The exact wording escapes me, but my eldest daughter wanted to tell me about the way she will do things when she’s a mama, and said something like:
“Papa, one day, when I’m a mama, if you’re not gone yet, I’m gonna hold my kids in a carrier just like this.”
The carrier, of course, is a baby carrier, that backpack looking thing which allows a parent to wear their child while pushing two other children in swings and keeping an eye on the fourth and fifth children climbing on the playground. We were just returning from (or leaving for?) the playground when my daughter thought to say this.
It’s more or less ordinary, actually. We’ve been very straightforward about death, not bringing it up very much, but talking about it honestly when it does come up.
Everyone dies. We’ve had friends and family who have died, and you’ll know people who will die, too. I have probably gone so far as to say that, in all likelihood, I will die before you (my child). But when you die, you go to be with God.
Somehow it caught my ear, this time. We weren’t already talking about death, and we didn’t proceed to talk about death, either. It was just a casual comment, a context for understanding that this event was in the future, and it was perfectly natural for her to add that I may or may not be alive when this happened. Of course, I hope I will be.
And it may be that, after one death or another, things aren’t so casual for her. Maybe it will be a friend or a relative; maybe it will be a victim of senseless violence, or a martyr in a foreign land. I think sometimes of the absolute tragedy of confirming that, yes, abortion is real. Some babies are killed, then removed surgically from the womb.
Just imagine telling a child about that, when she has seen her mother’s belly grow, and she has seen an infant at one day old.
Now look at my original explanation. If you are an atheist, you cannot say anything like, “Then you go to be with God.” You must say, “And that’s it.”
But for Christians, there is the Resurrection. It is the final note, the only true comfort for the mourning, the only way a child can speak with ease about death. Death, in fact, has been overcome. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot swallow it.
Indeed, she spoke like one on a well-lit path, one unafraid of that which terrifies grown men. What else can do this, but faith? Who else can give such confidence, but God?
NB: For a meditation on death, consider this.