I pity anyone who has not experienced J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. vivid memories of cassette tapes of the books on audio, every film adaptation, and the more recent Finding Neverland, not to mention Little Sis’ explosion of memorabilia on her half of our room haunt my childhood and teenhood. the adventures of a childish boy and a bratlike fairy in search of a mother enchant me to this day. there’s a desperation about childhood, cloaked in happiness, that will forever be fascinating.
I’ve known for a while, and hopefully you know as well, that somewhere along the way, in every good children’s book, a truth will stare up at you like a diamond in a jewel store. shining, glimmering, splendid. and here it comes: in the middle of a lagoon, surrounded by mermaids, you, Peter, and I are faced with death.
“The rock was very small now; soon it would be submerged. Pale rays of light tiptoed across the waters; and by and by there was to be heard a sound at once the most musical and the most melancholy in the world: the mermaids calling to the moon. Peter was not quite like other boys; but he was afraid at last. A tremor ran through him, like a shudder passing over the sea; but on the sea one shudder follows another till there are hundreds of them, and Peter felt just the one. Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him. It was saying, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.” (Barrie, J.M., Peter Pan and Wendy, chapter 8)
“To die will be an awfully big adventure.” -Peter Pan
there. I find it fascinating, the fear that you find in grown-ups, is lacking in the children. call them naive. inexperienced. but I think maybe it’s true bravery. (or maybe I’m overthinking since I wake up to Little Sis’ wall art with this quote every day…) in the face of death, or the deaths of others, often I think of this and wish I could have a little of Peter’s reckless courage in my stuttering heart.
this morning on the car ride to Bullfrog’s therapy, I was given news of a family friend who just found out her cancer is strangling her to death for the second time. and this time won’t have a happy ending. there’s no immediate response to that, I don’t think, except for imprinted shock on your face. it’s not fair, you say. it’s not right, you say. she has 4 little ones who will barely remember their sweet mama’s face, you say. believe me, that’s what I said too. the ache in my heart still grows as I write this because nothing on the face of this green earth will make the situation any more okay. this situation is the manifestation of broken. and there is nothing we can do, but pray. and maybe inject ourselves with a little Peter.
but wait. you, me, and Sweet Mama have something Peter didn’t. guarantee of a happy ending. in fact, guarantee of the happiest of endings. once you said your god acceptance, been dipped in the water to finish your redemption, lived your life in blessed accordance, isn’t that what we can look forward to? all Peter had was… a void, I suppose. in the midst of this tumor ridden hurt, we can look into the blazing afterlife future of the very opposite of a void. and isn’t that terrifyingly thrilling? in the worst and best of ways?
so, Sweet Mama, you know your time is all too short. I hold your hand and I mourn with you, with the teary overflow of my breaking heart. but I also hold your hand, smile, and laugh through the tears with you because oh. what are you going to do in the face of this new awfully big adventure? it’s scary and devastating and how I want to hold you tight and breathe the okayness of it all when I know it’s not okay. but look with me over yonder. do you see it? the shadow of Jesus — he’s waiting. in the midst of all this shattered broken, maybe that’s what gives a little okay. even more than a little okay — a perfect okay. just over that hill waits the biggest adventure of your life.
today, Sweet Mama, I’m slipping prayer beads for your bravery. for your children’s and your husband’s and your friends’ bravery. we’re going to need every ounce we can get to not be keeled over here. you have it in you, underneath all the broken, and I pray to heaven that it prevails. I pray that despair won’t win and that in these last beautiful days that joy, blessed joy, will carve it’s way into every line of your face. you’re worth that, Sweet Mama, and somewhere in there, you know what? there’s a little bit of childish Peter you that never grew up. there’s a little bit of you in there that’s not afraid. because you, like Peter, know that, yes. dying is an awfully big adventure; the biggest of them all.
lord, have mercy. give us faith. give us bravery. and give us a little dose of Peter.
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-8