Explaining Death, Heartache and Loss To My 7 Year Old.. How Would You Handle It?
As most people already know, I lost my grandfather to cancer last week. The 'C' word is always such a nasty and vulgar term to me.
To me it means impending doom, defeat, incurable sickness and on and on. Sure, you can beat cancer as many have, and I sing praises to the Almighty that that's even possible. However, in most cases with the elderly, like my grandfather, almost any kind of cancer diagnosis will be rendered terminal.
We're all certainly lucky to have had him in our lives for as long as we did. all 81 years! Well, I don't remember all 81, but I certainly have some fantastic memories of the last 28. He wasn't just a grandfather- but a dad and a great-grandfather, too.
My son Evan had known for quite some time that Grampie was not well. It was made especially clear to him when we began visiting Grampie in hospice care at the Togus VA. However, despite being only 7, and having very few encounters with loss, young Evan certainly had a firm grasp on what was going on around him. After a visit with Grampie I would ask Evan if he knew what was going on. "Grampie is sick and soon he'll be in heaven" Evan would say.
After his passing it was time to plan and attend the visitation and funeral. I chose not to have Evan at the visitation for a multitude of reasons. Even though he is far above his years, I figured Evan's last memory of him probably shouldn't be in a funeral home. However Evan did attend the funeral where our Grandfather's casket laid at the front of the church proudly draping the flag. He was a US Marine after all. When the service was over the family had some time alone in the sanctuary before heading to the cemetery. It was then that Evan walked up and put his hands on the flag and appeared to be having a very deep and personal moment of silence. After a couple of minutes I approached and asked Evan yet again if he understood what was happening. He looked up at me, as if he were giving me a life lesson and said, "Sure I do, Grampie is not really here. This is just his shell, but his spirit is in heaven."
What a profound statement from such a young boy. It's nice to know that maybe all I try and teach him doesn't just go in one ear and out the other as my parents once thought it did to me.