Kyra ran into the kitchen and said, “Mommee, he spilled juice on the computer.” Grabbing a towel, I raced Kyra into their playroom and caught Ethan finger painting juice on the case of the desktop (the same brand-new computer that only survived two months in our home and was featured in Raising Techno Addicts and Screen Time Fight Play-by-Play.)
Thomas scolded Ethan while I cleaned off the computer and perched it high out of our kids’ reach. It didn’t appear as if juice had seeped into the case, but we let it “dry.”
A week later, we held our breath and turned it on; about ten minutes later, Kyra pronounced, “The computer is dead.”
She didn’t cry or get upset at Ethan. She simply accepted that these things happen. I wished I could grieve in this way about all the losses in my life both big and small.
It’s been a tough year beginning with the passing of Thomas’ father in January from a railway accident and ending with my grandmother dying in her sleep just a few days before we were flying to California to see her.
I remember when I told Kyra about her grandpa. She jumped into my lap, grabbed my face and said, “I am not sad, I’m happy. Kyra die and then Kyra see Grandpa and Jesus.”
Death was not a new subject for her because my mother’s photos are on her wall. Before bedtime, we often talk about how Grandma Auxilia, whose looks and personality Kyra inherited, would protect her from monsters.
Nonetheless, my relatives told me that Kyra was too young to understand death. So, after Thomas’ dad died, I read her a book called Tell Me More About Eternity by Joel Anderson. The Children’s Ministry Leader at our church had recommended to me. Anderson starts with “It was a very special day for two people. One person was very young. The other was very old. Somehow they both knew this day was to be one of the most important days of their lives.”
For months, this book was Kyra’s favorite. She made me read it every night before bed and through two story lines one about a baby being born and an old man entering heaven, Kyra asked me many questions.
I’ve heard that grief is a teacher. It’s been seventeen years since my brother died of cancer, and sixteen years since my mother died of the same disease. And only now am I starting to comprehend that death is the same journey as birth.
By the time I told her about my grandma, I was pretty sure that Kyra understood what “dead” meant. “Great Grandma died?” she asked me, blinking with her big eyes.
“Yes, Mommy is sad.”
She smiled, then closed her eyes and pursed her lips at me. I leaned in and she kissed me on the nose. Then she asked, “Mommee, can you show me a picture of great grandmother so I can remember her?”
As we clicked through photos of the first time Kyra or Ethan met their great grandmother, I gazed at the excited bright eyes of my children and wondered whether sometimes they were our teachers, too.
How have you explained death to your children?