When Naomi and Emma were diagnosed with a degenerative kidney and liver disease that nearly all internet literature painted out as a certain death sentence I spent a lot a time thinking about preparing my children to meet God. A few months later, after attending a conference in Philadelphia and flying the girls out to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland for a week-long study, we were given a bit brighter picture. More milder cases of this rare disease are being documented now, research is being conducted that may one day develop a drug that will slow or stop the progression of the disease, and the girls are very stable. Slowly life slips back into "normal," we become busy with the urgernt needs of the day, and the thought of death recedes into the background again. Now and again it resurfaces, but I know that is a good thing, we all need to live in awareness of the brevity of life.
Yesterday we learned that one of our neighbors and friends at Cono, now 91 years-old, had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital, unresponsive. She had been a usual part of the background of life for our family for two years--living only a few yards from our house, riding around campus on her golf-cart, attending church and sporting events with us. She often stopped to talk with the girls or compliment them on a pretty dress, and the girls enjoyed the attention. Last night we sat the girls down to tell them that Mrs. B was sick, that she wasn't waking up, and that we didn't know how well she would recover or if she would at all. Naomi's lip quivered and she turned her head away, the way she does whenever she wants to hide that she is sad or scared. Hannah sat quietly, thinking. Emma announced cheerily, "That's silly!"
It's hard to know how much Emma can understand yet, she's still not yet three, but Noami and Hannah understood. I reminded them of the beautiful, long life that Mrs. B had lived for God and that dying was a part of living. "No, it's not!" Hannah said with a touch of anger, "it's a part of dying! and it's too sad."
Some parents choose to shelter their kids from the sadness, but I know my children will be healthier people if we show them how to process it. We reminded Hannah of the hope of the resurrection for those who love God, of the new heavens and new earth where we will live with God. Then Hannah joined in with the lines of a song I often sing, "no more night, no more pain, no more tears, never crying again." Then, being the loather of bed-time that she is, she smiled, "my favorite part is no more night." We laughed, knowing that was true. We spoke of suffering and the good than can come from it, we spoke of the certainty of death for us all, but the hope of meeting our creator and living with him forever. It was somber, it was hopeful, it was healthy.
We will meet death again. Our children have four living great-grandparents who will not go on forever. And one day, perhaps sooner than for some, our children will meet death themselves. I want them to be prepared.
The girls prayed for Mrs. B before we tucked them in, even Emma seemed to have caught drift of the somber tone and she prayed sweetly, "Pease elp Mi Be, may-men." I know Mrs. B prayed for Emma when she was born and spent an uncertain week in intensive care, and it was beautiful to hear Emma return prayers for Mrs. B near the end of her life. One day they will meet again at the resurrection. That is the beauty of being part of God's family--that is hope.