Death is a big topic. Yet, as big as it is, we rarely talk about it.
Only when death catches up with us in one form or another, do we cover the basics. And always, it’s a race to get away from the topic again. Why?
I think most of us relate to death as a ceiling, the lid over our lives, and we’re looking at it from the ground up. It looms large over our heads, it is inevitable, and noticing this presence weighs so heavy upon us that we prefer to avoid it altogether. Like Chicken Little, most of us move about in relative safety and comfort until this ceiling crashes down.
But are you, like me, one of those people who can’t help but wonder what lies beyond that ceiling?
When I was a young child, I used to worry about death. When I was around ten, there was a poem hung on the bathroom wall that said, “Never leave without a greeting, never leave without a kiss, he who goes to meet his fate, doesn’t know whom he will miss.”
That poem was meant as an inspiration to live life to the fullest. But in my child’s mind, it fueled an irrational fear of death—a black hole that gobbles people up. I didn’t like worrying about this black hole, but I couldn’t get satisfactory insight or answers to help me out of my worries. I grew up with my family’s religion to guide me, but I found no practical understanding there for my young mind.
As I grew older, I learned to deal with death’s inevitability. But my real breakthrough came when I discovered there were firsthand accounts from people who had experienced death and found it is not the end of our lives.
One such account is the story of my friend, Dannion Brinkley. He wrote a book about his near-death experience (NDE), called Saved by the Light. That book became an international bestseller. It’s a riveting story that shows how we, like energy, are not destroyed by death. Rather, we change over to a different state of living, one of light, love, and consciousness.
While Dannion was the first person to give me this new perspective, he is not the only person who has died and returned with a story that proves we live on. In fact, I have seen estimates that say 1 in 25 Americans have had some form of a near-death experience. Experts are studying these stories, and they’re finding that, while they’re unique to the individual, they have certain common truths. In other words, there are steps in the death experience that we can count on, independent of cultural or religious background. We are beginning to get a scientific glimpse into what we can expect to happen when we die!
There are, by now, many books out on the subject. But I noticed there were no books out there for children that share these truths. When I think of what a relief it was for me to find empirical evidence that life goes on after death, having worried for so many years as a child, I can only imagine how powerful it will be for us to make death a safe discussion topic for our children.
I now have grandchildren of my own, and I still feel it is a most important piece of the puzzle to give to our children as they grow and learn to face our world—death is not the end. It’s a doorway. And it’s nothing to be afraid of. While we all eventually need to leave behind our physical body and possessions, we do not actually lose whom or what we love.
Surprisingly, the biggest benefit to our children in understanding that life goes on, is not that they’ll be unafraid to face it when that time comes—after all, for most of them that day is decades away. The best part is that they’ll be better equipped to face today. I’ve seen it take away that “ceiling” feeling when children understand that death is not the end.
When children pop their heads through this looming ceiling, so to speak, they seem able to form a natural bridge between the here and the hereafter. This bridge allows their natural curiosity to take over, removing a lot of the internal limitations that we as grown-ups still obey. That curiosity allows for a deeper, ongoing connection with life as we live it here and now. It keeps them open to the spiritual magic that’s woven into all the mysteries of physical life on our beautiful planet. Sensing the freedom that lies beyond our physical limitations also counteracts the existential dread that has gripped so many kids’ hearts because of the chaos in our world today.
As you will hear from anyone who has had an experience on the other side, the life force from the spiritual realm brings hope, renewal, and joy. The inspiration for new ideas and the resilience to bounce back in hard times reside there. If children connect to this force, simply by breaking through that ceiling and lifting that imaginary lid off their heads, their childhood intuitive faculties that are so natural at this age will not wither or calcify as they develop their rational minds. And that flexibility will give them a real advantage when life gets hard.
Marie Antoinette Kelley is an award-winning artist who has done hundreds of commissioned portraits, as well as the art for the Angel Quest Oracle. She has appeared on dozens of TV, radio, and podcast shows, and has been published in such magazines as Edge and Authority. In 2019, her bison portrait in the form of woven blankets began selling throughout Yellowstone National Park’s general stores. Her most recent children’s book Danny’s Day in Heaven is available now online and in stores. To find out more about Marie Antoinette Kelley and her artwork, visit her website at makfineart.com.