Having kids, from time to time I’ve wondered, “when are they old enough to learn about death?” Should I raise the subject with them? Do I wait until they have questions?
My husband’s uncle recently died and instead of the “stay-cation” week we’d originally planned with trips to amusement parks and museums, we traveled out-of-state for the funeral. While my husband was at the mall buying a new pair of dress slacks, I explained to the kids that our priority was the funeral, supporting Daddy and his family, and honoring the memory of Daddy’s uncle. If there was any time for fun stuff, we’d try to work it in, but it was highly unlikely.
And, they got it. They never once asked “how much longer?” or “can we leave now?” They never once grumbled about missing the water park. They stood tall and looked people in the eye and shook hands and whispered “sorry for your loss”. And I learned that I didn’t need to worry about them.
We all learned a lot this week. Not all lessons were positive. We learned for example, that not all employers are compassionate. My sister-in-law had to leave the reception early because she couldn’t be away from work any longer or she’d lose her job. She cried. Her son cried. We cried.
But there were good lessons too. We sat quietly in the funeral home and learned what is meant by somber reflection. We watched the church fill and we learned what is meant by respected community leader. We drove in a long line of cars moving slowly through busy intersections and we learned what is meant by respect. We watched as two naval officers first played “Taps” and then folded an American flag with crisp military precision and slow measured timing and we learned what is meant by honor. We learned that you don’t have to speak to comfort someone, just being present lifts their spirits.