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Playtime in paradise

Originally Appeared in : 9803-2/1/18

Mass was coming to a close, and Elijah and I had stepped out of the cry room to give everyone else a break from Isaac’s fussiness.

 

On our trip to the narthex we ran into a friend of mine from high school. We shook hands, and before he could tell my boys, “Hi,” Eli leaned on his mother’s former Baptist lineage to share the Good Word of salvation in hopes of securing another soul for the Redeemer.

 

“You know Jesus died on the cross for you,” said Eli, eyes angling steeply toward the opposing of my friend’s, which were set another six feet in the air. “He died so you could go to (not to heaven).”

 

My friend started to belly laugh.

 

“No Eli,” I said, “I think you’ve got it backwards. Jesus died so we could go to heaven.”

 

“Oh,” Eli said with a sly grin. “Sorry. I got confused.”

 

A few moments later, with the recessional complete and parishioners exiting for the evening, I relayed the story to Father Stephen, who also got a rise out of Eli’s accidental mixup.

 

These discussions surrounding 1 Peter 2:24 came about after Magan hung a new crucifix in our living room that I had given to her as a Christmas gift.

 

“Why is Jesus bleeding?” was a common question from Eli and AnnaMarie, and so Magan or myself would explain how he gave his life so we could go to heaven.

 

Of course, this inevitably led their little minds to posing every sort of question concerning eternity like, “Will Sassy (our tortoise shell cat) go to heaven?” or “Is Disney World in heaven?”

 

We tried hard to explain how heaven is a place where we’re happy because we’re with God, but their little brains, still years away from greater discernment, ended up requiring us to say, “You’re never sad in heaven and you get to have fun.”

 

“Eli, God has blood because you go to heaven,” AnnaMarie said over and over anytime they played with the toy kitchen to the right of the crucifix in our dining room.

 

“No Ree-ruh-Lee, he died so you could go to heaven,” Eli would bark back like an old man from his recliner.

 

This continued until one night, just before bedtime prayers at the coffee table, Eli began to cry pitifully from his pallet in the living room floor.

 

“What’s the matter?” I said.

 

“I don’t (mumble mumble mumble, uncontrollable tears),” Eli said.

 

“Calm down,” I said. “Take a deep breath. Now tell me what’s the matter?”

 

“I don’t want to die and go to heaven because you can’t play there,” he finally said coherently.

 

“Oh Jay,” Magan said. “That poor little doll.”

 

“No, Eli,” I said reassuringly, “you get to play in heaven. But you’ve still got a long time before you need to even worry about any of that.”

 

“Jesse,” Magan said, as a head of yellow hair and guilty-looking blue eyes tried to hide under the coffee table, “what did you tell him?”

 

“I just told him that when you die and go to heaven you’re a grown up, so you don’t need toys,” Jesse responded.
 

 

Magan and I explained to Jesse that Eli wasn’t old enough to understand the complexities surrounding eternity. We also urged Jesse to save any more Bible study lessons until both he and Eli were a few years older.
 

 

Magan and I feel truly blessed that even our youngest children seem deeply interested in the mysteries surrounding their Catholic faith, but as we’ve learned it is important to be honest within reason when it comes to explaining everything from the transubstantiation of the Eucharist (“How can God be bread?”) to whether or not our cats, or our chickens for that matter, will join us in paradise.

 

 

We both believe in being truthful to our children when they ask questions, but we make sure to present answers that will ultimately help them grow closer to Christ rather than cause fear and confusion like poor little Eli’s episode.

 

And if it makes Eli feel any better, Christ made it clear that “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 18:3). So, who knows, there might just be Hot Wheels, tricycles and Barbies waiting for all of us in heaven.

 

Jason Halcombe has five sons and a daughter. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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