We were in my backyard when my five-year-old granddaughter asked me this question: “Pop, where’s your mommy?”
I said, “Riley, my mommy died. She was sick for a time, and then she died. We were sad for a while, but when we realized that she was happy in heaven, we weren’t sad any longer.”
Riley answered without hesitation: “Oh, no, Pop; your mommy didn’t die. Only little puppies die.”
You see, her only experience of death was when her friend’s puppy died. She was too young to realize the impact of the death of a loved one. Her friend was sad and disappointed for a short time, until her parents came home one day with a new puppy.
It always amazes me when I realize how much wisdom little children have. It’s as though God speaks so easily through them. Of course, my mom didn’t die. Well, her body did — but not her soul; the essence of who she is lives on forever in heaven.
This dialogue with my granddaughter was a surprising reminder that death is the beginning of new life with God the Father in heaven. A core element of our Christian faith is that Jesus died for us, and in doing so, he secured for us eternal life.
My granddaughter is now 16 years old. She was amused when I reminded her of this conversation. I remember it as though it were yesterday. I am also reminded of how open and innocent children can be. Hearts that are open and innocent can easily receive the wisdom of God. In them, nothing blocks his Word.
Perhaps the message for adults is that we too must become like my granddaughter; that is, like a little child: open, honest, playful, loving and kind.
Yet this is not easy for us sophisticated, worldly-wise people. Actually, Jesus tells us to “turn and become like children” (Mt 18:3), but he does not tell us how to do it.
One thing might help us: spend some time with children. I’m lucky to have 21 grandchildren — and it seems we always have at least a few of them with us. But even if children are not a part of your everyday life, find a way to spend at least a little valuable time with them. You will never be the same!
Retired permanent Deacon Lou Malfara is a parishioner of St. Cecilia in Northeast Philadelphia.
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