My son’s great grandmother passed away – my grandmother. I had told him, on a Monday morning after she passed, that great grandmother died and went to Heaven to be with Jesus.
We had gathered family together to celebrate her 95th birthday a few day hence, and um, so there were a lot of people in Kelowna here, and gathered for that event. We decided to go ahead and have it anyway – a celebration supper – and to eulogize her, people had come prepared to do that.
In the afternoon she had been prepared and we were gonna have a viewing. I said to Warren, “Warren, we are gonna go and see great grandma.” He fell completely silent until we arrived at the funeral home and he said, “Daddy, I don’t want to go to Heaven.”
It dawned, it took me a few seconds to get what he was driving at. I had told him, “Great grandmother was in Heaven. Now we are going to see great grandma.” Therefore we are going to Heaven. He wasn’t making a theological statement. He just was responding to the words that I had said in trying to understand.
I said, “No, great grandmonther’s body is at the funeral home. The part that we love, that’s gone to Heaven. We are going to go and say goodbye to her body.” And then we stood at the casket and looked at her, and I offered him the chance and he said, “Yes, I wanna come with you.” So I held his hand, we walked in, I lifted him up. I touched grandma’s hand. He wanted to touch grandma’s hand. It was cold.
He said, “Oh, she is cold!”
I said, “Yes, Warren, her body isn’t working any more. She doesn’t need it any more. Later on we’re gonna go and put it in the ground. But she is not there. She doesn’t need her body any more. Feel daddy’s hand, it’s nice and warm. My blood’s flowing thorough, my heart’s working, my body is working. Grandma’s isn’t any more. And so we’ve dressed her up, and we’re going to say goodbye to her here, and then we’re going to close the casket and go put her in the ground.”
He understood that so great grandma didn’t just disappear on him, because she had come to our house every Monday to live. She sat the rocking chair – couldn’t hear a thing – but loved to just be in our home, to be with us and watch us live. I needed to explain to him what death was, so that he knew that she wasn’t coming back to our house. And so that he could be sad, so that the grief could wash over him and he could move forward without her. That was very important for him.
He was just four years old.