The year I was nine years old, my grandfather died. This was a great mystery to me, and to my parents' credit, they allowed me to go to his funeral in Hiawatha, Kansas with burial in Morrill. I did not understand much about it, but I did know that something very strange and mysterious had happened.
A few months later, Scarlet Bates, our teenage baby sitter, died after complications in open heart surgery. In those days, around 1961, open heart surgery was a considerably greater ordeal than it is now. Everyone was in shock and grief-stricken. I think it was the only time I saw Scarlet's father or my own father cry. My brother and I asked Naomi Shelby, "Why do people have to die?” Since Naomi went to a church where everybody shouted, danced and cried every Sunday we were pretty sure she would know—she knew everything.
She said, “Children, everybody has to die. And dying is so important that Jesus had to do it too.” In the intervening years, I have never heard anyone say it any better.