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.