Monday, September 13, 2010

Explaining to children about death?

How do you explain to a 3 year old about death? How do you explain to them about the resting places of people they never met in real life to know they are now gone? These are questions I was happy to avoid for many years. In a small way I was happy to not know the location of my father and grandmother's grave yard. But recently I have been regretting not pushing harder to find out. My extended family has always been jealous of the relationship I had with my grandmother. We were very close and she loved me like her own child, to me she was my mother. When I left for college some years ago it was let known how much they loathed me. I was accused of abandonment (how does a 17 year old abandon their mother and father for college, isn't that what we are supposed to do?), accused of being spoiled and of not caring about my grandmother. When the fact is that my grandmother was the best women I have ever known and I loved her dearly. She protected me from an abusive father and raised me as her own, how could I not love her? Even so when I moved back and wanted to visit my grandmother (and father who had died some years later) they would all skate around my questions of the cemetery location and name. I just let it go after a while because I had small children who wouldn't understand anyway. But recently my guilt over being back 2 years without a visit began to take it's toll so I went on a hunt and eventually found then without the help of my family.

Today was the day we all went as a family to visit these people I loved. Because Miriam mentally cannot understand and Sophia is just a baby still I took it upon myself to explain to Georgia. I explained that we were going to a place where people who have gone to visit Jesus go to rest. I explained we were going to visit "my" grandma and "my" daddy. I told her where we were going was the home of their bodies but their hearts and all that made them love was in Heaven. In all her innocence she declared how very much she wanted to "go visit grandma's house". I had failed at my description and she simply didn't get it so I relied on the thought that once we arrived and she saw she would understand. I even took pictures with me so she could see who was resting where.

On the way to the cemetery we stopped off and picked up some flowers. Georgia was so happy to give grandma flowers. All she could say was that "grandma is going to really really love flowers mommy." Every time she said thi9s a small tear came to my eye as I thought how very much my grandmother would have loved to have met my beautiful girls. She and my father (who I loved no matter how he treated me) would have adored them beyond anything they could have ever imagined.

When we got to the cemetery I was surprised to hear Georgia explain "where home!" as she usually does when we go someplace but to me a cemetery really isn't a "place" as a child would imagine. We all piled out of the car and my little Georgia took my hand as I gathered up my grandmother's flowers first. Again she exclaimed "I really do think grandma is going to love those flowers mommy" which once again brought a tear to my eye. I was so worried about how she was going to react once we reached the plot. To my surprise once we got there she got down in the dirt next to me as I explained "this is my grandma's home now, her body lives here" and helped me clear the dirt and grass from her headstone. She never questioned it as I dug a hole (she helped) to put the flowers in. She even picked her own flowers to place on the grave. I was amazed that she seemed to know exactly what I meant in a way I never thought she could have. Maybe her way of knowing was on a deeper level than mine. Her assurance the whole trip about the flowers brought a new perspective to my heart that maybe she really did KNOW that my grandmother really did love that we got her flowers.

Georgia placing flowers she picked herself on my grandmothers grave.

In the end the only difficult thing was when we couldn't find my fathers grave to place flowers because of terrible upkeep. We searched the location, which I knew well endlessly but the markers were long gone. We called friends and family to search neighboring plots for names that might be an indication but the numbers were so off from the names it was near impossible. In the end we used the information we had and found the closest unmarked grave, a grave with only a rock resting on top to place the red roses. I will be placing a call to the city tomorrow morning for some answers. The strangest thing was upon investigation we found that another person shares the exact same plot number with my father. A baby born on the day of my birth who died at a mere 7 years old. I hope this is just a type-0 if not it is so very sad on all fronts!

I must have cried for a good 15 minutes as my husband comforted me before we headed on our way home. Once back in that car we found we had been searching for my father for 2 hours , how could time fly so quickly? I know one thing is for sure, I need to figure out how to afford a grave marker for my father. I just did some research and it is amazing what they charge for a rock. It should be a crime!

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