My husband’s grandfather passed away about 3-4 years ago. I can’t remember exactly. (He was a really great man, but that’s another story all together.) The kids were too young then to even attempt to take them to the service. I realized a few months ago that when Grandma died, they would likely get their first experience with death. And truthfully, I was glad about that. They have spent a lot of time with her, and I feel sure that at least my oldest will always remember her. She taught them how to do Ring Around the Rosie and she loved playing baseball with them. Her house was a treasure chest in their eyes, and they loved going there.
But. She defined Old to them. Everything was on a Great-Grandma timeline for them. “Do you mean this happened before Grandma K was born?” etc. They didn’t love her the way I loved her, naturally. There was some distance between them. And I was glad to know that would be their way of easing into death. So they know someone well, someone they love, and they will lose that person. But it’s not someone who will cause their heart to ache – like when their own grandparents pass away.
They were angels at the service. Perfectly still and somber. And polite and obedient when we had people over to eat afterward. They had loads of questions. And were very sad they didn’t get to see her. (It was closed-casket…although my sister and I did go see her before the service.) We walked through the cemetery where all 4 of my grandparents are buried – almost side by side. And then up the hill where my uncle, 5’s namesake, is buried. And we talked a lot about death. We had really good conversations. When my nephew arrived after the fact, he whispered to my boys that they shouldn’t talk about it. And I jumped in really fast to say that Yes – we can talk about it. And does he have any questions?
I don’t remember talking a lot about death when I was a kid. I think I was shushed too. And I don’t know why. Kids are curious. I think it harbors a fear of death if we don’t talk about it openly and honestly. I told the boys the truth. That no one knows what happens to people after they die. How could they? The only people who know are dead and they can’t talk about it. I told them that people have different beliefs about death and we talked about all those. I think we will explore this later on this year as a unit in homeschooling because they are very intrigued by it all. They guessed what Grandma would like to be reincarnated as, if in fact she were to be. And they talked about what her Heaven would look like. It was a really good conversation.
Initially I was trying to shield my dad from it, leaving the room, etc. But I don’t know why. Because honestly these talks with the boys helped me tremendously in my own grief. It made me feel like I could have a little cry – a sweet peaceful one – and remember her and feel sad and peaceful all at the same time.
Kids are amazing.
I’m glad they are on this journey with me.