The word on the paper stares back at me. The finality of it; like the word forever. It is the black hole of the English language, a powerful terrifying thing.
Trying to explain it to a child is an almost insurmountable job because I don’t fully understand it myself. Like faith, you just step into the nothingness of the unknown. Oh we like to think we understand. If we believe in God we say things like “Afterlife” or “Heaven” but what does that mean?
I try to see understanding in her eyes. She stares at me with the unfathomable look of someone who hears a foreign language for the first time. No questions; just that wide eyed look of information being assembled in a five years old mind.
I tell her that grandma is going to be with grandpa. She says nothing. I imagine her thinking of the cemetery scene where she watched a casket go down into the dark cool earth and see her questioning stare at what was happening that spring day.
I try to prepare myself for the overwhelming feelings of this loss but I am conflicted by a glimmer of relief (relief ??) at the thought that grandma is finally at peace. Peace. What a word. Is it peace or not? If you believe in this idea of God and Heaven you must feel some relief right? So why the pain, why the sorrow?
And how in the world do you convey these ideas to the heart and soul of a child? How can you look at that sweet face and tell her that grandma is better in the ground than in her living room; playing the banjo; singing old time songs and helping to make chocolate chip cookies with her in the kitchen?
The answer lies in that elusive word Faith. Faith is the hardest and simplest of words in the English language. It requires nothing of ourselves and everything. To believe in faith is to walk the unknown; to feel the hand of God touching us ever so lightly when we sob and scream and cry why?? And to feel this faith; to feel His touch is as soothing as cool water from a mountain stream to feel it bathing our soreness and sorrow. It’s as calming as a cup of tea on the veranda on a cool fall morning.
We adults like to believe the we have all the answers but the fact remains that we know nothing. In fact as I look at my young daughters reaction to this news I see she seems to have a better grip on this situation than I do. Is it because she feels less? That she hasn’t loved her great grandma as long or as much? Or is it more than that?
I personally believe that kids; all kids are more children of God than we are. That they are more in tune with the world than we give them credit for. I have seen this reaction many times in my life; this unwavering attitude; almost a nonchalant look at the disasters that befall man. Kids just seem to take disaster better than adults. Oh most believe that kids just feel safe and that is why they don’t feel so scared. And that may be true to some extend but as an adult that lived through a parents loss; I can say that kids are really just the ultimate realists. When they are faced with the unknown they are much like anyone with a logistical problem. Who will take care of me? Who will help me with the things this person left behind? They don’t question too much about the logistics of where the person went. They just need to know how to cope with the problems that come afterwards.
We could all take a cue from the attitude of kids in so many aspects of our life. And to do this we have to remember that all important word; Faith. Faith that God will protect; faith that there is a plan; faith that if we follow Him we will be ok. Just like a child we are unable to fix the things that happen in our life but with Him we are saved from harm.
So as I prepare for the inevitable things that go with a funeral and all the work and worry involved I look at my daughter for the one thing that I need to get through this difficult time And I remember the look in her eyes as she looks at me; with faith.