What Death Does

It's been almost a month since my grandmother, Bebe, passed away. And it's safe to say that today, I am a different person than I was a month ago because of what death does. bebe

Death surprises. No matter how long it takes to get to the moment, death only takes a moment. And that brevity forces me to face the brevity of my life. And facing the brevity of life makes me angry. Because I don't want to live for a short time. I want to live for a very long time.

Death tricks. It convinces me that if I can live for a very long time then there's a greater chance for my life to have meaning. It says I shouldn't be afraid of the end coming too soon, but the end coming before I can do something worth remembering.

Death lies. It tells me that that my grandmother's obituary needed more accomplishments, more accolades, and more anything. It tells me that the achievements and accolades and clips I stack up are what matter. It tells me my life and my name are what I should live for.

Death whispers, "If your life can't be great, then you're wasting it."

But Life tells a different story altogether.

Life persists. Despite generations of death and disease and war, life continues. There is something about the human body that fights to live, even in its last moments. There is something about humanity that continues to push forward toward eternity, because life wasn't made to end.

Life serves. Unlike death that greedily tells me to live for me, life tells me to live for anyone but me. It tells me that true joy comes when I give my life away to other people.

Life loves. Life reminds me that no matter what I do, it is who I am that matters. And who I am and what I do have been fully and forever separated by the work of Life defeating Death in Jesus. 

And if I forget that truth, Life whispers gently to me, "You may be sleeping, but I am here to wake you up."

Losing a loved one.

  Did you know that my first name isn't Claire?

It's Beverly.


I was born on February 10, fifty-six years after my grandmother. My parents decided to put her name on my birth certificate, and in that, we shared two things: a birthday and a first name.

As I grew into a young girl, I couldn't wait to spend time with the older Beverly. My Bebe. Her house was the one where we could play Hungry, Hungry, Hippos. Her house had the huge mirror in the back, where we could watch ourselves dance. The bedroom I slept in at Bebe's house had a Popeye the Sailor Man lamp. The yard was lined with trees. Small ones I could climb in. And for many years, there was a stump in the back yard we could jump on and off. Once, my cousin William did a back-flip off that stump.

There was a garage behind her house I never went in.

But when I spent good time with Bebe, it wasn't in her home town, Augusta. It was in St. Simons Island. At Christmas, she was always the same. So warm and welcoming and big-arms around you loving you. I remember she'd bring out crackers and cheese. She'd offer a tin of cheese sticks and her famous, homemade fudge.

And she was always so generous.

She was the grandmother that bought me treats in the grocery store. The one that stuffed envelopes with surprises. She helped me buy my very first laptop. She wrote me letters and always encouraged me to write down my stories. She clipped out newspaper stories she thought would interest me, and sent them to me in the mail.

In a word, she was wonderful.

A few years ago, she moved to St. Simons. Her mind was still sharp as a whip, but her body began moving more and more slowly. And then, last week, she took a hard fall that sent her to the hospital. But she'd been to the hospital after a fall. It didn't seem out of the ordinary.

But two days in the hospital seemed unusual.

And four days was unprecedented.

And pneumonia wasn't part of the plan.

And then, it was over.

Beverly Beeland Carlton

February 10, 1931 - July 10, 2013