What happens when I die?

“If a man die, shall he live again?” That question, voiced by Job, has been asked by people down through the ages. As Easter draws near, let me share with you a true story.

It was without doubt the most trying moment of the young minister’s life. What could he possibly say to the big blue-eyed little fellow who had just come to ask, “What happens to you when you die?” I know! Neither did he!

A car had struck the little boy’s puppy and he had witnessed it. His grandmother whom he loved had died two months before and now this whole thing about death was bothering him. His mother had dropped him off at the minister’s study and there it was, plain as day, “What happens to you when you die?”

The young minister had no real good response for an 8- year-old. Truth of the matter, he didn’t have a good 25-yearold response for he, too, had that same need.

As the two of them sat and talked, it occurred to the minister that he did have a way of answering his little friend that could at least get them started. He didn’t know who wrote it, but this is what he read to his little friend:

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, ‘There! She is gone!’

“Gone where? Gone from my sight—that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her; for just as someone at my side says, ‘There! She is gone!’ there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, ‘There she comes!’ And that is dying.”

The little boy looked up and squeezed his teddy bear. Past a single tear he said, “Do you think my little dog and Grandma are on that boat?”

Just then the young minister thought of his father, his grandmother, and so many, many others who had touched his life and then joined the communion of saints.

“No doubt about it,” he said, as they hugged, “No doubt about it at all!”

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he served as senior minister for 23 years. He writes a column for several newspapers.

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2010-03-25 digital edition

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