Last fall our family lost a great man at the age of 79 to cancer. It was the second time our Grandfather faced the ugly cancer diagnosis, but this time he couldn’t overcome it. He was a hard working man with endless hobbies. Most of all he loved his four great grandchildren, one whom is named after him and another he never got to meet.
Parenting is hard. Explaining the loss of a beloved grandparent to a young child, even harder. To support the child and help them understand their own grieving while grieving yourself, extra hard. Luckily it only took my four-year-old son to put things into perspective for me. His view actually helped our family mourn and this story was shared at our Grandfather’s celebration of life service.
The day we got the call about our Grandfather, I packed up my children and set out on a two hour road trip to my hometown to be with family. We had a few stops on the way. One was to pick up pizza as that would be an easy meal for all of the family arriving during dinner time. The second quick stop was to buy paper plates, cups, and silverware because doing dishes was the last thing anyone would want to do. After our stops we arrived at my Grandparents’ house where our family was starting to gather. Prior to arriving, I had already fielded questions from my 4-year-old about Heaven and funerals, but when we arrived I could tell my innocent boy really didn’t understand what was going on.
And that was OK.
Family talked and gathered as families do in this type of situation. Visitors came and went. There were hugs and tears. The cousins played. The younger children were happy and unaware of the reality surrounding them. However, it was not until the drive home that night when my 4-year-old spoke up from the backseat.
He happily said, “Mom, I sure will miss Grandpa Riley, but that was the best Heaven party ever.”
Tears instantly rolled down my cheeks. I replied with, “You are right, buddy. It was a great party.” Instantly his comment became clear to me. In the eyes of a 4-year-old boy, we threw an awesome party. We had friends and family in attendance, pizza, paper plates, and plastic forks. We even bought bottled soda, which is surely always a party staple for young children. We had planned a party and did not even know it.
For the next few days I kept his comment close to my heart. It took a little boy to help his own mother’s grieving. It took hearing his comment for me to understand how he was processing all the events surrounding illness, death, and Heaven. I changed my thinking during the next few weeks. We did give our Grandfather a great party to celebrate his life and I know he loved it.
Sometimes the innocence of a child is all you need to see life from a different angle. I smile every time I remember this day and hope to share it with my son someday.