Much of what follows is a literal transcription of a recent conversation with my four year old granddaughter.
Poppy walked out with his granddaughter and her little brother to play. There was a series of lawns, connected by grassy paths. On one lawn, his granddaughter spotted a tiny, perfectly camouflaged toad hiding in the sand. It was almost impossible to distinguish the toad from the surrounding sand.
She wanted to mess with the toad, but Poppy told her that was a bad idea, because to the tiny toad she seemed like a monster a hundred times bigger than the great fir tree just yonder seemed to us. The poor little toad was so scared of us, that if she just touched him with a blade of grass, he might be scared to death.
She left the toad in peace, even though that was very hard for her to do. Her little brother left him in peace, too.
Then, she found another tiny toad, hiding in just the same way as the first. She looked at it, but left it alone, even though she really wanted to pick it up and pet it. Her little brother left that toad alone, too.
Then, she found a dead toad out on the grass. It was not hiding in the sand. It was quite dried up. She and her brother squatted to look at it. So did Poppy. They poked it with a twig, because Poppy said that the toad could not feel bad about anything anymore.
She asked, “What’s the matter with it, Poppy?”
“It’s dead, sweetie.”
“Yeah. Why is it dead?”
“Well, maybe it got sick. All animals die somehow. We should leave it here so the birds can clean it up.”
“Gucky,” said her brother. This is his term for all birds, a combination I suppose of “chicken” and “ducky.”
“Why do all animals die, Poppy?”
“Well, either they have an accident and get hurt so badly that they cannot heal, or they get hunted by a bigger animal, or something like that. Or they get very sick. But even if those things don’t happen, as time goes on their bodies don’t work so well anymore, and then eventually they stop working at all. That’s when they die.”
“Yeah.” She thought for a moment. “I think my body is working OK.”
“Oh yes. Your body is working perfectly. It will be a long, long time before anything in your body is not working right. So long you can’t even think of how long it will be.”
“Yeah.” She thought for a moment. “But I will die someday.”
“Yes. We all die. But it will be many, many years before you die.”
“Yeah.” She thought for a moment. “When I die, I think I will come to life again.”
“Yes. When you have died, then you will come to life in a new body, just like the one you have now, but better in every way. And then you will never die again, and your body will always work perfectly.”
“Yeah.” Again she thought for a moment. “Why will I come to life again, Poppy?”
“Well, think about it. Why do you wake up in the morning?”
“I don’t know. Silly Poppy.”
“No, I mean it. Why do you wake up, when you might not? Why are you still awake right now?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“I don’t know either. You just are. And so is your brother, and Mummy, and Daddy, and Nana. We keep waking up. Not just in the morning, but all the time. Right now, we are waking up from when we first saw that dead toad a minute ago. Every minute that we are alive, we are waking up.”
“I don’t know! But we are! I don’t know where our waking up comes from. But it keeps happening. I think it comes from God.”
“Well … why not? If God can make us wake up all the time, so that we can run around on the grass and have fun, why wouldn’t he?”
“Yeah. So he could make us wake up whenever he wanted to.”
“Right. That’s what I think. God can do anything, right?”
“Yeah. But Poppy, what about the toad’s body?”
“You mean, the toad’s body is here on the lawn, and the toad is alive somewhere else?”
“Yeah. If the toad wakes up, what about this body right here?”
“The toad has moved on. This body right here is where the toad used to be. Right now he has a different body, and that body is where he is right now. It’s like when we were over there on the other lawn. Back then, you had the body you had back then, and back there. But now you have the body you have right now, right here. The bodies are different, even though they are both yours.”
“Look over at that lawn. Do you see the body of you when you were on that lawn?”
“So it’s gone now, right?”
“But it was really there, right?”
“Sure. So that’s what it will be like when I die.”
“Yes. You will just wake up in a different place, with a different body, that is still your own body.”
“I’m scared, Poppy.”
“What are you scared of, sweetie?”
“I’m scared of that place.”
“I am, too. But I’m also really excited to see it. Do you know what I think?”
“I think that that place will be in God. And do you know why I think that?”
“Because God is everywhere, and makes all places, and he is sort of the place where all places happen.”
“Yeah. So when I wake up in that place after I die, I will be with God.”
“Yes. There’s no other way to be, except with God. So you will be safe. Even safer than you are with me; even safer than you are with your Daddy and Mummy.”
“Yeah. I guess.”
“It’s hard to understand it. So it’s scary to think about, just because we don’t understand.”
“Yeah. Will you be there, Poppy?”
“Oh, gosh. I guess so. God would probably want me to be there with you, so that you felt safe.”
“What is that place like, Poppy?”
“Well, it must be like this place, but much nicer.”
“Well, we couldn’t be ourselves unless we … well, unless we had bodies like we do now, right? And bodies would be sort of silly if there were no lawns, or grass, or trees, or mountains.”
“Right. If I didn’t have hands and feet and stuff, I wouldn’t be me, very much.”
“And if there was no place to run, my body would be no good.”
“Yes. So we’d have to have bodies in that place, right?”
“Yeah. And they would work OK.”
“Oh, yes. They would have to work very well. Because, they would be the bodies God wanted for us, that would never need to get hurt or die.”
“Yeah. So when I die, I will wake up again and never die.”
“Yes. If you want to. But only if you want to.”
“But why would it be nicer than this?”
“Well, in this place, we die. But in that place, we don’t need to die, ever again. We don’t ever have to say goodbye, or feel sad, because there, everything is all together. In that place, you could sit on my lap and feel all cozy whenever you wanted, even if you were all grown up like Aunt Lisi. So, that’s nicer.”
She looked at the dead toad. Then, she jumped up and began to run around the lawn in big circles. Her little brother did his best to keep up, by running in smaller circles. “Chase us, Poppy!”
So Poppy chased them, and they all laughed and laughed. They did that for quite a while. Poppy never seemed to be able to catch either of the children, although he often came very close.
After that, they went inside and ate some cheese and crackers, and Poppy told them a story. His little grandson pointed out that there were birds in the story. “Gucky,” he said.
I look back at the lawn where my grandchildren were standing a moment ago, and I don’t see their bodies there. Their bodies are now here. Their bodies that were there on that lawn at a past moment in its life are now gone from it in this moment. They are in a different universe, that did not include this present moment of that lawn, in which we now stand where we now stand. That I cannot see them over there now does not mean that they were not there then. That they were over there then does not mean that they are not here now.
So is it with respect to our past; so likewise is it with respect to our future. We cannot now see the great green and pleasant lawn where our future bodies will be. That does not mean they will not be there.