But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
I didn’t consider not taking my boys that day.They were just 5, 3, and 1-year-old at the time.
I had been to countless services since I was a child. But this time, my great-uncle had passed away and I wanted my little boys to come to the memorial service.
Little did I know that this first memorial service would change my son’s life forever.
We prayed about how to talk to the boys and gently explained to them that Uncle Lawrence’s heart had stopped working and that he was now home in Heaven with Jesus.
On the day of the memorial, we dressed in Sunday best and drove the short distance to the funeral home. Uncle Lawrence’s casket was at the front of the room surrounded by floral arrangements and pictures of him in his youth.
We had an opportunity to see his earthly body one last time. I took my 3-year-old Quinn in my arms and lifted him up so he could see over the edge.
“See, Quinn, it’s just Uncle Lawrence’s body but his spirit is with Jesus in Heaven. It looks just like he is sleeping.”
Quinn nodded his head and peered intently into the casket. He wanted to come back and look several times over the course of the evening.
I know that our calm and gentle explanations helped our boys to consider it a peaceful and respectful time to remember him, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. I hoped that they would see that death is real, but it is nothing to fear, especially when we have a glorious hope of Heaven to look forward to.
As the memorial came to a close, we eventually left for home. But it was what happened a week later that made this experience one I will treasure all of my days.
It was nap time and I took Quinn to his bed and tucked him in. I began to sing to him as I always did. After a few minutes, he sat up in bed.
“Mommy, remember Uncle Lawrence? He’s in Heaven. I want to go to Heaven too. How do I go to Heaven, Mommy?”
I explained to Quinn his need for a Savior as I had done many times before, and read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”All he needed to do was pray and ask God to forgive his sins. This was the only way that he could go to Heaven.
And then he said to me, “Mommy, let’s do it now. I want to ask God to forgive me for my sins. I want to pray.”
Right there, on his little toddler bed, Quinn prayed and asked Jesus into his heart.He has never forgotten it. Quinn has a growing desire to please God and it is evident in his sense of conviction and in his sincere prayer life.
I know that explaining life and death to children and memorial services can be a very emotional and difficult event. Certainly, it needs to be approached in an age appropriate way, with wisdom. But I also know that when we have hope and can embrace that this life is temporal, looking forward to God’s good plan for our lives, that we do not need to be afraid about how our children will react. God can even use those sad times to draw a little child to Himself.
As parents we often want to shield our kids from pain, but we may be missing opportunities to point them to Christ in the process. It wasn’t an easy thing to prepare our boys for my uncle’s funeral, but it was worth it to show them that God has a good plan for every person’s life. The message hit home for Quinn that day. Death didn’t have the victory. Life was born through our loss and that’s just like our Great God. He is our Redeemer. Redeeming death. Redeeming us. Redeeming sorrow and creating joy in unexpected ways.
Amber lives in Southern California with her husband and 3 boisterous sons under the age of 6. She writes about faith and family from the perspective of a work-at-home mom as a Hollywood producer and writer. You can follow her God-sized dream journey and their “Testoster-Home” at www.motherofknights.com.
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I’ve not yet faced this decision, as I’m just expecting my first right now. But I believe children have a very great ability to handle even the harshest of trials. They may not grasp the intensity of death, but neither do they allow death to consume them.
2 years ago, my uncle was murdered. My sister took her then 4-year-old son to the funeral, which a lot of other people in the family looked down on. They couldn’t believe she would expose him to such a harsh reality of life. But it really wasn’t that big of a deal. My nephew did not know my uncle very well, but he saw that his “Papaw” (my dad–who’s brother had just been murdered) was very sad. When my sister explained to him that a bad man had killed his Papaw’s brother, my sweet nephew got quiet for a few moments. But then he went to his Papaw and was very gentle and loving. He didn’t ask his Papaw to play, and didn’t even talk to him. It was like he just wanted his Papaw to know he was there. And you know what? I watched as it brought a shimmer of joy and hope into my dad’s eyes as his little grandson came up to him. My nephew wasn’t scarred in any way by the experience, but he was given a grand opportunity to think of someone else, and to show compassion and love.
Wow, Rachel! That is so beautiful!! Thank you for sharing such a wonderful example of your nephew’s resilience and sensitivity to bless your dad! I’m sorry for your loss, but thankful to see how God comforts us, even by little children’s examples!
Wow, I love the end result! What a wonderful conversation starter that came from such a grim circumstance. Loved this post!
Thank you Jelli-it was a wonderful blessing for us in the midst of our loss!
Hi there! Thanks for the post. This is very timely for our family as we have an upcoming memorial service. I have four boys 9,7,4,3 and the funeral is for a 3 year old boy who died suddenly. I’m wondering if you have thoughts on the difference between taking them to an “adult’s” service versus someone their age (or younger)? I like the perspective that you shared and curious to see if you’d take the same approach in this situation. My initial thought was not too, but you’ve brought up some good points that have me thinking now….
Hi Carly! What a sad loss. I’m terribly sorry. Your post brought tears to my eyes at the thought of losing a little boy, and yet this is where we trust God’s plan with faith in the midst of sorrow. I do think there is pause for thought when taking young kids to a child’s funeral. It would depend on how they react when you explain that he passed away-what kinds of questions did your kids ask about it? Did they know the boy? Were they emotionally troubled in a way that stuck with them? I believe that children at that age go to Heaven, so it is still an opportunity to point them to Jesus-to remind them that we have a wonderful eternity to look forward to, but I would assure them that it is rare for a little one to pass so young in life so that they don’t live in fear of dying themselves. Ultimately, even talking through the death and the funeral is a teachable moment for them. The Holy Spirit will give you discernment in this particular situation and I’m praying for you all!
Thanks Amber. We took our older two (9 and 7) and left the littler ones with their grandparents. I’m so glad we brought them, I think if someone had not shared your post with me and I had read it’s perspective, that was so timely (God uses the darndest avenues, doesn’t he 🙂 ?) We would have left them all with my parents. The service for the young boy could not have been any more inspiring and full of the hope and love that Jesus himself offers. The family is so strong in their faith and had nothing but faith to display as they spoke about the tragedy. It was one of the most uplifting (actually THE most) memorials I have ever been to and we were so blessed that it was the first experience that our boys had in loosing a “peer”. Jesus shined through the family and the boys short life. Thanks again on sharing your thoughts and feelings with all of us, and continued prayers for the family that lost their boy, I know they make a difference and I’m sure there is a lot more pain ahead of them, but they will run to Jesus.
What a bittersweet time-thank you for sharing this with me, Carly! You can count on my continued prayers for all of you! May the God of all comfort flood your hearts with His solace and peace!