Democracy of the Dead – Catherine Marshall

G.K. Chesterton once said that “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”  

To honor that sentiment and to stave off an easy chronological snobbery, today’s post comes straight from the mouths (or pens) of men and women who have died in the faith.

From Catherine Marshall’s BEYOND OUR SELVES 

“…during Kenneth’s long illness, I had so many examples of God’s tender father-love.  Like that time soon after Kenneth himself suspected that he was going to die and asked me ‘Mother, what is it like to die?  Mother, does it hurt?’

Cross by George Wharton JamesEven as Mrs. Mac repeated the questions, tears sprang to my eyes.  “How – did you answer him?”

The white-haired woman seemed to be seeing into the past.  “I remember that I fled to the kitchen, supposedly to attend to something on the stove.  I leaned against the kitchen cabinet.  Queer, I’ll never forget certain tiny details, like the feel of my knuckles pressed hard against the smooth, cold surface.  And I asked God how to answer my boy.

“God did tell me.  Only He could have given me the answer to the hardest question that a mother an ever be asked.  I knew – just knew how to explain death to him.  ‘Kenneth,’ I remember saying, ‘you know how when you were a tiny boy, you used to play so hard all day that when night came, you would be too tired to undress – so you would tumble into Mother’s bed and fall asleep?’

“’That was not your bed.  It was not where you belonged.  And you would only stay there a little while.  In the morning – to your surprise – you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room.  You were there because someone had loved you and had taken care of you.  Your father had come – with his great strong arms – and carried you away.

“So I told Kenneth that death is like that.  We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in another room – our own room, where we belong.  We shall be there, because God loves us even more than our human fathers and takes care of us just as tenderly.”

We were both silent for a moment.  Then Mrs. Mac said softly, “Kenneth never had any fear of dying after that.  If – for some reason that I still don’t understand – he could not be healed, then this taking away of all fear was the next greatest gift God could give us.  And in the end, Kenneth went on into the next life exactly as God has told me he would – gently, sweetly.”  There was the look of profound peace on my friend’s face as she spoke.


Thank you for visiting. I am a fellow pilgrim, a lover of words, one whose heart had been struck by the Word of the living God. I love him. I trust that his perfect love for me is daily triumphing over my fears: fear of the unknown, fear of all the ugly scars of pain and grief, fear of death and dying, and I look to him to defeat the plague of fear and replace it with newness of life.

My words, prayers and reflections here are offerings of courage, a discipline that helps me take heart and strengthens my will to choose the good. I offer them to you in the hopes that together we might give each courage along the way.

May the Lord ever satisfy you with his Word.