Life is...The Open Casket & the Goldfish
This is a very different blog for me, but I thought sharing might help others with little kids as they navigate funerals.
Last December we went to a funeral of a dear friend. It was an open casket. Now David had been to several funerals before but not seen this. In the past we were able to steer him away from seeing the body, but this time his very good friend said he wanted to show him his grandpa. So David took his hand and went up the aisle. I went with him. It seemed to go fine. The two, young boys stood silently for a while and then went back up the aisle into the lobby.
Then David came to me and said, "I thought you told me he was in heaven!" He was very upset.
I sat him on my lap and tried to explain that it was just his body that was here. That his soul was in heaven.
He seemed to take that for a while, but over the next weeks the questions came daily.
-What is a soul?
-Where is it?
-How does it get out?
-What happens to the body?
Such hard, deep questions for a five-year-old.
I felt like I was not getting through to him. I felt like I had broken him. He said he never wanted to see anything like that again. My heart was breaking as he was trying to figure out this part of life.
Finally I thought we had made progress. He seemed to understand that the body stays here, but the soul goes to heaven. He hadn't talked about it for a week, but then on the way home from skiing the questions came back.
This time it was...I don't want to die, because I don't want my body to explode when my soul leaves.
Oh, poor boy, No, it doesn't explode.
I tried to explain, but it wasn't getting through.
He asked, "Why do people have funerals? Why do they have open caskets?"
I tried to explain again, but it didn't help.
It was just him and I in the car driving on I-70. I prayed for words to reach a 5-year-old's heart.
A few minutes later it came to me.
I said, "Do you remember when your goldfish died? His body wasn't broken. He was still whole."
This seemed to be making sense to him.
I continued, "Remember before I buried him you wanted to say goodbye. You looked at your goldfish and told him you loved him and would miss him."
Yes, he did. I explained that it's the same for a funeral. It is a way for people to say goodbye.
For David this was the lightbulb. He understood and was able to move on. The questions were able to cease, and he had the answers he needed. For now.
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