Rite of passage: A time to weep - Baptist Messenger of Oklahoma

Cohen and Titus

We had a meltdown recently in the Moore family—not in our home but in the home of our grandsons, Titus the Honorable and Cohen the Goodhearted. It seems that when Titus got home from school one day last week, he discovered that his longtime pet, a Siamese fighting fish, had died.

Titus has taken good care of this fish, feeding it and changing the water. I am not sure what the average lifespan is for a fish like this, but “Gobee,” as Titus had named him, died. I don’t know the exact cause of death, but as far as I can figure out, it either died of natural or unnatural causes; I am not sure which. Titus thinks this is his first pet to die, but what we haven’t told him is that his original Gobee died, and his dad went out and bought a replacement before he found out. So in reality, Gobee II has now died.

As the boys went to bed that night, Titus’ dad had a talk with them about life and death. During their conversation before prayer time, Titus’ little heart unleashed the pain he had stored up, and he sobbed with real agony over losing his friend and pet.

Across the room, 3 1/2-year-old old Cohen was sitting on his bed when he began sobbing along with Titus, not for the fish, but for his long-lost turtle. Through his sobs, he recalled to his dad that “Skippy” (we almost couldn’t understand his turtle’s name as Cohen was sobbing so hard) was the best friend he ever had. Cohen went on to recount the many adventures he and that little turtle had shared together. His turtle brought him great joy, and now, his turtle had died. The more he reflected on the memories of this turtle, the deeper the sobs became, accompanied with red eyes and a runny nose. That night, the Moore home was a place of great sadness.

The reality of death is one of the toughest lessons for the human mind to grasp. Many times, it comes when least expected; it comes harder than expected, and we have very little with which to comfort ourselves outside of the claims of Christ. We know this life is going to end for all of us sooner or later, but when it happens, we are caught off-guard. Titus, at 6 years of age, has already experienced this twice: once with his great-grandmother and now with his beloved pet, Gobee.

I wish I could tell him there won’t be many more losses, but I know that is not true. As I get older, I am experiencing the sting of death more frequently. The waves of friends’ deaths are coming faster and faster, and I know soon, people will say, “Have you heard about Walker?” I am so glad that Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:4). Because of what He has done and my faith in Him, the blows of death have been softened.

Being a minister of the Gospel, I have tried to console couples who have lost a child at birth; I have stood beside parents who lost a teenager in an accident, and I have ministered to those who have lost a loved one in a nursing home. I have stood there, feeling hopeless and inadequate in bringing any explanation for their loss.

All I know is to weep like Jesus did when his good friend Lazarus died: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

And so, we had two little Moore boys, both sobbing their hearts out over a lost pet. There was only one problem: Cohen has never owned a pet turtle; he has never had a pet turtle named Skippy; he has never had a turtle that was his playmate; and he never has had a pet turtle that died.  Titus was crying over a real loss, and Cohen? We are not sure what Cohen was crying about. We are still scratching our heads over his imaginary turtle. If you had been there, you would have been convinced that Cohen had spent the best part of his life romping through the playground with a real turtle.

Even though we mourned with Cohen, we did find the situation somewhat humorous; he is just 3 1/2 years old. What matters to him matters to his family, but I have to let you know that I can’t help laughing about him crying over an imaginary turtle.

In any case, Scripture does tell us that life contains sad times and happy times, “a time to weep and a time to laugh” (Eccl. 3:4a).