It always happened at night. From the time I was about 7 or 8 I would lie in bed and think about dying. I obsessed about the death of my grandmother, who, by the way, is still kicking in her 80’s. If I wasn’t thinking about my grandmother, then I was tallying my deeds. How many good deeds did I do that day? How many times did I beat on my little brother? How many swear words had I used that day? Realizing my doom, I shivered with fear. To make myself feel better, even though I knew I didn’t deserve it, I would beg God to give me just one more day to do better. I just knew I could be a better person.
I still review my day before I fall asleep, but not for the same reasons.
Likewise, my six-year-old daughter is in the midst of wrapping her mind around death.
For the past few months, she has needed to talk about her fears regarding the end of all things. As she lies in her bed in the quiet of her room, she begins to contemplate. I’m not sure where her thoughts begin, but I know they usually end with her tiptoeing down the hall to talk to me.
Being the youngest of our family, her main concern is that her siblings will all go to Heaven before she will and she’ll be left here all alone. Her eyes fill with tears as she explains how big Heaven is and what if she can’t find us when she gets there?
One thing I don’t want to do is give her a false hope. I don’t know how we’ll recognize one another and I don’t know if we’ll be “neighbors.” Though, I’ve often heard Christians joke that their “mansions” will be side-by-side. It wouldn’t help for me to tell her that she may die first. And I can’t guarantee her that she’ll have a loving husband, children, and grandchildren at her bedside. So, I point her to the immutable one: Jesus.
I will never leave you nor forsake you…The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me? (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Her Sunday School lesson this past Sunday came from John 11.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). He may have been speaking directly to Martha, but Abbey whispers, “Yes.” In that lesson she also learned about trusting God even when our circumstances look bad because we have faith that He is in control. And we talk about how God is glorified even in our death.
We talk a bit longer — until she feels like she can go to sleep — and pray. She takes her Jesus Storybook Bible with her so she’ll “have something good to read until she falls asleep.”
On second thought, she’s not like the little girl I was at all.