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Helping Children Face Death

One of the most important experiences for a child to face is the death of someone close to them. When a mother died, one of her young children was apprehensive about attending the funeral service because of the presence of the coffin. This story (based on 2 Corinthians 5:1-18) was written to help her to face this experience. The five tents in the story represent the father, mother and their three children. The story has been used to help many other children (and adults) to cope with bereavement, and it has also been used by a children’s nurse to prepare terminally ill children for heaven.

The Journey

They had been travelling together for some time – a little group on a special journey. They each had a tent in which to live – and their tents were of different shapes and sizes – each having its own unique character and individual beauty. Each day the group pitched their tents a little nearer to their destination – a place they could not see – but which was going to hold for them more than all the experiences of the journey put together.

The group had begun with two people – or perhaps I should say three – since when they had lived on their own in the open countryside, the two, at different times, had met the Master of the Journey. He had pointed them in the direction of a destination, and from the day of this meeting he went with each of them on the journey. When on the way these two met each other, they decided to pitch their tents together. Three more soon joined their group and from then on their five tents were pitched side by side.

A time came when the tent of one of the first two began to be a problem for her and the journey became difficult. Some work was done to try to mend her tent but there was little improvement, and the fabric of the tent seemed to be wearing out. The others in the group talked to the Master of the Journey about the situation. They knew that he was able to restore worn out tents and that he loved them all very much. The Master knew that it was best for the group not to tell them all his plans at once, so they continued their journey with him, wondering what the future would hold. As time passed the failing tent became more and more difficult to live in, and the one who lived there needed a new living-place free from the suffering of the tent. It was not that she minded the journey – in fact she loved travelling with the rest of the group – but she knew that what awaited them at the end of the journey was something to look forward to very much.

One morning, something very special happened. The one whose tent had now got to the point when it was becoming impossible to live in, looked out – and saw that instead of being on open ground (as the tent had been throughout the journey) it was inside a magnificent house. The room was set out in a way that perfectly suited her and she felt very much at home. From inside the tent she saw standing in the room her greatest friend – the Master of the Journey. She could now see him in a way she never had before. She realised that now inside the house she did not need the tent any longer. The Master of the Journey reached out his hand to her and she went quietly from the tent into her own room in the Master’s home. What joy to be there with him!

The one whose tent had been pitched next to hers since they joined together did not see the room, or the house, or the Master. These are all invisible to those who are still on the journey. All that was there to be seen was that the tent was now empty and that the one whose tent it had been was no longer there. The group knew where she had gone – her journey was over – she had arrived at the Master’s home. With her own special room there she had no more need of the tent.

It was difficult for the group to know how to think about the tent now. In one way it was very special as it had been the tent in which the one they loved had always lived. Yet the tent was not the person – and now that she was no longer visible to them, the tent was only worn out fabric which was no longer needed. The tent was carefully packed away; and the group along with many friends who were also heading for the same destination as they were, got together to say, ‘Thank you’ to the Master of the Journey for giving them such a lovely person and to rejoice together that the Master of the Journey loved them all so much and that he was guiding them all towards the enjoyment of his home.

The little group then continued their journey together. It was strange for them as they moved on with their tents no longer to have beside theirs the tent of the one who meant so much to them. But in some ways it was as if she was with them as she had always been, because there was much that was lovely in each of them, and in the life of their group, which came from the love she had given each of them and the special way she had cared for them all.

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