A Step into a New Phase of Life
I find it so interesting how our culture handles death. On the whole, we seem comfortable talking about it, even joking about it and some set up plans for it. In this child's prayer, we teach our children how inevitable death is. Yet despite all our euphemisms, sometimes once in a while, I find people who would rather protect themselves or their children from the thought or possibility of dying. I really don't know what is better for children, to talk about it or to protect them from it, but my instincts tell me, "teach them to talk about it." And what I have learned in talking to my children about death is that the concept of heaven is comforting to them for they see it in a very concrete way.
In Cambodia I used to cringe when people would talk about death. People there have seen so much death and brutal death at that. Maybe it is no different than here, but I found that you may never mention death near someone who is sick or people believe that you invited it. Yet there were often times I would listen to jokes (looong stories that were supposed to be funny) and the funny part was that someone would end up dying or killed in the end. While everyone would sit around laughing, I would sit there in shock and horror. Maybe depicting horror scenes in the plot of a "funny story" is one symptom of post-traumatic stress in a society that has lived through a genocide and 25 years of war. I don't know. But neither can I handle the brutality in many movies that I've heard people enjoy here. The interesting difference between Cambodia and here is that Cambodians would NEVER teach their children a prayer like the one above. Their animistic and superstitious beliefs guard them against anything that would tempt fate by even suggesting the possibility of calamity.
My son's very good friend died recently. His friend was a classmate and playmate and inspiration to my son, encouraging him to try new things and learn different sports. While my son showed various symptoms of grieving, his prayer shortly before the funeral went like this:
Dear God, tonight I pray for Eli . . . thank you that he can be with you up in heaven now. Thank you that his body is all better and new now and that he can have fun playing soccer up there and riding bike. I pray that he will be happy, too. Amen.
I know my son does not totally understand the concept of "soul" or "eternity" or even "grieving" for that matter. But then, do any of us? So we talk about the realities of life and death and new life and sometimes I am suprised what my children can grasp. Of course my children's developmental levels still require mostly concrete explanations, but I am comforted by knowing that they can know that death is not an end, but a step to a new phase of life.