Playing dead

(First, I apologize for the duplications in yesterday’s post.  It was a hot mess that shouldn’t happen again!)

As I was thinking about the title of this series, “We Gather Together 14,” I couldn’t help but think about the topic John is addressing with his adult Sunday School class.

They are studying the Kings of Israel. It’s a great review of the Old Testament and includes lots of exciting people and their stories. But, one of the phrases that the Bible uses regarding these individuals is “he was gathered to his people.” Nope, it doesn’t mean that the individual went to a family potluck, it means that he died. We don’t use that phrase today. Have you seen a notice in the obituaries that begins, “John Doe was gathered to his people last Friday following a vehicle crash on Nine Mile Road.”

We use different words today. But, we still have to talk about death from time-to-time.

When my father-in-law passed away (he was a saint of the Lord and an amazing man!), I got to see death through my granddaughters’ eyes. The girls were very, very young and had had a wonderful visit with their great-grandparents and us just a few months before he died. The girls felt comfortable in their great-grandparents’ apartment, the place where the family was meeting. That first evening, I saw them playing what looked like a new game. One girl would lie down on the couch and the other two would pick her up by her hands and feet. The two “carriers” would then place the first girl on the floor between the couch and the coffee table and then move their arms around. I went to them and whispered, “What are you doing, Girls?” Their quick reply was made from smiling faces, “We’re playing dead.” Yep, one was pretending to be dead while the other two conducted a burial. It was hilarious, but not something that I wanted my dear mother-in-law to see and so we found another game to play!

The next day, at the grave yard, one of the girls was sobbing at her mother’s side. The relatives and friends all smiled and commented how sweet it was that this little child missed her great grandfather so much. I stepped close to my daughter-in-law and whispered, “What’s going on?” This amazing mom looked at me and whispered, “She’s upset that I won’t let her run around the headstones.” Again, I found that these young girls had their own unique view of the situation.

I was single for many years of my life and did not want my family to have questions as to what I would want them to do if it looked like I was going to die. So, every year during the holidays, I would explain to my parents (the ones who would have to make any arrangements should I “be gathered to my people”) that:

  • I am cheap. Do not do crazy things to let me live another 15 minutes. Be reasonable with doing anything special just to keep me around.
  • Some of my body parts, particularly my muscles and brain, have been used only a few times and a few still have the tissue paper on them. Give away everything that someone else can use.
  • But, don’t give away my whole body. (I’ve see way to many stupid movies and TV shows for that to be allowed.)
  • I have a place to go. My reservation is paid for. Do not keep me here when I could be there. (But, there is no need to hurry my passing either!)

Yep, I do have somewhere to go. My family has no doubt that Jesus paid for my reservation and I accepted His free gift years ago. My daily desire is to live doing the will of my Heavenly Father.

Too often families gather together only when death is approaching.  It’s not just sad, it’s wrong. With today’s technology, we can be with others without spending a fortune on an airplane ticket or taking four days off of work. Let’s use this holiday season to get with someone before we see them at the funeral. Today spend 45 minutes on the phone, or send an email, or write a letter letting that loved one know that you care.

And, if you need to “have the talk” (about your desires should you be close to death) with yourself or your loved ones, why not do it now? Share how you feel, what you want, what is important to you. And, if you need to have a “practice conversation” with someone, let me know (carlajillstein@yahoo.com).  I’ll be your pretend family for a little while. And, I promise that I won’t “play dead” in your living room!

Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.” Genesis 25:8

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