Not Alone

I took Varen, my seven year old son, to see the Lion King movie last Tuesday. I took him there to experience what I experienced when I saw that movie for the first time when I was still in high school. I remember that particular scene (SPOILER ALERT!) when Mufasa (the father of Simba) struggles to save the cub Simba from the large herd of wildebeest that were going to trample on the little cub. Mufasa died in that scene to save Simba. I cried so hard in that particular scene. I thought to myself, it is a very good father-son kind of movie. 

So, there in the darkness of the movie theater we sat down watching this movie. Once in awhile I took a peek at Varen who sat right next to me. There was a scene where Mufasa was well asleep and little impatient Simba woke Mufasa up so that he would play with Simba, “Come on daddy, wake up! Let’s play!” And then Varen pulled my arm and whispered into my ear, “Papi….that’s just like me waking you up…” He smiled. I nodded and returned the smile. And then another scene where Mufasa gave Simba a stern admonishment because Simba disobeyed his dad’s rule to not go to a dangerous place. Again, Varen, whispered into my ear, “He’s just like you, Papi when you’re angry at me!” I brushed his hair with hand. There was so much that I wanted to say during the movie but of course the other movie goers would mind hearing my lecture in the middle of a movie.

The scene that touched me twenty years ago came up. Mufasa fought for dear life for his son, Simba.  When finally he was able to escape from the wildebeest’s stampedes, he was killed by his own brother, Scar. I kept taking a peek to see Varen’s reaction as the whole scene rolled down. Varen was watching it with such an intensity and here I was, trying to figure out what he was thinking. 

After the movie, Varen grabbed my hand and as we walked down to the parking lot, we chatted a bit. “What did you think about the movie, Varen?” 

“That was soooo cool papi! I like the battle scene at the end. It was like the last scene of the Avenger movie.” 

“What did you think about Mufasa when he was trying to save Simba and died?”

“I don’t know…” Varen was indifferent about it. 

I need to tickle his mind now, I thought. “What would you do if Mufasa were me?” 

Varen looked at me and he said, “I am not going to let that happen, papi! And if you die, we will die together.” Varen held tight to my palm as if he didn’t want to lose me. I looked back at him. “But I don’t want you to die.” I teased him. 

“I don’t want you to leave me, papi, and I don’t want to be without you” I smiled and patted his head. 

I didn’t know how Varen got the idea about death. I don’t think he has ever been to a funeral or memorial service before. So, he must have gotten the idea of the grim look of death from the movies he has seen or the conversations with his friends. Wherever he got it, he already knew that death is not a pleasant thing. My seven year old son already has the idea of the pain he would have to endure when he’s no longer be able to see or do the things he always does with those he loves. Perhaps, that’s why he clung to me and said that he would rather “go” together. Or perhaps Varen didn’t even have the slightest idea or understand what he was saying. But still, his words sounded sweet in my ears that he wanted to accompany me to my death. 

Whenever I imagine the inevitable, my greatest fear is the feeling of loneliness like going through a long dark tunnel all by myself without an end. That’s quite a scary thought. Nobody wants to live alone, let alone dying. So the idea of having somebody to walk with you through the darkest tunnel would sound like a great idea. 

Henri Nouwen, one of the great spiritual teachers, had the same sentiment. He writes in his book “The Inner Voice of Love”: 

“…maybe the death you fear is not simply the death at the end of your present life. Maybe the death at the end of your life won’t be so fearful if you can die well now. Yes, the real death –the passage from time into eternity, from the transient beauty of this world to the lasting beauty of the next, from darkness into light–has to be made now. And you do not have to make it alone. God has sent people to be very close to you as you gradually let go of the world that holds you captive. You must trust fully in their love. Then you will never feel completely alone. Even though no one can do it for you, you can make the lonely passage in the knowledge that you are surrounded by a safe love and that those who let you move away from them will be there to welcome you on the other side. The more you trust in the love of those God has sent to you, the more you will be able to lose your life and so gain it.”

At this moment of my life, I am grateful that God has been so gracious to me that He gave me people who love me. In their love I am able to grow deeper in faith and learn the lessons of life that often times don’t come easy. These people have given me assurance that if in this life they won’t leave me alone, then when the time comes for me to face the ultimate reality of this broken life, they would also be the ones who accompany me with their spirits. I believe that death can be the scariest thing we must face one day. But as long as we are surrounded with this great love, why should I be afraid? As I realized this, what Varen said to me after the movie became sweeter in my heart and that was enough for me to face this life and the life after with courage and confidence knowing that my son loves me so 🙂 

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Love and prayers, 

Vincent Arishvara 08082019