“Do I have to go?” Billy hated everything about today, and it was only 9 am. The house was a zoo, filled with people he did not know. Billy hated the dark suit his mother made him wear. The tight black dress shoes he normally wore on Sundays made his feet ache. “But, mom! It’s Saturday. All my friends will be at the park before we get home!” Billy jumped in surprise when his mother burst into the bathroom. Pain and anger filled her face.
“Young man, if I hear you complain one more time you’ll be going with a sore butt!” His mother turned him, so he faced the bathroom mirror on the wall and grabbed a hairbrush. The bristles yanked and pulled at the twisted black locks in Billy’s hair.
“Ouch! Mom, that hurts!” Billy could see tears forming on his mother’s olive cheeks. He knew they were not for him.
“Maybe if you would obey me, you would have more hair!” Although the tone was threatening Billy could feel her strokes lighten and flow more smoothly. He did not understand her anger. Everybody’s reaction confused him. Sure, he felt a little sad, but everybody dies. Why should he care so much? He would never be that old. Why was he being forced to think about it now?
“Mom, why do people die when they’re old?”
His mother stopped organizing his mop of hair and put the brush on the counter. She bent down and put her arms around Billy. He never understood why, but he always felt safe when she did. He could smell the perfume she would wear when they were going somewhere as a family. She had on a black dress he had never seen, but he thought it looked cute on her. His mother’s thick black hair flowed down over her shoulders and brushed across his face. Billy buried his face inside. This was their safe place in the world.
He heard his mom quietly whimper, and felt a tear roll down her soft cheek and touch his face. “Billy, I wish we knew why people die. The church teaches it’s because of Adam and Eve’s sin. When Jesus came here, he promised to return and put an end to death. All of us wish He would hurry up if He really is planning on coming back.”
His uncle poked his head in the bathroom. “We need to go soon, Susie.”
Susie raised her tear-filled eyes to her brother. “In a minute Hank. This is important.” Hank nodded and disappeared.
Susie held her son tight. “Many of us believe that death is a transition. The Grandpa that you knew, the man you talked to, was a soul made by God. I believe he is now with God and Jesus.”
“Is there anybody else with them?”
Susie smiled. “Oh yes! Your grandmother, your Uncle Dave, all of Grandpa’s siblings, a lot of people. Even some of his friends we don’t know about.”
“That sounds good, mom. It sounds like he is gonna have the best Christmas ever.”
Susie pushed her son back and turned him to her. “I suppose they are.”
Billy’s innocent smiling face brought a glimmer of light to Susie’s empty heart. After a moment, he looked at her confused. “Then why is everybody so sad?”
Susie’s dark eyes began to pool up again. “Because we miss the people we love. Especially for special occasions. We aren’t crying because something bad has happened to them. We’re crying because we feel lonely without them. We won’t get to see them again while we’re alive.”
Billy hugged his mom tight. “I’m here, mom. I won’t leave.”
“I hope we’re always as close as we are now.” Susie started to cry.
Billy laid the side of his head on his mom’s shoulder. “We should probably go, mom. We don’t want grandpa to be late meeting grandma. You know how that used to make her mad.”
Susie laughed between her tears. “You’re right. Let’s get going.”
Susie grabbed a couple of tissues and cleaned up her face. Billy held her hand, and they walked out into the room filled with mourners, ready to send off her father to better times.