I’m not sure which cable channel it is, but starting at about 4:00 p.m., one of them starts showing commercials for a program about that chimpanzee attack on that woman that occurred earlier this year. The commercial has the gut-wrenching 911 call dubbed over shadowy, ominous pictures. It is quite dramatic, and to girls my age it is both scary and irresistible. All they can seem to take away from that commercial is that chimpanzees/gorillas (yes, I know they are not the same thing, but I have a hard time getting them to understand that) sometimes attack people and sometimes those people DIE. That’s what my six year-old focuses on: the gorilla attacked a woman and she DIED, and it his HORRIBLE, and AWFUL, and if there were a gorilla that came to our house…. and on and on and on.
You can imagine the effect all this has on my three year-old. After multiple reassurances that a gorilla (it’s a chimp anyway, I know) is NOT going to come to our house, her little mind has finally rested on the conclusion of that particular horrible story because LMG makes sure that everyone knows it. This, of course, has led to questions about death. Tough questions that no matter how truthful yet simple I try to keep the answers, no matter how reassuring and positive a light I put it in, all SL seems to understand about it is that she can go to heaven and be with friends, family, and Jesus–but what she really wants is to stay home. I try to explain to her that Heaven will be home when we get there, but it’s all too abstract for her. She wants to be here, at home.
A few years ago when my father-in-law died, LMG had similar questions about death and similar responses about wanting to stay home. She said she would “be shy to Jesus.” But then we were able to reassure her with that grandpa Vern was in heaven, and that it is a good place. SL doesn’t have any memory of someone who has died, so those reassurances really don’t work.
There’s part of me that wants to take the easy route and ask LMG to refrain from talking about this in front of SL because it is worrying her, and at this point the worry is unnecessarily. Buuut I also know that having some understanding of death is a good thing, even at a young age. And I don’t want to give LMG the idea that she can’t talk about it or ask questions when she has them. It is not easy to strike that balance sometimes. To explain the reality of death on one hand feels a little like chipping away a bit of a child’s innocence. But on the other hand, having to explain death opens up the door to talking about eternal life, and that is such a joy and treasure to share with children. It is such a privilege to plant those seeds into children… even though the information is not what they were hoping to hear.
I have read blogs by people who obviously don’t believe in God, Jesus, or any kind of afterlife for that matter, and the despair they express when they anticipate the pain their children will experience upon realizing that (according to their beliefs) everyone they know and love will one day be gone is almost unbearable to read. I can’t imagine having to shepherd my daughters through such a harsh and horrible (mis)understanding of life and death. I am so very thankful that I know that death is not the end of it all; I am so very thankful that I don’t have the heartbreaking task of trying to teach my children that horrible lie.
And so, for now, I will try to be wise, I will try to be sensitive, I will stop worrying about how SL is receiving this message for now. Because it is my Father’s message, and as long as I humbly, prayerfully speak his Truth, I can’t see how it can turn out bad.