Grandpa's cane stumped slowly on the sidewalk as he strolled with Joanna on a sunny October day.
Joanna ran ahead, then back again. She stopped beside a tree where red, orange, and gold leaves had been piled by the wind. Taking handfuls, she threw them in the air, twirling with her head up, watching them as they fell through the pale sunshine.
"Look at this red leaf, Grandpa!" she called, running up with it in her hand. "Isn't it beautiful?"
"Yes," Grandpa stopped, switched his cane to his left hand, and took it from Joanna. "It is!"
"What makes the leaves so pretty now, Grandpa?"
Joanna asked. "They were only green in the summer. Does the cold weather make them red?"
"Partly," Grandpa said. "Scientists tell us that cold weather makes the sap stop rising into the fibers of the trees. Then, the trees stop making chlorophyll, the part of plants that makes them green. As the chlorophyll dies away, the other colors that were already in the leaves begin to shine out. Some trees and shrubs have more red than others, so that accounts for the different autumn colors in their leaves."
"Oh," Joanna said, twirling her red leaf by its stem. "Does that mean that the leaves are dying?"
"Yes, but they cling to the tree until their life is gone," Grandpa said as he glanced up at the wispy clouds. "The beauty of fall leaves is kind of like Grandma; they shine brightly while they are dying. Not all death is ugly, Joanna."
Not all death is ugly.
Tears pricked in Joanna's eyes. "I really miss her, Grandpa," she said.
"Yes, I do, too," Grandpa said, with a little sigh. "But, she always had a smile, even in her last days when she was so weak. Grandma's love for God and for her family shone through her eyes, even when she felt too weak to talk."
"Why do people and things have to die?" Joanna asked.
"I wanted Grandma to always be here!"
"Yes, I did, too," Grandpa said. He wiped a tear from his cheek with a knotted and callused finger. Joanna took Grandpa's hand and walked beside him.
"Our minister says that God is always with us, so He didn't need to take Grandma away, did He? We could have had her for a long time yet--and God could have had her, too, ‘cause He's here!"
"Yes, that's true," Grandpa said, "but Grandma was very sick before she died. You wouldn't have wanted her to keep on being sick, would you, just so you could have her forever?"
"Our bodies don't last forever, Joanna," Grandpa interrupted, "just like the leaves.
Sin brought death into the world. The Bible says that each of us has an appointed time to die" (Hebrews 9:27).
"But, it isn't when we die that is important; it is how we die. If we have Jesus as our Savior, our death is precious to God (Psalm 116:15) and to those we leave behind. He takes us to live with Him forever. We leave a beautiful earthly life and go on to an even more beautiful life in heaven with God."
"I really miss her though," Joanna said, leaning her head against Grandpa's arm.
"I do, too. Let's take your red leaf home and let it remind us of the beautiful example your Grandma was to us," Grandpa said.
"Okay," Joanna said, cheering up. "I could even frame my red leaf!"
Grandpa smiled, nodded his head, and they turned to go back home.