I was going to pen my thought on this on my Facebook Status Update but then I realize it wouldn’t do the topic or the feelings I have of it, any justice.
So how did this topic/ thought come up?
As you would know Jah has just turned 3 and like any other 3 year old, he is only just discovering this wider world around him in the social sense of it. He is just trying to grasp the fact that the people who come to play with him every weekend and whom he calls Aunty/ Uncle are his mummy’s meimeis and didi. He is just wrapping his little head around the fact that his mummy is also someone else’s jiejie. He is just starting to understand that his Papa and Mummy also have their own Papa and Mummy. He is also just learning about how babies grow in tummies and need to stay there for awhile before they can ‘come out’ and play (Thanks Aunty Chelsea for being the ‘textbook’ for that lesson 😉 – he is very excited to meet the baby btw).
So while we are trying to teach him lessons about new life, family, relationships and marriages. It is really tough when the topic of death has to be addressed. While the topic is probably inevitable at some point, I really wish I didn’t have to address it, at 3 years old. (Note I don’t allow the words ‘kill’ or ‘die’ to be used at home, rather we say faint when talking about the superheroes slaying the bad guys). So to explain death is especially tough when we have to tread carefully around some words.
The topic also becomes super unavoidable when his question to me was “mummy, where is your mummy?” and “why your mummy never stay with my uncles and aunties? “
I thought I was prepared for that question but putting it all into words, is harder than I had expected. How do I explain this to him, without scaring him? How do I explain it to him without trivializing my own mother’s existence? And how do I explain it to him, without him harboring hopes of seeing her at the next family gathering?
This was the conversation we had (in the darkness of his room) and my haphazardly put together answer. I can tell you, I still do not have a better answer/ approach after pondering about this for days after.
Jah: mummy, where is your mummy? why she never stay with my uncles and aunties? She stay at other people’s house?
Me: Oh. My mummy…ermm..my mummy is staying with Jesus Papa (aka God) at his house. (On hindsight, I should probably have given the place a name – heaven).
Jah: Why she stay at Jesus Papa house?
Me: She is staying at his house because he needs her to help him. He needs her to help look after the good people.
Jah: And the babies.
Me: Yes and the babies.
Though the conversation was short and ended as abruptly as it had started, it felt like one of the longest and toughest conversations I have ever had with him. How do you explain death and the existence of a loved one they will never meet?
His last statement left me to wonder if he had more insight into heaven than I know about (But that’s another topic for another day )
More importantly, I know that this is not going to be the first conversation we have about death and my mum. I know many of us will have to explain this to our child at some point. It is not going to be an easy moment but yet a moment we really want to honour. An opportunity to talk to them about that someone we wished they had a chance to know.
Learning to explain death while teaching them about life…