Wednesday, February 23, 2011

angels among us

I just came downstairs from 're-tucking' Gavin into bed.  His door wasn't quite shut and he didn't want the cat to get in and annoy him.  As I kissed him on the forehead and told him, 'sweet dreams', he asked me a question I heard from him earlier today.  "Mommy, how many people are angels?"  hm.  "Well, Gavin, lots of people have become angels.  When people pass away, they become an angel." (at age 4, I feel he's not quite ready to have the whole 'necessity of leading a good life' talk...we just try our best to lead him by example at this point). 

The question, out of context, might seem pretty random from a four year old who is trying to eek out an extra few minutes before bedtime.  However, he had a definite reason for having angels on his mind.  Today, the kids and I attended a funeral for Mrs. Bowden, the mother of our former daycare provider (Miss Janine), and the grandmother of our current daycare provider's husband.  Over the nearly 5 years since we met the family, we have become close friends, which made it an obvious decision to be there to show our love and support for the family during their time of loss. 

As we were driving down to the church service today, Gavin was asking me what a 'funeral' was.  I told him it was similar to what we went to when Grandpa went to be with God; that there would be singing, some stories about God and Mrs. Bowden, and lots of prayers.  Gavin told me he knows a prayer he can say, and proceeded to recite, "God is great, God is good, now we're thinkin' for our food" (he doesn't realize it's 'now we thank him for our food'...despite trying to correct him a few times ;)

He wanted to know why Mrs. Bowden is an angel, followed by what cancer is, and then came, "Mommy, what's an angel?".  Fortunately for me, I was having this conversation with a four year old, so my answers didn't need to be too in-depth...or so I thought.  The conversation shifted back to what to expect at a funeral, so that they wouldn't be worried when they saw people (including mommy) crying.  Gav asked me why Miss Janine would be crying and I told him because her mommy went to be with God and she wouldn't see her anymore.  Then I said, "wouldn't you be sad if mommy went to be with God and you didn't see me anymore?"  His response?  ", I'd still have daddy."  I realize that he doesn't quite have a firm grasp on the concept of death, so of course I found his innocent response more endearing than heartwrenching. 

But then...came this, "Mommy, where would Brynn and I live if you and daddy both went to live with God?".  Remember that 'endearing innocence' I was feeling just 4 seconds earlier?  Yep.  Gone.  Where is the part in the parent manual for questions like these?  I think I did a pretty good job answering his question 'on the fly', especially considering I was driving to a destination where I'd never been and was simultaneously attempting to navigate toward the red dot on my phone's GPS.  My main goal was to give him enough information to satisfy his curiosity and avoid giving him too much information that would leave him neither scared nor scarred.  As a result of this 'mommy gut check' moment...I'm currently seeking resources that will guide me in the discussions that are starting to come up in this 'next step' of parenting.  *sigh*

So, where was Brynn during all of this?  She was listening along, not really asking too many more questions other than, "Mommy, are we going to see God?", "Mommy, where do angels live?", and "Mommy, is my Grandpa an angel?".  She knew the answer to the last question, as we discuss Grandpa often in our house.  Brynn adores looking at pictures of her Grandpa, and although she only met him once, when she was 4 months old, she constantly says, "I love my Grandpa" when she sees his pictures.  I smile whenever she says this, because I know that we're doing our part in keeping the memory and spirit of her Grandpa alive in our kids. 

When we were sitting at the service today, the deacon mentioned the importance of keeping someone's spirit alive by telling their stories.  I found myself getting teary-eyed and smiling at the same time when he said this, because it reinforced what I had just been thinking about on the drive.  I want our kids to know their Grandpa, not just to know of him. 

For now, most of the conversations about Grandpa are brief and revolve around the pictures that we're looking at.  I try to tell them as much as I can about who he was and how much he loved them, but I think the 'struggle' (? is that the word I'm searching for ?) I'm feeling is twofold.  1.) the kids are still pretty young to really 'listen' to the stories and 'get' them, and 2.) I've only known Dad for nearly 9 years, (the distance of course added to the challenge of getting to know him as well as I wish I could have)...but Randy's known him for his whole life.  And right now, he's still grieving (as he should be).  It hasn't been even a year since we lost Dad.  I knew when I married Randy that he isn't the 'talker' of the partnership, so it's been hard for me to get my husband to open up to me as much as I'd like him to when it comes to talking about his dad.  What I'm looking forward to is a time when the kids are older, we're sitting around the dinner table, and Randy just starts telling us all about some of the memories he has of his dad, the stories that we want to remember about who he was as a person, and the things we want our kids to hold with them in their hearts and in their minds as they go through their lives. 

So, for now...I do what I can, continue to share the stories and memories that I have from the short time I knew Dad.  I keep reminding them that while their Grandpa is an angel, he's the best angel that they'll ever know.  The angel that will love them the most and will always be there to look over them.  We're all so blessed to have him as 'our angel'.

Gavin noticed his Grandpa looks like he's 'flying' in this picture we used for his memorial (check out the shadow under his foot)

at the pond where Grandpa went fishing the weekend before he passed away

we love Grandma!

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