Mum has left for a couple of days to lead and preach at a girls getaway weekend for church – and so I thought that renting Pixar’s latest release was a sure fire way of treating the kids and hopefully distracting them from the fact that mummy wasn’t around this evening… boy did I get that wrong…
Coco is a masterpiece of animated cinema – the colours are vibrant, the worlds interesting and alive, and the music was fun and moving. But it was the premise of the film that really caused a lump in my throat. I’m sure many of you are now familiar with the subject matter of the film – it revolves around the Mexican holiday ‘Día de Muertos’, the day of the dead. Every year for one night people who have long died can visit the land of the living to see their family, and to receive gifts from them – as long as there is somebody who remembers them and displays their picture. So families will set up small ‘shrines’ to their dead family members, put out their pictures, tell stories about them and leave food and other earthly gifts out – and if there picture is out the dead can pass over. Of course in classic Pixar style this is portrayed almost like customs at an airport, they scan your face and if they find a corresponding picture – you can pass. One chap tries to run through without a match and finds himself pinned down by ‘airport security’ It was funny – though I’m not sure if it was horrendously offensive to someone with a Mexican heritage…
Anyway – unfortunately (mild spoiler alert coming) the main character, Miguel, finds himself transported from the land of the living into the world of the dead! But while the rest of the film is basically his adventure trying to get back to the living, we do however meet another character that pushes the emotional arc of the story a bit further. He is desperate for Miguel to take his photo back with him so that someone in the living world would continue to remember him. It’s at the point we find out that ‘Día de Muertos’ is about more than a holiday for the dead – we learn that if there is no one alive who remembers you – you finally die, and disappear even for the land of the dead.
I’m not gonna lie – seeing this character desperate to be remembered by someone so that he could just see his daughter one last time – well it might have got a bit misty… And it turns out a couple of the kids were feeling particularly susceptible to a little tear given that mummy was away for the evening (great choice Doug – why couldn’t you just have watched Paddington 2!).
Anyway, the point is the kids are fine – they’re tucked up in bed asleep – and it once again gave us a really good opportunity to talk about death and what happens after it. You see – I wondered what it was that made me choke up. I know full well that there is absolutely no truth to the ideas put forward in Coco (and so did the kids by the way, because we paused it near the beginning to talk about what we believe and how to watch and process a film with a different world view) – was I really that much of a chump that the magic formula of hollywood made me choke? The right character, the right music, lighting and mood and they got me…? I’m happy to report I don’t think it was that – I think it is that it hit upon a genuine longing of every persons heart – the desire to be remembered.
If I can just make enough of a mark in this life – If I can be a good enough father, husband, grandfather – maybe they will keep my photo up, maybe they will tell generations to come and I will keep living in some way, beyond the grave. If I can make a difference in the world, if I can achieve greatness and success – even if my family don’t remember me, maybe someone else will and will keep me alive… Isn’t this what we all want deep down? To live on?
And there is something that really connects with the biblical view of life and death in Coco. The idea is – if somebody living remembers you, they can spare you from death. This is the biblical hope. We have no chance of extending our life or our legacy ourselves – but if the truly living one ‘remembers us’, accounts for us, claims us and names us – then we shall live on! Revelation 3 speaks of all who belong to Jesus being recorded in the book of life! That is far better than being remember once a year as our photo is put out on the mantlepiece! Christ promises that all who are his shall be with him – that he shall not lose any that are given to him!
I think Coco got me because it is a very real fear. If what was portrayed in Coco was true – it would indeed be reason to fear and to cry; and for many that is the best they can hope for. Beyond the grave is vague and unknown, and the best they can hope for is that someone will remember them here so that they may live on in some way. But for the Christian, what lies beyond the grave is not vague – or unknown! For we have one who has gone through it ahead of us! Jesus Christ who has passed through death, has defeated it, and has prepared a place for all who belong to him.
As we talked about it afterwards and talked about the messages of Coco – what was true and what was not – it prompted Jake (7) to pray for his friends and people who do not yet know Jesus. That he would be able to tell them about Jesus so that they wouldn’t need to be scared of death.
The final thing I just want to touch on that was true about Coco, was its portrayal of our desire to be with the ones we love after death. To see them once more. To hold them, to talk to them, to see their face. This one character thought he would never see his little girl again, and I know there will be people who I know and love – family – who (as it stands) I will not be seeing again after they die. Family and friends who have rejected Jesus, and are not in the book of life, and so will not experience life after death. I saw something of my heart and emotion for these people on screen, in the face and voice of Hector. Thats a real thing, and another motivation for evangelism and prayer.
The joy however, is that we know we will be reunited after death with loved ones who are christians! This has been a thought heavy on my heart this week as I have thought about a loved one who has recently lost a Christian father. It is heartbreaking. But we take great joy that we do not mourn as others do – but we look forward to that day when we are reunited with Christ, and with all who have Faith in him and his death and resurrection.
You should watch Coco. You should watch it with your kids. You should talk to them about different cultures and views of death. You should take it as an opportunity to let them feel sad, and feel loss and explore those emotions in a safe place. And you should certainly talk to them about the hope of resurrection that can be found only in Jesus.
Just don’t watch it on a night when mums just left…