Playing Dead

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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My kids have been dead for the last three minutes, and off and on for the last ten. I just checked them to be sure. They were where I’d last seen them—splayed out on the living room floor and framed by rays of sunshine that poured through the windows. I stepped over them. They didn’t move. Even put a foot in front of their noses. Nothing.

They’re good at this.

By the way the living room has been demolished, it must have been an epic battle. Lightsabers and laser pistols litter the floor. The overturned ottoman seems to have been where the last stand was made. My son is there, pistol still in hand. My daughter is near the door. She’s doing her best to be lifeless, but I can see her lungs heaving.

“Who won?” I ask them.

“We both did,” my daughter says, and I am not surprised. At eight and six, they believe there are never any losers during playtime. The winning comes in the playing itself.

“I died good, Daddy,” my son says below me. He keeps one eye closed to stay in character and opens the other to make sure I heard him.

“What’s it mean to die good?” I ask him.

“I was a hero,” he says.

“Me, too,” says my daughter. “We both were.”

I tell them that since they’re both dead—heroically dead—and since they loved Jesus when they died, they were now in heaven. And since heaven was most likely a very ordered and neatly kept place, they should probably pick up their toys and straighten the ottoman.

But they weren’t finished playing. There were other missions, they said. Ones that would benefit from the company of a father who didn’t have anything else to do on a lazy weekend afternoon.

“Sorry,” I tell them. “I stopped playing dead about thirty years ago.”

“Why?” my daughter asks.

“I don’t know. I suppose I just grew up.”

My son turns his nose up at that notion. Growing up is something he’s repeatedly sworn he will never do.

“But it’s fun to play dead,” my daughter says, and I tell her that while it may be fun for an eight-year-old, when she gets to be my age death becomes something to be avoided rather than played.

She does have a point, though. I used to play dead all the time when I was their age. I had my share of epic battles and heroic deaths. And there were times when I would lie upon my own childhood living room floor with my eyes closed and wonder, Is this what dying will be like?

Looking back, I can see the morbidity in such a thought. It’s something I would never think nowadays. But children seem to have a firmer grip on death than grownups. It’s as if they consider it a door to walk through rather than a wall to hit. Scary, yes. But just another adventure.

I was like that once.

Now, not so much.

I’ll admit that even though I’m washed in the blood, I still quiver. I want to go to heaven, but I’m fine with being snuggled in my mortal coil. I feel like I have a lot to do yet.

Then again, it’s worth reminding myself that my mortal coil is just that—mortal. Temporary. Whatever purpose I believe holds me to this life cannot usurp the fact I was made for another world. We all are. Earth is just a stop along the way.

“Please, Dad?” my son asks, still with one eye open and the other closed. To sweeten the deal, he adds, “We’ll let you use the lightsaber.”

Maybe the secret to fulfilling my desire to live more wholly isn’t to ignore death, but to be more mindful of it. To understand that every moment, no matter how small, comes our way but once and affects all others proceeding it.

“Deal,” I say.

The battle was pitched and relentless. One man outnumbered two to one in a battle against evil, his purpose clear and his end certain.

There was laughter, there was joy, there were even tears (my son stubbed his toe on the ottoman). And in the end, I died well.

Good practice, I think.

Image by Tim Miller, used with permission via Flickr. Post by Billy Coffey, author of Snow Day: A Novel.