I'm writing a couple of posts on my four-year-old's questions about death.
Part One is here.
Major holidays almost always include a trip to the mausoleum. Bill's mom passed away in 2000 and we visit the cemetery pretty regularly. We've always brought Will along with us. As a baby, he would gaze up at the statues and stained glass from the baby carrier. As a toddler, he would stumble around in the wide open space-- giggling and pausing to hear the soft music playing in the background. At the age of three and a half or so, he would follow his dad's lead-- kissing his hand, putting it to the marble plaque, and bowing his head a little. Before too long, he began asking questions.
At first, it was the basics.
"Who is Nana?"
"What happened to Nana?"
So we explained the family tree. Explained that Nana was sick. Gently explained that Nana had died. He seemed to get it. He seemed satisfied.
Then one day came the question: "Where is Nana?"
I should have seen this one coming a mile away. Will was already asking questions about life and death. He had been exposed to death in some kids movies and the concept seemed so mysterious to him.
I wanted to be better prepared. I wanted to know what I was talking about. I wanted to explain how different people believe different things. I wanted to be honest, admitting that I really don't know what happens.
I was kicking (and am kicking) myself for not having my spirituality together before having kids. It's not easy to be a good guide when you're a little lost yourself and not so firm in your faith.
But all that came out is, "Nana is Heaven". This was followed by a brief, but descriptive fairytale about a beautiful place where people go when they die.
And then came the onslaught of related questions.
Where is Heaven?
Is it above or below outer space?
Will I go to Heaven?
Will you go to Heaven?
Will you know me in Heaven?
Will you find me in Heaven?
Will my eyes work in Heaven?
Can I eat fruit snacks in Heaven?
Is there school in Heaven?
Are there toys in Heaven?
Will my friends be in Heaven?
Will I be old like great-grandma when I go to Heaven?
Will I be able to see Earth when I'm in Heaven?
Will I be a ghost?
Will I be an angel?
Will I be in Heaven forever?
When I die, can I come back to life?
Every question seemed to be delivered with an anxious curiosity. I wanted to reassure him and realized that there was no way I could admit that I really didn't know the answers to some of these questions.
So I answered the questions as thoughtfully as I could. And in my son's eyes, I am a complete and trusted expert on life and death. He fully believes everything that I've told him and it's interesting to hear him repeat the details back to me.
"Nana went to heaven because she was so sick. Now she is happy and isn't sick anymore. She loves me and watches over me. When I go to heaven, I'll see her."
He has complete and total faith in everything I have told him.
It is amazing and refreshing and... is it completely crazy that I am just a little bit jealous?