Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Death" And The Little People

Warning: This Little Installment is RIFE with black humour, and some wishy washy semi stances on religion-related stuff, but hey, we all die, so instead of having another cold/hot/racing pulse/OMG I'M GOING TO DIE ONE DAY type moment, let's find a little humour instead.

Death, it would seem, is a mighty huge topic for a little kid to wrap their noodle around. I think they KINDA get it, but then sometimes I think my kids really don't get it at all, and are still just humouring me.

When did the fateful word first enter into my son's vocabulary? Hm, maybe it was a couple of years ago, when he was REALLY into the Rolling Stones. We were having a chat about who the various members were, when he saw an old picture from the earlier days of the band.

"Who's that?" Jack asked me.
"Oh," I said, "that's Brian Jones. He's not in the band anymore though. He died."
Jack: "what does 'died' mean?"
Me: "it means his body stopped working."
Jack: "did he get sick?"
Me: "well, not quite--he just, er, died."
Jack: "is he going to get better?"
Me: "no, he's dead. He's not going to get anything."
Jack: "is he old now?"
Me: "no...*sigh*, you know how your toys stop working when the batteries die? Well, that's what Brian Jones is like."
Scramble, scramble, there, Mummy.

Then, for the next few nights Jack was having bad dreams and proclaiming that he didn't want to "get all dead."

So, last summer my grandmother died. Once again, Jack didn't really get it. Early this spring I thought I'd take an educational little trip to the cemetary. Yes, yes, but Jack couldn't "get" the concept, and he kept asking me questions, and as I tried my best to gently explain things, I thought the cemetary would be a nice, definitive example of death. So, one night, the boy and I took a little spin on over. Turns out (big surprise) it was a bad idea.
First of all, it was dusk, so there was no more happy sunshine. Second, it was windy and COLD. So, we hopped out of the car, and I said, indicating her stone;

"see there, honey? That's where Great Gramma is."
Jack: "is she there?"
me: "yes, that's right. She's there."
Jack (rising voice): "is she IN there?"
me: "er, yes, but she's in an, ah, nice, uh, fancy bed called a 'casket.'"
Jack: "is she sleeping?!?"
me: "no, honey. She's dead."
me: "well, her body is in there, but her, you know what a spirit is? I guess it's kind of like a ghost? Erm, her 'spirit' is up in heaven."
Jack (with mounting horror): "IS HER HEAD IN THERE?!?"

* At this point, I really start to realise the error of my ways, and realise as well, that perhaps things aren't going so well. Plus, night (and bed time) is rapidly approaching. So, I did the smart thing: I back-pedalled like crazy.

Me: "no, she's not in there honey."
Jack: "she's not?!?"
Me: "no, she's not."
Jack: "were ya joking, Mom?"
Me: "yes, I was just joking."
Jack: "were ya making a funny joke? You were joking, eh mom."
Me: "yes, I was, ah, joking. This is just a place where they put a 'REMEMBERING STONE' with Great Gramma's name on it, so we can remember her."
Jack: "is she in there?"
Me: "no, no--she's up in heaven, with Woody the Dog, and my first cat, Kitty."

Okay, being the hard-fast fence sitter, and monstrous cynic that I am, I'm only going to say that the concept of 'heaven' is a hard one for me to swallow, but since I have no proof either way, it makes it much easier to soothe a horrified six year old. Oh, fallible me.
So since my own Mom passed away 4 months ago, Jack and Ella are kinda getting it, but still kinda not. 'Heaven' is particularly puzzling to Jack, and doesn't come with the nice, concrete answers he needs, ie; where precisely it is. He has decided that heaven is in "outer space," and therefore, Grandma is floating around out there like some sort of peaceful astronaut. I have tried to explain a zillion times that heaven is not outer space, but I've pretty much given up, and now just say; "yes, yes, it's up there with the stars.

I have to say, I'm pretty sad about my Mom, but the kids love to ZING me with questions every day. I usually have to sigh, and participate in these frank, bare conversations.

Jack: "Mumma, your Mom is DEAD."
Me: "yes, that's right."
Jack: "did she got ALL DEAD, Mumma?"
Me: "yes, she did."
Jack: "are you gonna WEEP, Mumma?"
Me: "no. I'm okay just now."

* Note, Jack discovered the word "weep" not too long ago and finds it fascinating.

This was my favourite though: yesterday, while on a little family after dinner excursion for ice cream, Ella suddenly piped up in the backseat, and tried to express a thought, which Jack, helpfully, finished for her:

Ella: "Mumma, GRAMMA"
Jack (in all earnestness): "full of Christs!"
Ella: "Yeah!"

I had to laugh, and fairly hard at that.

It's interesting though--we all have such an aversion to death. It's such a taboo topic, but in past generations death was much more a part of life. At the turn of the century (not this one, sillies), deqth was very common in families, wherein there was a high mortality rate for infants, and tuberculosis (among other diseases) was still quite prevalent. People died in their homes with their families. It was customary to set aside a lovely room in the house for displaying the dead loved one. This was called, conveniently enough, the death room. And then people began to move away from this tradition of displaying their dearly departed in their homes, and instead paid their respects in a doctor's office. Eventually the first "funeral parlour" came along, mimicking the lovely, gracious sitting room of the family home. As funeral parlours took over this death business, the death room became the living room.

In Victorian times, it was very common for families to have photographs taken of their dead loved ones called Memento Mori. I could provide a link, but no thanks--I've googled these pictures online, and with my modern day sensibilities and suffocating fear of death, they give me the heebie-jeebies something fierce. These pictures would be displayed in the home, proudly, with other family photos.
We have distanced ourselves from death though. We let hospitals and doctors handle it, and it has become a great, fearful thing. And then we have little people come into our lives, who are curious, and it behooves us to provide knowledge and understanding. And so I'm trying.

Also, I'm pleased with myself, because I've come up with a nice, tidy definition for a cemetary, that I'll be sticking to until such time as the kids won't completely freak out:

"well kids, it's a place where people put a remembering stone up to remember all the people they loved who died, and on each stone is that person's name. So, the cemetary is a 'remembering' place."

It's not entirely whacky, right? I'm sure my Mom would have found all of this highly amusing. If only we could grab a coffee and chat about it.


  1. it sucks that death is another part of life taxes or so 'they' say. i am sorry to hear of your 'suffocating fear of death' for me its not the actual death, but how i am going to 'get dead. as a christian i have confidence in my destination,[i won't preach to you but if you want to have the God conversation matt or i would be happy to].anyhow ,about 3 years ago i had a large lump in my abdomen, and no one could tell me what it was, but there was a 75% chance it was cancer. after many tests and operations they found out it was endometriosis that developed on my c section scar, needless to say it was hard to wait for the results of those tests. but, it does make you come to terms with the fact that you are really going to die and 'someday' may be sooner than you think, and for that revalation i am actually thankful.well now i am not afraid anymore thanks to God, but i would be afraid for my family,after all they would have to eat matts cooking, yikes! a mom always worries,even when facing death! anyhooo... hope you feel more at peace with this whole thing soon.

  2. Paula, you've just hit the nail on the head: a mom always does worry. I don't thinK I ever felt so much fear of mortality until I had my kids! Well, I had a healthy dose before.
    Scary story about your lump, but wonderful how it turned out!
    Can't wait for Matt to weigh in about his cooking!

  3. Think of the guilt and fear when your cooking is likely the CAUSE of death...and there have been a day or two over my life when, I uh, WANTED to eat my own cooking so to speak.

    I DO think of the kids and Paula possibly left behind and I think that's the part that makes me sad, but there's always SOMEBODY left behind, so there's not really much point in dwelling on that aspect either.

    This is probably something you won't want to comment on, but since you blogged about it, I need to say it: it is ONLY confidence in Jesus conquering the permanence of death for you and me that brings me peace on the matter. Otherwise, all best efforts in life are short-lived, eventually forgotten and end in dust. My open invitation is to look into the evidence, weigh the impact of whether it is true, and search for peace on the matter. Guess you can tell that I've thought about this stuff lots myself - I don't want to be heavy-handed, just heartfelt.

  4. This is a really funny post. I shouldn't laugh but it really is.

    I couldn't imagine taking my six year sister to a cemetery though.

  5. Jen, welcome to my blog corner! Always great to see new faces. I'm glad you found the humour in this installment. I was trying to lean in that direction, but I think a lot of people saw the word "Death" and said, hellz no.

  6. Matt, probably about ten years ago I would have run screeching and hissing away from conversations about religion, but now that I'm the VASTLY WISE, super cool, open minded woman I've always dreamed of being (ha ha, sorry--not much sleep lately, and haven't had my morning coffee yet). Okay, karen, start again. I admire the beliefs that charming peeps such as you and Paula have. I definitely see the benefits and the comfort it provides. If you have total belief that there is a "god," and a benevolent one at that, then there truly is no need to fear death. What a relief that would be. But, I'm one of those annoying people who needs to "see something for myself." show me, just show me (and that goes double for GHOSTS too, INLAWS). I know, that's where FAITH comes into play.
    I'm pretty comfortable on my fence, still, after all these years, and shall just wait and see. I give you permission to say I TOLD YOU SO, if it all turns out well in the end :)

  7. Hey, Karen. Then I'll join you in asking Him to 'just show you' Himself. :) This might surprise you, but that's what He had to do to really get through to me. You know how stubborn I am!

    One other thing: did you ever consider that the existence of a 'fence' at all itself requires faith? And it's more faith than I have, because I've never read about any evidence of a fence.

    Finally, you'll forgive me if I reject any hollow victory that would come from 'I told you so'. I love you too much for that kind of crap.

    Thanks for the courage it took to post this blog entry, though. You really do take on the entire scope of life!

  8. But Matt--I can see my fence from where I'm sitting. It's goldenish, still, with nicely spaced boards, really good 6x6 posts, and some charming lattice on top. The Man bought the supplies at Home Depot. Hee hee. You can smack me now.

  9. Yet how pointy are the tips? Do they hurt your smart arse? :p Nevermind. I get it. Sarcasm shields all. Maybe...


I lurv comments. Thank you for the comments. They are scrumptious.


Related Posts with Thumbnails