by Maggie Buckley
On January 1, 2006, my Aunt Merry Ann (“Great Annie”) passed away at age 72. I was dreading having to explain this to our kids as she was the equivalent of a beloved grandparent to them. Our son Jack was only five years old. How do you explain death to a five-year old??!! This was the first death in the family for our kids. Questions like these raced through my mind:
Do I give him all of the facts?
Weave an abstract tale of Heaven?
Be as vague as possible?
Be very specific?
The Bible says a lot about Heaven, but it’s a little complex for a kindergartner.
“Don’t let this rattle you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking” (John 14:1-4, The Message).
“Then he told me, ‘These are those who come from the great tribulation, and they’ve washed their robes, scrubbed them clean in the blood of the Lamb. That’s why they’re standing before God’s Throne. They serve him day and night in his Temple. The One on the Throne will pitch his tent there for them: no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat. The Lamb on the Throne will shepherd them, will lead them to spring waters of Life. And God will wipe every last tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:15-17, The Message).
“Then the Angel showed me the Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age” (Revelation 22:1-5, The Message).
Out of the Mouth of Babes
Clumsily, I decided to explain the situation to Jack as simply as possible.
Mom: Remember how I went to the hospital with Great Annie last night?
Jack: Yeah—is she sick?
Mom: Well . . . she died, honey.
Jack: (yelling) THAT’S FANTASTIC!!!!!!!
Jack: (still hollering) SHE GOT TO GO TO GOD’S BIG PARTY?!
Mom: (now ready to cry at this excited display of emotion) Well . . . yes . . . she went to Heaven to be at God’s big party.
I then explained that the little hospital we had taken her to had airlifted her by helicopter to the big UC hospital.
(please forgive the all-caps, but he really was yelling!)
Jack: (now clapping too) WHAT A GREAT DAY FOR HER!! SHE GOT TO RIDE IN A HELICOPTER AND GO TO GOD’S PARTY ALL IN THE SAME DAY?!? WOW!
Isn’t that just amazing?! Here I was with this jagged grief-hole in my heart, and my son was giddy . . . jubilant . . . ecstatic that Great Annie had not only gone to Heaven to be with Jesus—she had ridden in a helicopter to get there!
Isn’t that how we all should be when a loved one dies? When we know that they have flown off to Heaven to the biggest and best party in the universe hosted by God Almighty, himself?!
Now, when I hear of someone’s passing, I remember the words of my son—because out of the mouth of a child came true wisdom that day. I have no doubt that God gave those words to my son—to help lessen my grief and to show me that in death, there is eternal life through Jesus Christ. I had been so worried about how to explain death to my son, but as it turns out, he was able to explain it to me.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4, NIV).
And to that I say, Amen!
This past Sunday at Christ’s Church we talked about this place “Where the Streets Have No Name.” If you missed that message, you can check it out here.
Maggie Buckley has been a member of Christ’s Church for sixteen years. A former first grade teacher, Maggie has been married to David for twenty-six years, and they have two college-age sons. She creates scrapbooking kits for digital scrapbookers, and loves her nerd room full of over 200 Funko Pop characters and action figures.