My grandmother, Wanda, died on Sunday evening, at the age of 86. There's no hiding this fact from my children, particularly our oldest, Tali, who is six years old. She overheard me talking about my grandmother's death, and she asked me what a heart attack was.
ME: Well, a heart attack is when the heart stops beating. That's how Nana Wanda died.
TALI: You mean, it stopped pumping blood all around her body?
ME: Yes, and without that blood pumping around, we can't live.
TALI: Oh, that's sad. I don't want her to be dead.
ME: I know it's sad. I don't want her to be dead, either. But she was very sick, and now my Nana Wanda is no longer in pain.
TALI: Is she in heaven? Is she with Jesus now?
ME: She is with Jesus, yes. Nothing can get between us and Jesus – not even death! But you know something, she's always been with Jesus. Before my Nana Wanda was born, Jesus held her, gave her a big hug. But then after she was born, Jesus was still giving her a big hug. And then when she got to be a big girl, like you, Jesus was still giving her a big hug. And then get got to be an older kid, and then a grown-up, and then a mommy, and a grand mommy, and a great grand mommy … and the whole time …
TALI: … Jesus was giving her a big hug?
ME: Exactly! Jesus was holding her all through her life, and he is holding her now, even in death. (silence) And you know something? One day she will come back to life.
TALI: Really? You mean like Jesus? You mean like Talitha in the Bible? (My daughter's name is Talitha, and she knows well the story of Jairus' daughter)
ME: Exactly! You see, we will all die one day, but one day Jesus will come back and raise us up to life, just like he brought the little girl back to life, and just like he rose from the dead!
TALI: How will Jesus do that?
ME: I don't know, but he promises that he will.
TALI: When will Jesus do this? When will he come back and do this?
ME: Oh, we don't know. But that's what we're waiting for – for Jesus to come back and bring everyone who died to life. Remember in church we talked about Advent being a time of waiting? Well, our whole life is kind of like Advent, waiting for Jesus to come again.
TALI: OK, but if Nana Wanda comes back to life, will she come back old and kind of sick, or can she come back a little younger and healthy?
ME: I'm sure when she is raised she will be healthy, and maybe a bit younger, too.
TALI: Yeah, but not too young, like me. That would just be silly. (Tali giggles.)
"We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."
– Nicene Creed
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
– Romans 8:38-39
"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."
– Romans 6:5
"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised … But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died .. for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ."
– 1 Corinthians 15:12-13, 20, 22-23