catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 16 :: 2007.09.07 — 2007.09.21


Death in the family

At first I thought my family didn’t have any stories, but then I remembered we did.  I’m just not supposed to repeat them.

It’s not that they’re too adult or anything; it’s that Grandmom thinks we’re (that’d be my brother Andrew and me) not solemn enough about them.  Call us callous, but when you’ve been warned not to pump gas in foreign countries, pick warts off your foot or ride Ferris wheels because some third cousin died doing precisely that (well, maybe the wart thing was a Kennedy), you’d be hard pressed to keep from laughing, too.

You’ll be in a car, just revving up to go when suddenly the bloodcurdling shriek emerges.

Turn off the car!

Convinced a kitten is caught in the vacuum line, you immediately switch off the engine.

“The door!” Grandmom gasps.

“The door?”


Thinking there’d be more cause for concern if it weren’t, you wait.

“The garage door!”

Well, true.  You’d been nanoseconds away from opening it, but the abandon ship call’d gotten in the way.

“Don’t you remember Aunt Amanda?” Grandmom manages.  “We could have been asphyxiated!”

The problem, of course, is that you don’t remember Aunt Amanda.  Or maybe, being the first wife a great-uncle two generations back, you’d managed never to hear of her.  Or maybe you remember Aunt Amanda perfectly and also happen to like hearing Grandmom scream.

Whatever the case, enough of our relatives (and the occasional milkman) met untimely demises by such bizarre yet everyday means as to make doing nearly anything with Grandmom a ticking time bomb.  So, while other families sit blithely by the fireside recounting bygone tales of blessings and woes, ours sputters joltingly on, hoping to reproduce before we accidentally swallow sunscreen—or die of skin cancer, whichever comes first.

It gets annoying sometimes and I suppose a bit morbid, but Andrew and I are usually having so much fun wondering just how you inhale enough yeast to get brain damage (occasionally victims are merely maimed) that we don’t let Grandmom’s glares get in the way of our cookie-baking (Heaven forbid we ever down the raw dough).

But she’s not trying to get in our way or ruin our fun.  She’s sincere—these were her relatives who died falling off ladders and driving tractors and by electrocution—and she loves us and is concerned about us and doesn’t want any of that to happen to us, too, for her sake or ours.  And she’s probably got a point; to descend from such a line, goodness knows our genes must be bad enough.

So she tells us to turn off car engines, to be careful on Ferris wheels and to travel by bicycle (with helmets) in foreign countries.  We roll our eyes as we shift to reverse and head for the rollercoasters and trudge through quicksand in Wales.  And we’ve survived—so far, though maybe only because we’ve got a Grandmom praying awfully hard for her adventuresome recreants.

Maybe Grandmom’s concerns are antiquated; maybe they’re not.  And, much as I hate to admit it, they’re not unlike God’s concern for us—that sometimes God gives us rules and guidelines and commands that we think we can sneeze at.  And yet they’re are always there for a reason—and we can rest in the assurance that God loves us and wants what is best for us and knows exactly what He is doing.

God gives us stories, too—and not all of them have happy endings.  We can see Cain and Samson and Hosea and Stephen and learn from them, regardless of whether they did good or ill.  Their stories aren’t there for us to scoff at, but to teach us, form us and draw us closer to God.  They’re to deliver us from evil, to keep us safe. 

It’s exactly what Grandmom wants for me and Andrew, too—if only she could get me away from that pencil before the lead poisoning sets in.

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