Teach Them to Live is Christ
“Charlie is dead.” Charlie was our pet Beta fish who didn’t make it more than a week in our house. “Where is Charlie?” she asked again. “He is dead, sweetheart; he isn’t coming back.” I have known parents that have tried to hide the idea of death from their children. Others have tried to push off the conversation and thought the idea would simply scare them.
Death in my church community is, however, something that I cannot hide from. I have buried five friends (not acquaintances, actual friends) in the last three years. My daughter has attended a total of seven funerals in her three years of life. Death here is now a part of life. Perhaps the reason parents are nervous or unwilling to tell their children from the smallest age possible comes from their own fear of it themselves.
Three years ago I lost two friends in one night quite unexpectedly. One friend I had known since I was quite young, and she was a trusted advisor as well as a dear friend. I suddenly began to realize I could leave this earth anytime. As a new mother, this scared me almost beyond words. I didn’t want to die, I didn’t want to leave my new baby. Every turn on mountain roads had me constantly envisioning our car plunging off the side.
To Die is Gain
The more I lost friends the more I began to understand and to ponder what Paul said in Philippians.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me (Phil 1:21-30).
All of my friends that have passed into their reward, have done just that, passed into a reward. They no longer have pain of any kind; they no longer worry; they no longer sin. They are at Jesus’s side. If death is conquered, and if I no longer fear it, I can live knowing that it is Christ to live. And if dying is truly gain, than what do I have to fear in dying?
Learning this over the past few years prepared me for the following conversation: “What happened, Mommy?” three year old Caoilfhionn (Kee-lin) questioned in a rather concerned tone. “Miss Rebekah’s mommy went to be with Jesus,” I replied through my tears. I tried to explain to her that she had died and was now with Jesus and that her not being here anymore made me sad, but that Miss Rebekah’s mommy was now very happy.
The next day she asked me if she would die. I didn’t blink when I told her she would. I didn’t then tell her not to worry because it would be a very long time before she died. I know that may not be the truth. I instead explained to her about how Jesus died so that we could have peace with God and how he conquered death and that we have nothing to fear; and that God had a time that she would die and that until then she was quite safe. To live is Christ, to die is gain.
This article first appeared in Every Thought Captive magazine, July 2013.
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