Out of the Mouths of Babes…
By Kathi Macias –
One of my all-time favorite shows was “Kids Say the Darndest Things” with host Art Linkletter. Art has long since gone on to his heavenly reward, but once in awhile I’ll see a rerun of an old program and realize how hilarious it was. Nothing was scripted, nothing rehearsed—just natural and spontaneous, which no one does better than kids.
I remember a time like that with one of my granddaughters. Brittney was four or five, and I took her with me to run some errands. On the way home I wanted to stop at the cemetery and leave some flowers on a relative’s grave. I decided it could be a good learning experience for Brittney, so we talked as we made our way to the gravesite.
“What are all those numbers under the names?” she asked, peering down at the headstones as we passed by.
“Those are the dates they were born and when they died,” I explained.
She thought about that for a minute, and I realized this was quite a challenge for someone her age. I decided to give her some examples.
“This lady,” I said, “was born in 1938 and died in 1989. That means she was 51 when she died.”
Her eyes grew wide, but she didn’t say anything. Quite obviously she concluded the woman was quite elderly.
I then pointed out one who had died quite young—in his twenties. She nodded and continued on.
Then we stopped to gaze at an ornate headstone that caught her eye. She tried to read the dates, but when I realized she was struggling, I intervened, explaining that the woman was 98 when she died.
Brittney’s head snapped up, her brown eyes nearly popped out of her head, and she said in a voice tinged with awe, “Wow, she was ready!”
After I quit laughing, I realized I’d been handed the teachable moment I’d hoped for and promptly used her comment to talk about “being ready” before we die.
And then, in August of this year, my 90-year-old mother went home to be with Jesus. Was she ready? Absolutely! Brittney, who is now almost 21, sat with many of her cousins at the memorial service to honor this matriarch of our family.
One of the little ones in attendance, Annabelle, was not quite four at the time. She’d been hearing statements to the effect that her great grandma was dead and wasn’t quite sure what that meant. But when she couldn’t find Grandma anywhere, she’d shrug and say, “Grandma’s dead,” as if that explained her absence.
As the hour-long service went on, with some of Mom’s favorite songs being sung, a video shown about heaven and “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me playing in the background, not to mention the favorite memories shared by many who loved her, I wondered what the youngest member of the family thought about all that was going on.
I didn’t have long to wonder. As the service came to a close and people gathered around to offer hugs and condolences, Annabelle ran up to us with her blue eyes shining and a smile spread across her face.
“Grandma’s not dead,” she announced, as if she’d just made the most wonderful discovery ever. “She’s in heaven!”
Whether Annabelle had figured it out on her own or with the help of the memorial service—or whether an angel had whispered it to her—she was right. And she had reminded each one of us of the great truth that if we’re truly “ready”—as I had explained to Brittney years earlier—our loved ones who go on before us are not dead at all. They are simply in heaven, worshiping the Savior who ensured their safe passage through the valley of death into the presence of the Father.