And a Little Child Shall Lead them: thoughts on death

And A Little Child shall Lead Them:

Thoughts on Death.

       I’ve had some health issues lately, and notice my mind veering toward worst-case scenarios; which leaves me musing on how nothing makes one think of death so much as illness, unless it’s aging with its uncomfortable elbow-jostling toward the downward slide. Yet that’s not true either.  I remember how when I was a vibrant 23-year-old I suddenly woke up to the horrifying idea that someday I would die (AGHH!).  Blink out!?  Be Gone? How could that be?  Night after night I lay in bed beside my husband struggling—straining—to find a solution.  Finally, I forced myself to stop thinking about it:  all we can do is live.  Now I notice how my little grandchildren, even at the age of five or six, are aware of death. It’s not their own they fear, however.  They are scared their mother will die, or their father.  I don’t think they had this recognition earlier, at say three or four.

Perhaps at that earlier age the child, still “trailing clouds of glory,” sees farther than we do, piercing the veil between the worlds.  Here is a story from a woman I met recently, Vera Green. I find it comforting.

Vera’s mother’s nickname was Gigi.   Before she died at 93, Gigi was very close to her three-year-old great-grandson, Tristan.  This took place in Frederick, Maryland. Tristan was originally a twin, but his sister, Taylor, had died in utero, so that Tristan never knew her and had never heard her name.  One day, his mother was standing on a ladder, painting a wall, while the little boy played at her feet.  Suddenly he called out the window, “Hi, Gigi,” and returned his attention to his toys.

“What was that?” asked his mother.

“I just saw Gigi out the window. She was holding Taylor,” said Tristan. And went back to playing.

I heard also of a little girl who began talking to her departed grandmother one night as she was going to bed.

“Who are you talking to?” her mother asked.

“I’m talking to Nana. She’s right there,” she said, pointing.   “Nighty-night, Nana.”

How odd that during all those months when I was struggling with the terror of my own demise—extinguished, blown out – Poof! — that no one mentioned it won’t be like that. I who had been reared an Episcopalian with a good grounding in the Bible and Christianity completely missed the idea of a spiritual dimension, of hope.


3 thoughts on “And a Little Child Shall Lead them: thoughts on death

  1. I love these stories, Sophy, and witnessed similar experiences with my elderly patients at the end of their lives, when I worked as as spiritual care-giver. They often saw loved ones in their final months and weeks…or hospital patients shared stories of “visiting spouses” who had recently died…sometimes they had welcomed these visits and sometimes they told their loved one to stop appearing, because it troubled them. I also found that a lot of these experiences were shared only with me because I was a “safe receptacle; they feared sharing these “visits” with their children because they thought they would be perceived as losing mental agility, and that their children would doubt their capability of maintaining their independence, which I thought a sad, sad commentary on our culture/world. How little and defined we keep our possibilities and stories when we can’t share such experiences: thank you for persistently reminding us there’s more, so much more to our lives than the relatively shallow and sensually perceived…

    Hope you are healing, and I send gentle peace.

    • Dear Catherine, THANK YOU for taking the time to send me these dwonderful links. I’m so impressed. THANK YOU. Yes, I have a whole slew of such stories, always with the littlest children — and occasionally with an elder. I should have added to my blog post the wonderful parting of Steven Jobs, founder of Apple, who sat up in bed and said WOW…. OH WOW…! And then died. Love Sophy

  2. Dear Sophy,
    As you know I grew up with death. I have always known that the spirit lingers. As we now move up to that border-line of what we are taught is real and what those of us know is merely part of a greater reality, the thought of death cannot be avoided. My solution is live to the very last moment with love in our hearts, that and creativity which really crosses the line between the now and the thereafter.
    Think of you often. Love Sonia

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