A couple of interactions had me reflect on Devorah's blog post "Too Crazy" where she asks, "is there a healthy way to approach the scary things out there?" Since I've had my six-year-old pack an overnight bag before, I can only imagine what she would pack in her emergency bag -- and I'm picturing a year's supply of gum, candy and Barbie and Polly Pocket paraphernalia. Also, I had to laugh at Devorah's reminiscence about our childhood when we were taught to pack a bag to be prepared for the Messiah's arrival. Except that I'm not laughing any more...
My mother passed away about 2 months ago. My kids saw her during her last hospital admission and were told about it as soon as she passed away. My husband explained to them that we would not see her any more, except for in pictures, but that of course we would talk about her and they could ask anything they wanted.
In the past two months, not a day has gone by without them mentioning something about my mother. Most of the reminiscences have been of happy memories – and some have been sad. And I suppose it's because they miss her so much that I've had to field questions and comments like this:
From my 6 year old: Eemee, when Mashiach comes, can my sister and I come with you to unbury Savta?
From my 3 year old: While handing out stickers to all of us in the room, after giving one to my father, she added, "I'm saving the pink sticker for Savta, for when she comes back after Mashiach comes."
I have to be honest, I have no idea where, when or how my girls became so messianic. School? Synagogue? Summer camp? My responses in both cases were off the cuff, and I think, appropriate. Or maybe not. I want to be supportive. On the one hand, I love that they think of and speak of my mother – and because they want to see her again, and because of the tenets of our faith, they really believe that they will. And truthfully, don’t we all hang on to hope that we will see our loved ones again in heaven – or whatever comes after this life? On the other hand, I have this foreboding thought of them thinking of the Messiah the way other kids do when they realize that there is no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. So I worry – I want them to keep the faith without losing faith.
So to put a twist on Devorah's question: What is the healthiest way to talk to your kids about the scary topics of death and dying and whether anything comes after?