What have you seen "out there" to help you prepare children/teens for THEIR deaths?
This issue struck me in the face today. Because I attended the funeral of a teen who died unexpectedly in an accident. It was without a doubt the hardest funeral, next to my son's, that I've ever attended.
The parents are very good people, very loving. They've raised their children to be loving, giving, sensitive people. But the father is Catholic, the mother a Protestant, and they raised their children to be - nothing.
And this made me very sad. Not that I think God had any problems hugging this girl and making her God's own. How could God Who is Love NOT love such a girl who was and is beautiful inside and out?!
No, what made me sad was thinking about her journey towards death. What had her parents told her about death? About God? About eternal life? If she was at all aware during her last coma - and who knows what happens to us in comas? - what did she wonder about?
You know, we prepare our kids for the first day of school, maybe even take them there beforehand to see the building or meet the teacher. We prepare them for camping trips with the Scouts. For trips to see Grandma and Grandpa. Every chance we get, we smooth the way before them, give them as much information as we can, try to take away any fears or apprehensions they might have before they walk into the unknown.
How do we prepare them for the greatest walk, the greatest journey - Death? Do we tell them that God is Real, that life after death is Real? Do we help to give them faith that this God loves them totally, accepts them totally for who they are? Do they know - from us - that no matter when they die, they are going to Someone Who has loved them forever and will love them forever? That everyone they love will be with them in Heaven, including any pets that have died? That in eternity there will be no more tears, no sadness, no separations, no sickness, only joy, love, and peace? So they'll know - a little - what to expect? So that some of that Fear of the Unknown that we all experience will be a little less?
Because our child's death could happen tomorrow. Tomorrow they could suddenly face a God Whom they know nothing about.
Oh, God will take care of things for sure - I believe that. God will welcome all of us with an open heart who've lived a good and loving life.
But - wouldn't we like to know that we've done our part for the Greatest Journey our child will ever take, at whatever age? Isn't preparing our child for eternity the greatest challenge, the Biggest Task that we have? If we make such a huge deal out of helping a little one meet a teacher beforehand, shouldn't we consider it even more important to introduce our child to God?
Even if parents have different religious backgrounds, if both are Christian, there is so much that all Christians hold in common. Our belief in a loving Creator. Most importantly - Jesus. All Christian faiths believe that Jesus is both God and human, and we share those precious Gospels which tell about His life, death, and resurrection. Parents can together share those stories with their children. Perhaps especially the one when Jesus tells his disciples, "Don't keep the children from me!" and holds them in His arms. We can share our belief in a Holy Spirit Who fills us with enthusiasm and joy about the gift of faith. Faith above all, is catching. It's meant to be passed from parent to child as one candle can set fire to another.
And that brings me to my most important point: how have YOU prepared YOURSELF for death and your final meeting with the God Who made you, Who chose you to exist, Who walks with you every step of your journey through life?
You can't give your child what you yourself don't possess yet. If your faith is still as tiny as a mustard seed, water it every day with prayer. Talk to God every day - that's prayer. Ask God to deepen your relationship with Him/Her. Ask God to help you with decision-making. Thank God for the sunshine, the flowers, the priceless gift of being a parent. God is your greatest Lover. Your greatest Friend. God desires personal intimacy with you. Perhaps trust in God is not easy for you. God understands. But God asks you to take a step forward towards God as God takes a step forward towards you. Yes, that takes a lot of courage. A lot of risk. But God will never be outdone in generosity, or in Loving.
Every time you speak, you create something. Speak only words to encourage your children if you speak about God. If you fear God, or are angry at God, don't project that to your children. If you know very little of God right now, share the little you DO know. The very fact that you HAVE children is God's challenge to you to mend your relationship with God, to deepen that relationship, because their faith at this point depends on yours and will be affected by yours.
Ask God to give you the words to talk to your child/teen about God, and about Death. Because, just like you, your child came from God and is going to God, in what could be a very long - or very short - journey. You only have him/her for part of that journey. Make the most of it. So that when you are face to face with God yourself, God will say to you, "Thank you for introducing your child to me beforehand. It made the Trip a lot easier for both of us!"