I am sure you’ve never been out in public with young children and been embarrassed by their behavior. Never, not you. Not your kids. But just…
There was a place in our yard in which a bird’s nest could not remain forever. However no one wanted to harm any birds or eggs, so we decided to let it be. Until one day, when it seemed the nest was vacant. At that point, my husband proceeded to detach the nest from its location right above our pool.
But what seemed to be an empty nest was actually a nest full of newborn birds! Which means they were accidentally hurled from their home. Without going into details, I’ll just say, it was sad.
My husband quickly did the best he could to put the birds back into their nest. Us adults knew the situation was bleak, but for the sake of our crying children, we gave it a shot. In fact, not just one shot, but we tried several things to get the mama bird to come back to her babies.
Sadly, our attempts only made matters worse. The mama bird finally found the birds — but in doing so she accidentally knocked the nest into the pool! At that point, you’d think the horrible saga had come to an end. But no, it kept going. After rescuing the birds from the pool, they lasted 24 more hours! Eventually, we gave up hope that the mom would come back to her babies, and we were relieved to see they finally died the next afternoon — Not because anyone wanted them dead, of course, but because they were clearly hungry and uncomfortable (for other sad reasons I will not explain).
What a dramatic day it was!
Being that the Pace home was full of super sad little girls, we had to do something to provide “closure.” Thus, we dug a hole and buried those little birds. On top of their grave lies a tiny rock with “little chicks” written in sharpie (created by the oldest child, who organized the ceremony). As we stood there looking at the small tombstone, it was a good moment…Not related to the fate of the birds, but because of the lessons learned.
Death is Real
The concept of death is not something most of us deal with frequently. Altogether avoiding the topic is probably preferred. Who wants to think about death?! We like that cemeteries are kept far out of town, and we love how modern technology provides hope for longer healthier lives. Consequently, we are fairly successful at pushing thoughts of death as far away as possible. But that doesn’t mean death is not real – and sometimes we need to be reminded of that reality.
In fact, intentionally introducing our children to the concept of death may be helpful. Though we try to avoid the topic, remembering the reality of death impacts how we live life. It prompts us to make the most of our time. It reminds us we are not invincible. It helps us remember we are not in control. But perhaps most importantly, death is the backdrop that makes the beauty of the Christian hope shine bright.
That is why I didn’t rush to distract my girls from the dying birds. I didn’t try to lighten the mood. For just a brief moment they saw that life is not all it should be — that something is terribly wrong. Letting them feel this weight was intentional. For, this sad (though relatively light) encounter with death, allowed me to point to the beauty of an eternity in which death will be no more. I hope they learn to hunger for this eternal reality. In summary, my prayer is one day, Revelation 21:3-4 will be the longing of their heart,
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Why You Should Discuss Death
Our parenting doesn’t need to be characterized by heavy and morbid conversations, but we do our children a disservice if we avoid it altogether. Death is unavoidable, and it’s illogical to ignore its presence.
The way I see it, there is even benefit to bringing your children to the memorial services you attend. Likewise, it makes sense for you to speak of the deaths of people in your church or extended family. Our children should know death is real. They should feel comfortable asking questions when the topic is brought up. Above all, they should start to understand that this real problem finds it’s solution in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Good Coming From The Bad
Obviously, this was a small trial for my girls to get through (They didn’t even spend time with these birds before the dislocated nest drama began!) Nonetheless, in their little world, the day involved heartbreak … and in a sense, I am glad they felt the sadness. I am glad they realized that death is wrong. Most of all, I am glad that there is good news to point to. I am glad I can tell them that one day “death will be no more” (Rev 21:4).
Until that day, let’s seize those moments when we can point our children to the beauty of the Christian hope.