By Mark Davis Pickup
A new movie is coming to a theatre near you: Goodbye Christopher Robin. The trailers are quite exciting. Winnie the Pooh has been loved by millions of children. Pooh bear and his assorted friends had a tender place in the early years of my grandchildren, as, I'm sure, Winnie was/is for the children in your life. The trailer for Goodbye Christopher Robin reminded me of a column I wrote over a decade ago for a Catholic newspaper.
It was at a time of mixed emotions for me: A granddaughter had just been born at the same hospital as my aged mother was receiving treatment for terminal cancer. I remember travelling up and down the elevator, maternity ward to palliative care, thinking how peculiar it was to have s sorrow and joy in my heart at the same time.
I also had a small grandson. He lived in the same small town as his grandmother and me. He and I rode miles around town in my electric wheelchair to various playgrounds dotted throughout the community; in winter I pulled him on a sleigh. I saw my little guy nearly every day. His world was our small town and our family (it was my world too).
In the winter of 2006, my daughter and son-in-law told me they were going to move away from our little town come summer. Between my mother dying and knowing about the move, it was a sad time. We would soon be me.
One day in the spring, my little grandson and I were watching Disney’s children’s movie Pooh’s Grand Adventure (1997). It starts on the last day of summer with Christopher Robin trying to break the sad news to Winnie the Pooh that he must go away to boarding school:
CR: Pooh Bear, what if, someday, there came a tomorrow when we were apart?
PB: As long as we’re apart together, we shall certainly be fine.
CR: Yes, yes, of course, but if we weren’t together. If I were . . . somewhere else?
PB: Well, you really couldn’t be, because I would be lost without you. Who would I call on those days when I’m just not strong enough, or, or brave enough.
CR: Well, actually . . .
PB: And, who would I ask for advice when I didn’t know which way to turn?
CR: Pooh, we . . .
PB: We! We simply wouldn’t be.
The scene stabbed me in the heart as my little guy sat eating popcorn, oblivious to changes in store for him. In the touching exchange above, Winnie the Pooh is asked by Christopher Robin to consider the possibility of them being separated. It’s unthinkable to Pooh, and Christopher Robin cannot muster the courage to say he’s is leaving for boarding school. But the unthinkable happens. The next morning Pooh discovers that Christopher Robin really is “somewhere else.” And so a brokenhearted Pooh Bear embarks upon a misguided but grand adventure to find his best friend.
Separation by distance or time
As for me, I couldn't bring myself to tell my grandson that soon we would be separated from the daily intimacy we had known. A tomorrow was about to come when we would be apart. Same for my mother. She died the same day my grandson moved away.
It is terrible to think about being separated from those we love. Yet, it is a heartbreaking prospect we all shall face at some time or another. The sadness of separation will surely visit you and me. It may be the result of events or time or distance or death. But eventually, we will all feel an inconsolable ache of being separated from human relationships that matter most to us.
Painful separation by death
To be widowed or orphaned is a terrible thing. To be suddenly left alone in the midst of life’s journey can cause such sorrow that the griever may be convinced their heart is irreparably damaged and about to break in two. They wake each morning to the dreadful reality that he or she really is gone. The gaping hole left by the loss of a loved one seems too great to bear and the griever weeps at the thought that “we” has become “me.” The griever’s heart cries out: “I am lost without you! I am not strong enough or brave enough to endure this pain!” Pooh Bear was right: We ceases to be!
Pooh’s Grand Adventure spoke to me of things I should have said to my grandson. But like Christopher Robin, I couldn't bring myself to prepare us both for the day we would be apart. He and I were “we.” Distance would separate us.
For those of us who live by faith, our consolation in the agony of separation is Jesus Christ. The separation of loved ones through death is not final. Jesus said, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3) And so we shall be comforted. Saint Luke’s parallel account of the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-22) puts Jesus the words this way: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Present pain carries a future promise and blessing.
The Church teaches that the Beatitudes respond to a natural desire for happiness and that desire is of a divine origin. It comes from God and is placed deep within the human heart “in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 1718).
After all, to seek God is to seek real happiness and enter heaven’s joy.
Glorious hope awaits us
Present human understanding of love and relationships will seem like poor reflections of the genuine articles when we stand face to face with the Creator of both. We will realize that we were always fully known, even in the loneliest of earthly sorrows. (See 1 Corinthians 13:12-13.)
Standing face to face before God, He will personally wipe away every tear we cried here. God’s children will be with Him (John 1.12). The Bible says:
I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5)
We must teach our children and grandchildren of this glorious hope that awaits those who trust in Christ. We will be together again with Jesus in paradise. The promise is “trustworthy and true.” Then, the only response possible will be joyous laughter. We simply will be, Pooh Bear. We simply will be, together with Christ.
That column was written in 2006. Fast forward to 2017. The four-year-old grandson is now fifteen. He's nearly grown and is a committed Christian. I may not be with him but he will always be in my heart. Time and distance may have put us “somewhere else” but love has proven strong enough and brave enough to keep us we. It is time to put away childish things. I trust he will succeed in life. His destiny calls. Goodbye Pooh Bear.
To view the trailer for Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) click here.
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 33 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues. He writes a column for Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter newspaper. Mark is the recipient of numerous awards including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at humanlifematters.org/2017/08/goodbye-pooh-bear_14.html.
image: Alan Strakey via Flickr | CC-2.0