those we think are not might actually be a tad ‘premature’?

        i fully concur with your last sentence 🙂

        <B

  5. June 18, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    your daughter sounds amazing.
    such deep thoughs in this post.

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