A Wonderful Little Parable About Death

Enjoy these excerpts from "Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death To Young Children" by Doris Stickney
Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond.

They did notice that every once in awhile one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

"Look!" said one of the water bugs to another. "One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?"

Up, up, up it slowly went. Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn't return.

"That's funny!" said one water bug to another.

"Wasn't she happy here?" asked a second.

"Where do you suppose she went?" wondered a third.

No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled.

Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. "I have an idea. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why."

"We promise", they said solemnly.

One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk.

Up, up, up, he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broke through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.

When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn't believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings.

The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly!!

Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere.

By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.

The dragonfly remembered the promise: "The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why."

Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water.

"I can't return!" he said in dismay. "At least, I tried. But I can't keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I'll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they'll understand what has happened to me, and where I went."

And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air.
The following is from the same book. It's an excerpt from the author's discussion with a parent, offering support in how to handle a conversation with a child, about the death of their friend. The author offers a potential conversation they might have with a boy named Ned—friend of a boy named Bobby—after witnessing Bobby’s memorial service.
For instance, just imagine our Ned, hearing the story of our waterbugs, asking us that very same question.

“ ‘We don’t really know where Bobby has gone’ is our answer. But you remember in the story of the water bugs down in the pool they asked the very same question of one another.

“ ‘Tell me,’ we might ask Ned in turn, ‘Why couldn’t the dragonfly come back to the water bugs, as he had promised?’

“ ‘Why of course he couldn’t come back. He couldn’t!’ I’m sure Ned would say. ‘You know that. He had another kind of body. His wings were meant to fly in the air.’

“Then we would ask ‘What did the dragonfly say when he realized he couldn’t get back?'—wondering if Ned had caught the important words.

“ ‘I’ll have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what happened to me and where I went.’ Ned might repeat, remembering the end of the story.

“Don’t we as parents have a priceless opportunity to witness our faith?” I asked. The fact enters naturally into place, that the change in our bodies that we call death, will come to each of us, sometime. But we believe that then we will learn the secret that the dragonfly discovered: God has a plan for all creatures, more wonderful than we could even imagine.”

No one can predict the reaction of children to a story. The world of imagination is more real to them than the visible one. They surprise us with their clear grasp of that which we would make complex. And with unerring honesty, they see through our flimsy pretenses. “I don’t know” is an honest admission. But “I believe” gives our children confidence in a future to be anticipated and in a Creator whose plan can be trusted.

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