I was talking to Conner and Micah one night, before we went to the Family Visitation before MeeMaw's funeral. Trying to prepare them the best I could, I was explaining that there would be a lot of people there who loved Meemaw very much. Some of them would be crying, but some of them would be laughing. MeeMaw was a very special lady, and we are a little bit sad because we are really going to miss her. But we don't have to be sad all the time, I explained, because we have lots of good memories about MeeMaw that we can think about and laugh with one another about.
I also wanted to prepare them for the fact that MeeMaw's body would be there for us to see. I explained that MeeMaw is not alive anymore, she's not sick anymore, she's dead -- so she'll look a little bit different and she'll feel a little bit different, but that's okay. The best part of MeeMaw, her spirit, is in heaven now. What's left for us to still see is just her body. I continued to explain that they would not have to look at her body or feel of it, but if they wanted to it would be okay.
After listening intently, Micah told me that MeeMaw's spirit was really just her bones. Her bones are not here anymore, and that's why her body will look and feel different.
Conner, still wide-eyed and listening and taking it all in, finally let a grin spread across his face and said, "Really?! You mean we'll get to see a dead body?! And touch it, too?! Oh man, that will be awesome!!"
A little bit taken back, I wasn't really sure what to say. What a horribly disrespectful thing for my child to say about his precious great-grandmother! How in the world was I going to right this? What would I do if he said this to anyone else?
Taking a minute to think about it before I responded though, I realized that this wasn't horrible at all. Really, he "gets it" better than me. He's right. What's left really is just a dead body. Spiritually, MeeMaw is no longer here. Why shouldn't he be excited about learning a little bit more about the physical part of death, this abstract thing that he's been hearing about but has had nothing tangible to attach it to?
So I said yes. He would get to see and touch a dead body -- if he still wanted to when the time came. But I stressed that he would need to remember that there would be a lot of people there who were very sad, and that he really did not need to run into the room and jump into the casket with her. (At which point we had to stop and explain what a casket was.)
I pretty much left it at that, and spent the entire rest of the day worrying about how the visitation and viewing would go, worried about who we would offend, who would be horrified at how fascinated my child was with death, worried that the worst -- whatever that may be -- would happen.
I called my mother the next day to warn her, and she agreed that it was really okay, incredibly insightful and innocent even. I talked with several other people throughout the day, too. Most of them were like me -- a bit shocked and horrified at first, but eventually landing on the "insightful and innocent" stance that my mother had taken. I was mostly relieved -- but still a little bit worried. Especially when Conner came home from his first day of kindergarten that afternoon admitting that kindergarten had made him very tired -- "but not too tired to touch MeeMaw's dead body tonight!"
Finally, the time came, and it turned out that all of my worrying was precious energy wasted. Conner went into the funeral home, properly greeted all of the family that he knew, and introduced himself to family and friends he didn't know. When he finally made it back of the room where the casket was, he asked to be lifted up so that he could see. He reached in and felt of MeeMaw's hand and said, "Oh. You were right Mom. It's cold. And she does look a little bit different. I can tell that her bones are in heaven now." And then he was off to play with his aunts and uncles.
I have so very much to learn from my kids. I thank God for giving me these three beautiful examples of the childlike faith that is so precious to Him. And I think my MeeMaw would be -- well, actually I know she was -- proud.