We are blessed to shepherd an extra inquisitive girl. Her name means, “The father’s joy!” and I can’t thank the Lord more, for she does bring her father joy and more so, our Father in heaven!
She’s the type that will listen to my conversation with the paediatrician, then remind me what the paediatrician said about her medication and in what dosages.
Recently she said, “Mom, Dr. Emily said, that you need to stop the Piriton, and give me this one, 5ml!”
I asked her, “Really, What is 5ml?”
She replied, “I think, it’s youuuuu measure with this tiny cup, up to 5!” pointing at the resistant cap.
I was undone. Totally awe-stricken! I don’t think I was think smart at 4 years.
So, on this bright Sunday morning, during this lockdown period, we did a devotional about Jesus’ resurrection and consequently His ascension to heaven on the fortieth day after the Resurrection.
She asked for the umpteenth time if Grandpa was in heaven, and I said YES.
Then she asked, “Does he feel to pee?”
We roared with laughter with Johnny, only to realize that she was so serious about her question. Staring directly into my eyes, eager, ready for this chapter to be inscribed in her heart.
We knew that it was time to have that morbid conversation about DEATH.
We told her that Grandpa doesn’t feel the need to pee, because we get new bodies when we go to heaven. Bodies that don’t get sick, or pee, or poo.
She seemed satisfied but we were sure of more forthcoming questions.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, she began to cry.
Instinctively, I thought she was in pain. I asked her why she was crying, and she said it’s because she wants to go to heaven. My heart skipped. I actually felt a tight knot down my tummy.
“What did you say A- baby girl?” My voice faltered.
“I want to go to heaven mommy!” Literally wailing out loud!
I think Johnny thought he heard misquoted her, so he asked her again, “Why are you crying?”
“Because I want to go to heaven daddy, I want to go up there!”
“Do you know how we get to heaven?” he asked her.
” No. . .”
“We actually die. We get buried, and we get covered with soil. We cannot come back home.” he said to her.
“We die, and cannot come back home?” She gently inquired.
“Yes we cannot, because it’s the last place we go after living here on earth and doing everything God wants us to do. Do you want to leave me, mommy and your brother now?” he asked her.
“No! No daddy! I don’t want to leave now!” she retorted.
“You have a wonderful life ahead of you and God will give you some homework to do here on earth. When you are done with it, He will say “well done my girl”, and then He can call you to heaven!” He gently told her.
“Homework like a, b, c ?” she asked.
“No, like helping the sick, sharing your clothes, food, praying for people, preaching about Jesus, that kind of homework, okay?”
She was now cooled down.
We continued to explain that it’s not a bad thing to want to go to heaven, but, indeed the way to get there isn’t via a bus, or a Matatu, or a motorcycle, it’s by DEATH.
Sounds morbid, sounds ghastly, but when a child begins to inquire about death, it’s paramount that you explain it from the biblical stand. They are ready for the gentle truth.
Don’t shut their little voices down, or dismiss their questions. They are valid and very important too.
Children have many questions about the mystery of death. While adults may not know all the answers, they can provide a listening ear and caring heart to inquisitive children or a child in grief.
See, adults seldom talk to children about death until a loved one dies—a grandparent, aunt, uncle, pet, parent, or even another child.
A child with a terminal illness may be facing his or her own approaching death.
These situations can be an extremely sad, confusing, and scary time for the child.
An empathetic parent(s) can provide a safe environment where a child may feel free to grieve and to ask difficult questions.
The Bible gives many examples of how God’s people deal with death in the family. We can find a lot of answers for hard questions in God’s Word.
Here are a few examples that you can use should the situation arise.
Genesis 23:1-2: Death of Sarah
Abraham cried when his wife died.
Action point : Tell them, “It’s okay for us to feel sad when someone we love dies.”
Genesis 49:29—50:14: Death of Jacob
Joseph travelled a long way to bury his father.
Action point: Tell them, “When someone in our family dies, he or she is usually buried in a grave. We can also go to the person’s funeral and remember good things about the person, put flowers on the person’s grave, or even plant a tree or plant to remind us of the person.”
Genesis 50:15-21: Joseph’s Brothers Were Afraid
When Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers were afraid that Joseph would hate them.
Action point: Tell them: “When someone dies, we may wonder what will happen to us. But God is with us and continues to take care of us. We don’t need to worry.”
Luke 23:44-56: Death and Burial of Jesus
Action point: Tell them: “Jesus’ friends were sad that Jesus died. They showed their love by burying Jesus and preparing spices for His body, and anointing oil for His body.”
Luke 24:1-14: Resurrection of Jesus
Action point: Tell them: “Jesus didn’t stay dead. On the third day after Jesus had died, God raised Him from the grave. Jesus promised that when His followers died, they would live in heaven with Him and God our Father.
Although we’re sad when our friends die, we can be comforted because we know that people who are in God’s family and who accept His love and forgiveness will be in Heaven when they die.
John 11:28-38: Death of Lazarus
Mary complained to Jesus when her brother Lazarus died.
Action point: Tell them: “Sometimes we feel angry with God when someone dies. We might blame God for taking the person from us. God still loves us and knows we’re just feeling sad. Jesus cried, too, when His friend Lazarus died.”
In discussing death, avoid euphemisms such as “the person is lost, sleeping, resting, or on a journey, or snatched”
Children may interpret this literally, and they do, and may be afraid to fall asleep or go on a trip, or they may try to find the “lost” person. They may even wonder why God is so mean to “snatch” a person away from their families.
Be gentle and direct—use words like “DEATH” and “DYING”
Do not have grey areas. They will still find the gaps.
Telling a child that God has “taken” or “called the person home” may cause a child to be angry with God for taking the person away.
Be gentle and direct.
Questions they ask.
Why Do People Die?
Answer: Our bodies wear out, like your toys wear out after you use them for a long time. After many years our bodies get tired and can’t keep working.
Sometimes people get sick and the disease hurts their body until it can’t work anymore. But only our bodies die.
The part of us that thinks and feels and loves keeps going. That’s called our soul, and it goes to live with God in Heaven.
Our bodies, are burried in the ground. That’s why we get new bodies that don’t get sick or tired.
What Is Heaven Like?
Answer: We don’t know exactly what Heaven looks like, but God promised it is a wonderful place with no tears or pain or sickness.
God, Jesus, the angels, and God’s followers live there. Only God knows for sure who loves Him and who will be with Him in Heaven.
But, If we believe that Jesus is God’s Son and ask God’s forgiveness for our sin, we become members of God’s family. God promises we will live with Him in Heaven.
He says it’s called PARADISE, and paradise is beautiful.
Why Do Little Children Die?
Answer: Adam and Eve didn’t listen to God, so they made sin come into the world. Our world is not a perfect world.
Anyone can get sick and die, although most of the time people do not die until they are old. Only Heaven is perfect. There is no disease, sickness, or death in Heaven. But God is with us while we’re on Earth and helps us when we are sick.
Does It Hurt to Die?
Answer: Sometimes people die quickly and sometimes it looks like falling asleep.
No matter what happens to us, if we believe in Jesus, we will still go to heaven. However, we know God is with us and loves us and takes care of us, so He will protect us until we finish his assignment/homework.
I Thought Mean Things About Someone—Is that Why He Died?
Answer: No, people don’t die because of what others think or say. People die when their bodies get so sick or hurt that they don’t work anymore.
Will My Pet Be in Heaven?
Answer: The Bible doesn’t say if our pets will be with us in Heaven.
However, the Bible does tell us that God loves animals. God cares for the animals, and He even knows when a little bird falls to the ground.
So care for your pet as God’s assignment to you. He will be very happy.
You can even pray together. I remember my brother doing a burial service for our family dog Tommy. He even made an epitaph cross, buried it and really grieved.
You can pray like, “Dear God, we thank You for (name of pet) and the joy it brought to (child). We remember the good times of playing with and caring for (pet). Be with (child) during this sad time and help us remember that You always care for us and the ones we love. Help us to always take care of Your creatures. Amen.”
How will you know that they are ready for any conversation? The sort answer is this, they ASK. Do answer in TRUTH, in LOVE, in GENTLENESS and in UNDERSTANDING, pointing their growing hearts to the Lord. Entrust them to Him who is more than able to keep and guard them until that day when they stand before Him.