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"What happens when I die?" A mother's answer to a dying child's question.


Editor's note: "If anything happens to me, Mom, ask Ray to do the service," 18year-old AIDS victim Ryan White said when he was admitted to an Indianapolis hospital for the last time before his death.

Ray," in this case, is the Rev. Dr. Ray Probasco, the youthful pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Pendleton, Indiana. The two had become goodfriends several years earlier when Probasco served as associate minister at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Kokomo, then attended by Ryan; his mother, Jeanne; and his sister, Andrea. Ryan had agreed to visit Dr. Probasco's church in late April to talk with the congregation about what the Christian community can do in support of AIDS victims.

It was a date Ryan could not keep.

In the eulogy, Dr. Probasco included a favorite story about how one mother explained death to her young son, a story Dr. Probasco has found particularly comforting to families who have lost children to terminal illnesses.

There's a story told about a mother and her young son. He was different from most young boys his age; you see, he had a terminal illness, and now all he could do was sit and watch as other children his age were able to go outside, laugh, and run and play.

One day he and his mother were reading a story about Sir Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table. As they read the story the subject of death was brought up, and the little boy stopped his mother right there and asked, "Mom, what's it like to die?"

Suddenly, the tears welled up in her eyes and she quickly hurried from the room, for she didn't want her young son to see her cry. She raced to the kitchen and leaned heavily against the cool refrigerator door and whispered a prayer to God: "Oh, please, Lord, help me."

She knew that the question was vital to her young son's faith and it had to be answered truthfully and now. In an instant, she had her answer and went in and sat by her son. She said, "Remember how when you were younger, you would go outside and play all day with the other children?" Yes," he said.

"And remember how when you came in, sometimes you would run to Mom and Dad's room, and there fall asleep on our bed, and in the morning you would wake up in your own room and you didn't know how you got there? Your dad with his big strong arms, after you had fallen off to sleep, would take you and put you in your room. Dying, sweetheart, is just like that. You fall asleep, and your heavenly Father, with His big strong arms, comes and takes you to your heavenly home."

Ryan White fell asleep and woke up in his heavenly home on Palm Sunday, April 8, 1990. A
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Title Annotation:eulogy for AIDS victim
Author:Probasco, Ray
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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