Which catch or hearts in nets as soft as sky
And bind us with a thread of fragile hours:
Flowers are beautiful because they die.
- from the Sonnet on the Death of the Man Who Invented Plastic Roses, by Peter Meinke
I once had a pet cemetary. It had graves of dogs and cats. It even had a little grave for a turtle. Soon I had the death of people thrust upon me. All this starting at age six.
Death was not talked about much. It was just a terrible part of life. It was as if you had to face it, but not ask too many questions.
I know that when my favorite cousin died, I wanted to go to heaven so that I could be with her. I still do. Since God is all-powerful, we wondered, why does he allow death?
As I said, we tried not to think about it. Maybe death was a way of finally being happy? But a child wondered why all the weeping? Had a person--anyone--spent some time with me, even at that tender age, and read to me from the Bible about this forbidden subject, I would have been their most ardent of pupils.
I learned that the most important things are the ones not talked about. I was instructed--or non-instructed--by people afraid of Truth. They believed, but were under a dreadful cloud. It was whether or not we could be good enough to go to heaven.
So who is the ideal teacher, and what would be his message for a little boy who was aching to know about the meaning of death? A friendly, approachable person who would give me a great overview of how we came to a world of loss through death.
His message: "Have you wondered why God lets us love people, and our pets, then allows them to be taken away by death? Once, in a perfect universe, where there was no death, the greatest of angels became proud and ambitious. He wanted to be above God. He and one third of the heavenly angels were kicked out of heaven. He tempted the first people to join him. God's punishment for this was death. That is how it came into the world. Death is the most un-natural thing in the world. It is a curse. Would you like to live forever where there is no more death?"
My answer would be that this would be wonderful!
My ideal teacher would tell me that this is the way it will be in the future. "First the evil one and his gang will be allowed to run their course. There will be a great conflict. Evil will be tried and punished. God's people will some day live forever. We must have patience until that time. To enter this deathless place requires a payment, though--too much for you to pay. But God's son has paid for your admission. He gave his life so that you could enter in."
My doubts about my behavior would surface. "I have been a bad boy. Could I still get in?"
My patient teacher would explain that Jesus died for bad boys too. He will clean me up so that I can come in. This is what my ideal teacher would have told me.
I never had that ideal teacher, so I wandered all over the place, wasting my life. But I have Him now.