Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Death and Dying

"I'm scared of my toy dying," Grace said the other day while playing with a doll, "just like you were scared of me dying."

That pretty much felt like a punch in the stomach. In times like this I do the S.O.S. prayer. I don't have more time than to pray "save my ship" and get into solving the problem. Thankfully we've been over this topic a few times before, though none so direct. Thankfully God always hears this prayer and gives wisdom "generously to all without finding fault..." James 1:15

I don't want Gracie to be afraid of dying. Death is the reality for all of us and if it comes to Gracie tomorrow or in one-hundred years, I want her to be ready for it. We've let her know that some kids aren't able to beat their cancer. She knows that some kids will die, and have died, from cancer.

It's not to scare her. But I've heard of stories where cancer kids went from sick to actually dying in a sometimes short time. It's not common, but when an infection hits, these kids are literally fighting for their lives. Even the bravest and the strongest may not win their battle. God forbid Grace would die from an infection rapidly taking over her body, but if it did, I wouldn't want the concept of dying be something that we only had an hour to introduce, especially if I were to be near hysterics. Not that we wouldn't encourage her to fight her infection...

Also, I believe that kids are smarter than they let on. They can tell if we're hiding a concept. They also know that if we hide it, then it must be very scary indeed. If death becomes the unmentionable fear, then everyday life would be terrifying once the dots are connected from cancer to death. She would figure it out sooner or later. We didn't want that for Grace.

So I took a deep breath.

"We all die Gracie. Everyone. There were a few times I was worried that you might die," I said, "but I wasn't too scared," I said truthfully.

"Why?" she asked.

"Why? But because of Jesus we have a place called heaven where we won't die anymore. And there's no cancer or pain there. And I know that if you died that Jesus would take care of you and love you. We would be together again there."

In the past Grace has wondered if her toys would be there. I told her they would be. I figure heaven is a place where all our needs are met, so toys would be appropriate. She's also glad to know our two cats Dash and Alex will be there. Heaven isn't a vague, scary, unknown. It's a place very similar to home.

Since that day none of Grace's other toys have died. They go to the hospital often, but they're always healed once Dr. Grace tends to them. And I'm so thankful she's not afraid of dying because only then can you really enjoy living.

I wrote this about death the other day. It's a little wordy, but here it goes:

The process of leaving our mother's wombs is a frightening and painful experience. The transition is abrupt and unexpected. It is a process that leaves us cold, vulnerable, and weak. Yet our pain and effort is small compared to the labor of our mothers who did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

If we had the capacity to remember that day I think we would be deeply traumatized. We would be terrified that perhaps we would be suddenly expelled from this world into another unknown life. And of course, the fear of death is exactly that.

As I daily walk towards that time that I should die I will remember that it is natural that death should be similar to birth. Death is also a relatively short, often painful transition that brings us to life. Eternal life, that is. Yet our suffering and effort is small compared to the painful labors of our Savior Jesus. He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

When we die and are birthed into heaven, I don't think we will be grieved by the experience. I don't think we'll have any residual trauma. It is likely we will even celebrate that day as our true birthday. For that will be the day we came into the fullness of life.

"Just as Jesus was raised as the first of the harvest, then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back." 1 Cor 15:23


  1. You had me at "I'm scared of my toy dying…"

    Your reflections move me, Melissa.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! We are currently walking through Stem Cell Transplant with our 2 year old. I needed your reminder to not fear dying and to really enjoy living. Each day is a gift. No one is guaranteed tomorrow...and yet, before I became a "cancer mom," I rarely reflected on that truth. Thank you for lifting my eyes to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

  3. Jennifer, praying for you and your 2 year old. I agree, I would never be in this place of acceptance unless forced, yet the peace of Jesus meets me here like nowhere else.

    Teri and Susan, thanks.