Right not, for a multitude of reasons, I'm happy that B and I don't have any kiddos. For one, it would've been hard to fit into that wedding dress with someone else along for the ride. For two, we're selfish. Sue us! We'll counter sue! For three, my (fabulous) siblings are suddenly charged with an interesting task: Explaining death to people that can't tie their shoes.
I know psychologists have a host of theories, ideas, and suggestions and, for what it's worth, I think my sibs have done a bang-up job. For instance, one of our (our!) nieces, Lily, told her Mom the day after Dad's funeral, "Everyone is here. Everyone except Dee." Not sad, not questioning, just matter of fact. "That's right," her Mom said.
The kids know a lot of things. They know that Dee, as they call him (granddaDEE), is with Grandma Cookie, his Mom. They know they get to see Dee again in Heaven, but that they can't go for a very long time. They also know that Dad's with Simba, the dog we lost a few years ago that only Alex really remembers.
But Lily threw us all off when she told her parents, "Dee's up in the sky flying around the world with Jesus and maybe if I'm really really good, he'll come back to see me."
Funny at first, as Lily has obviously mixed her Vacation Bible School stories with the uncontested truth of Santa, but her Dad had a very good point: Lily thinks Dee isn't coming back (or, worse, is gone in the first place) because she isn't good enough. My sister pointed out how thankful we should all be that Lily said this horrible, sad thought out loud, so that someone could correct her and explain that isn't how it works.
I forget sometimes how me-centric kids are, and not in a bad way. Everything happens to them, not indifferently of them. Say a little prayer for Lily. How much harder would my heart ache if I felt that I had somehow chased Dad away, or that I could do something, anything worthy of bringing him back. Devastating.
It makes me think of the Bible, and of how the concept that there's nothing that we can do to attain salvation always feels so impossible. Surely I can be good enough, whole enough, worthy enough. But it just isn't, and never will be, enough. In some cases, it's a sweet release of mercy (I don't have to be perfect!), and in the same breath it's terrifying (there's nothing I can do?). We're at God's mercy, in seeing loved ones again, in reaching heaven. Mercy in every sense of the word.