“Mom, will I die the same day as my brothers?”
Oh my Lord, did he just ask that, I thought. What do I say to that question? “Son, hopefully that won’t happen for a very very long time. And I have no idea what day.”
He contemplated this for a moment in his very serious way, and then said “I just wonder if that’ll happen, that’s all.”
This is not the first time one of my boys has spoken about death to me. Every day they have me pray for Lulu, our chicken who “ran away.” They are afraid that she might have been eaten by an animal and died so they pray for her just in case she still needs a little help. They also have very matter-of-factly told me that I’ll probably die before they do. “Because your old, mom,” they affectionately remind me. They did say they will be sad. They also say that they know that when people die they “go to heaven to be with Jesus.” I’m super-impressed by this because I am pretty sure I was not the one that taught them that. They are so comfortable talking about something that I’d rather not discuss. And so I wonder, when did I stop being comfortable with the topic of death?
This week’s readings were super challenging for me. There is a lot of historical references and things you need to know about Pharisees and Sadducees to do it justice. I did not want to go into all that in this short reflection, though. Instead, I think at the heart of it is our comfort level with what comes next after this life.
In the first reading, the mom is not afraid of her sons being tortured and killed for her beliefs because she believes in a life that extends far beyond this one. It is a gruesome reading to consider particularly as I am squeamish about even talking about death on a regular basis with my sons and this mom is far beyond that! The Gospel extends this message of a life beyond this one by explaining that our human actions are nothing compared to the eternal life promised to us in God.
If I truly believe, as the psalmist writes, that when the Lord’s glory appears, my joy will be full… then why can’t I more easily talk about death with my children? Do I not want to foster in them an understanding that there is more to our lives than just the roads we walk upon today?
Last night as I was tucking my son into bed I said “I love you all the time buddy.” He responded, “Even when I die?” This kid. “Of course,” I replied. “Even in heaven.”
May we enter this week confident that the love of God extends far beyond our comprehension and be comforted by the vastness of it.