My husband and I both had grandparents pass away over the fourth of July weekend. It had been something we knew was coming, but still, we weren’t quite prepared. I knew immediately that I wanted Ethan to go with us to the funerals. While my mom encouraged me to shield him, I disagreed. Sorry mom.
You see, I’ve been wanting to talk to Ethan about death for sometime now. I’m sure the whole smash and bash syndrome is just boyhood, but I cringe a little every time I see him squash an innocent bug. I worry when he talks about how when he’s older he wants to have a gun for hunting just like his Papa. I know that he doesn’t fully understand why I am a maniac when it comes to being extra careful walking in parking lots. Without understanding death, I feel like he can’t quite grasp what life is about and the consequences that come with certain actions.
He did surprisingly well at both funerals. We tried not to make a huge deal about it. We explained that we were saying our final goodbyes and that everyone would be sad. And, for a 3.5 year old boy who is constantly talking and asking questions, he only asked a couple. I can’t quantify how much he learned from the experience, but he noticed the tears. He noticed that the body was no longer breathing. He asked if they went to live with Jesus.
Just like any other hard experience in life, good lessons are taught. I hope that from now on, he will better understand some of our parental fears. That when he is tempted to squash a bug, he might grasp a little more what that really means. And now, when we talk about Jesus dying for our sins, he might understand the sacrifice a bit more fully. I’m not crazy; I know that at 3.5 there is so very little he will fully learn from this experience, but it is a building block.
I am sad that our grandparents passed away without our children really getting to know them, but I’m also thankful for all of the lessons I learned from them and will in turn pass down to my own children. Even in their death they still continue teaching and leading the way.