Dec '02 [Home]


by Terrence Dunn

(a life and death Q & A in the fourth pew . . . . )

. . .

We assemble today to celebrate the life of Michael Patrick McAfee. All rise.

"Daddy? Can I ask you a question?"
"If you whisper."
"What happens to you when you die?"
"I can't really answer that right now."
"Just a quick answer? A teensy answer."
"You go to heaven. If you're good."
"How good do you have to be?"
"Pretty good."
"Like good all the time or just some of the time?"
"No one's good all the time. You just have to try and be as good as you can, Bri."
"What if you don't try? I mean, like, once. Or maybe a couple of times. What if you're mean to your sister or you tell your teacher a lie? A little lie. But it wasn't really the truth."
"We talking about you, Bri?"
"No! I mean, it was just, I didn't want to get someone in trouble."
"Lean close.…You're going to heaven, but not for a long, long, long time."
"How do you know?"
"Because you're asking me these questions."
"I don't understand."
"You will."

Please be seated and join us in the singing of hymn number 215 in your hymnbooks.

"Daddy, what do you write about?"
"Oh, all kinds of stuff. Whatever I'm thinking about."
"Do you just make it up?"
"Not completely. Everything's partly based on who or what you know."
"Do you ever write about me?"
"Can I read it?"
"Someday, yes."
"At school, they told us about writing a memoir. I think I'm going to. It's what you remember. It helps you remember later, about what happened to you.… Do you remember everything that happened to you?"
"No, but I'll remember this."
"This what?"
"You. Everything you say and do, the way you look, laugh, run, complain and won't stop asking me questions all day long and how much I love you. I'll never forget that."
"Me neither. My memoir's about you."

These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. Please be seated.

"Daddy, do you believe in God?"
"Yes. Sort of."
"How come you don't go to church?"
"Well, Sunday morning's my basketball game and you guys are in Sunday school anyway. I'd probably go if I could sit with you."
"Don't you worry that God will get mad? Do you think you're going to go to hell?"
"No, God's not mad at me, buddy. I don't know why he isn't, I certainly don't deserve good luck, but he's not mad at me."
"How do you know?"
"Because he gave me you."
"Do you think that even when I'm awful and you're yelling at me?'
"Especially then."

Please rise.

"Sweetie, this isn't really a good time."
"Do you remember all the things that happened to you when you were a boy?"
"A lot of them. I remember being your age."
"Were you happy?"
"Most of the time, yeah."
"Sometimes when I'm not happy I feel guilty because I know I'm lucky."
"How do you know that?"
"Because you and Mom keep telling me."
"Do you feel lucky, Brian? Honestly."
"Yes. But I'm not always happy."
"Nobody's happy all the time, Bri."
"When's the saddest you ever were?"
"I was very sad when my grandma died. I miss her. I wish she'd gotten to meet you."
"Mommy was sad when Billy died."
"Yes, she was. She loved that dog."
"Do you always get better when you're sad?"
"Mostly, but things do happen that you never forget. I mean, you can be happy again, but certain things stay with you always.… Are you shivering?"
"It's cold in here."
"Come here. Get under my coat. There. Isn't that cozy?"
"Yeah, I want to stay here forever."

Please rise for the Recessional Hymn.

"Brian? Hey, Brian."
"People were trying to shake your hand, sweetie. You looked like you were in a trance. Do you think you can talk to the people?"
"Are you okay? I know you're not. C'mere. Sad is better together."
"I know."
"Were you talking to yourself?"
"That's okay. He can hear you. Believe that. Are you cold? You're shivering."
"I can't help it. I'm sorry I yelled at you, Mom. Give me your hand?
"There now."
"Yes, love."
"Can I ask you a question?"

(Terrence Dunn was born in New York City and has his law practice here, but lives in Pelham with his wife and family. He is at work on a novel and on several pieces about children.)