Death. The word brings fear into the hearts of even the stoutest of people–whether it’s the warrior on the battlefield facing it every day, the officer in the line of duty or his wife waiting at home for that visit to say he is gone, or the grandchild who has just heard the news of the death of her grandfather. The subject has been explored by the greatest minds of our time and throughout history. Yet, the fact remains, we face death all too often for our comfort. Never is it a welcome visitor at our doorstep. It doesn’t matter if it came visiting suddenly and unexpectedly or after a long drawn out slow decay. Those left behind mourn and try to figure out the reasons.
Death in Real Life
Yesterday, I stood in a solemn room with friends from my high school and early college years. The building itself brought back memories I had completely forgotten–it was where I said good-bye to my own beloved “Gramps Pat”. As I entered the room I was greeted by the people I had not seen in twenty-four years or more. Yet, the warm welcome and the gratitude for my presence was real. I stood and took it all in, knowing from experience that my words would not be enough. I listened, watched, and spoke when appropriate. Smiles came as well, not only when we remembered their dad, but when the grandkids would try to grapple with what had happened.
How do we explain death to nine- and ten-year-olds? How can we answer the questions?
- Why is grandpa’s eyes closed?
- Why is he so cold?
- Why isn’t he breathing?
- Is he breathing in heaven?
- Does he have to change his clothes in heaven?
- Why does he have a tie on?
- Will he be able to breathe when they close the lid?
- Why does it say “going home”? He’s not going home.
Death in Literature
Death. Such a hard thing for humans to accept–those who were born to live. And yet, if we think about it, death is actually a gift. Tuck Everlasting tells the story of a family with immortality. They live on watching those around them die while they never do. It leads them to become unattached to the people around them because eventually they will have to say good-bye. Tolkein talks of the Numenorian kings who began to fight death and strive to live longer and longer. They forgot the true purpose and passage of death.
Death in Perspective
I think Tolkein had it right. The original plan for humans was not death. It was for us to live in harmony with our Creator, but the Deceiver came in and broke that peace. The Creator in His loving way didn’t want us to live forever in pain, sickness, and imperfection. So, he created a way for us to pass over to His world.
The idea of passing on to the other side to a better world is one that brings peace; however, there is a darker side. Tweet This
For those who have rejected the Creator, He has prepared a place of judgment. This reality is what drives my writing, especially books like The One Who Sees Me.
So, if I ever kill off characters in my books, know it isn’t with glee. Instead it is to help a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt or uncle as they try to explain to a young person why grandpa will not be coming home. If I can write a story that will ease the pain later for someone, then it is worth it. It’s for the little girl who leaves a dollar in grandpa’s casket so he can purchase a Coca-Cola in heaven.