Death. Oh, how one word can bring so many images to mind. The color black. Funeral processions. Family members crying. Heaven brings other images. The color white. Jesus and angels. Family members who have gone before. Hell. The color red. An evil, impish man with evil, impish cronies. Souls crying out for redemption. How does one deal with death? What is the mourning process for those left on earth? Do we ever really know what happens to a person when they are no longer with us? These are tough questions I have been answering.
The past few months, I slowly watched my grandfather slip away. It started out on Thanksgiving, and he went through hell on earth between then and last week. I watched my mom, my aunt, my grandma go through hell on earth. Then, he was gone. The day he died, I almost drove 1 1/2 hours to visit him. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. My own family needed me at home. Within the hour Grandpa died, I had this strange feeling come about. I called to check up on things, and he was gone. My grandpa. The strong, rough, tough fishermen who always had the best stories to tell. My grandpa, who always took the time to teach me how to fish. Gone from this earth forever. It sounds cliche, but he is in a better place. There is no more pain and he will be with God and Jesus forever.
How do I explain that to my children? At the funeral, Luella was obsessed with Grandpa’s body. She touched his hand and wondered why he was so cold. Since she doesn’t talk much, I had to guess what her questions were. I think she wanted to know why he was sleeping in a weird bed with all the people around. We looked at the pictures of him, and I told her that he was sleeping forever. I’m not sure a four year old knows what forever is. I hope Luella doesn’t worry SHE will fall asleep forever. Her favorite spot during the visitation was standing right next to his casket, acting as his sentry.
Mariah had her own set of questions. She understood death, but she wanted to know why he was in a casket if the angels were supposed to be taking him to heaven. I tried explaining that his soul went to heaven and he had a new body there, but the concept was not understood. So after the 21 gun salute, as he was being taken away by the hearse, I told her that the angels were finally taking him to heaven. They waited so everyone could say good-bye. That worked for about a day. Then, she got really confused. What about all the bodies in the ground at cemeteries? Are those people in heaven? Little Mariah was very concerned about their spiritual well-being. I really hope I didn’t confuse her too much, because I told her that the people weren’t in the ground anymore. The angels took them too.
Riley didn’t have any big questions, he just accepted things as they were. But all weekend after the funeral, the kids played funeral. I know playing is how they work their feelings out, but I was a little stressed at HOW they were playing funeral. They took turns being the dead person, the angel, and God. Sometimes there were two angels and a doll acted as the dead person. But instead of it being a joyous occasion, it was more like a prison sentence. The “angel” reminded me of police officers, “God” reminded me of a prison warden, and the dead person was required to stay in the closet. After eavesdropping for a while and letting them play it out, I decided we needed to have a chat. I asked why they were being so mean to the dead person. A quote from Riley: “Heaven must not be that good if everyone was crying at the funeral. That’s why.” Hmmm….
My grandpa’s death invoked questions and deductions from all ages. Kids are a lot smarter and intuitive than they are given credit. I am glad he is not suffering anymore.