Explaining Death

by Chris Burton

My little ones have seen a lot of it for their ages. At least I think so. I compare it to my time as a chaplain at a K-8 where parents would call frantically “our goldfish died and Johnny doesn’t know yet! Please advise!”

I didn’t have a chaplain to explain that our cousin Cam, who my boys just met for the first time at 4th of July, is gone. We just went to the funeral and tried our best to explain why everyone is sad and why we have hope that we will meet Cam again. I remarked to my wife, “They’re taking this really well. I hope that’s a good thing.”

We relied on this experience when Dat died in January. We were again on the road going to another funeral. The boys, now old enough to remember these sort of things for the rest of their lives, seemed to embody hope for the rest of our mourning family. Something about youth at funerals helps you remember that life goes on.

I remember my Granny Louise dying when I was five or six and being angry because I couldn’t fly to Jamaica again to say goodbye. My grandmother went to bury her mother by herself, as far as I knew, and I wanted to be with my friend. I was really sad because I had just met Granny Louise in the summer of ‘92. I’ll never forget the warmth of her hugs and the smell of her hair. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt safer.

My sons were still awake when the news of Chadwick Boseman arrived. In my stunned state I still wished to shield them, soften the blow of this mortal wound. “The man that plays Black Panther isn’t alive anymore. He was sick and we all didn’t know. He was even sick while he made those movies! We will miss him so much. Let’s watch his movies tomorrow and give thanks for his life.”

So today we will watch Chadwick’s work as T’Challa. We will see him portray James Brown and Jackie Robinson. Thurgood Marshall. At some point I will watch him portray an officer who has the power to shut down all the bridges into Manhattan. I will see him be the living conscious of veterans trying to pick up the pieces.

Watching Chadwick Boseman portray T’Challa in Black Panther is the happiest I have ever felt in a movie theatre. Ever. I am forever grateful. God bless your life.

Source: Instagram @chadwickboseman