After I was lovingly accused of bringing several readers to tears on my last two posts, I had intended to lighten things up a bit for my next entry. Life, however, had other plans. Last week brought the passing of the beloved patriarch of our family, my grandfather. While he lived a good long life and saw the ripe old age of 92, it was still a heavy blow and our entire family is mourning our loss. Though I was presented with a situation I knew I had to face, I was still unprepared when it came time to explain to my four year old why she would no longer see her Grandpa. I was perhaps more unprepared than most.
I have touched briefly upon my views of the religion in which I raised in a previous posting. While at this time I have no desire to stir up a debate on why I no longer consider myself a Catholic and have become a self imposed black sheep of my family, it is in itself the essence of my current debacle. Raising my children without any ties to an organized religion makes the answer to “Where did Grandpa go?” so much more difficult to explain.
I sat Sofia down on the day he died and told her I wanted to speak with her about Grandpa. I reminded her of the fact that he had been sick for a long time. She had always thought that he appeared sad and once again stated as such. I went on to tell her that he went to a place where he could rest, where he would no longer be in pain and could be happy. I told her we would not see him anymore and while we would miss him, we can be happy for him because he is better now.
Of course, in her quest to understand she did ask for a better explanation of where he went, and I immediately stumbled upon my words. How deeply into a conversation surrounding death does one go with a four year old? If I were raising her Christian, I suppose the answers would be simple. I could tell her what she is supposed to believe without blinking an eye. I felt the tug to draw upon what I had been taught in my youth, and stopped short of using the word “Heaven”. That would have led to more questions, which would lead to more answers that even I haven’t decided upon yet. How can I explain this anymore if I, myself can’t process it? When we decided not to bring religion into our home, I did not consider times like these. I hold steadfast that we did the right thing for our family, for our situation. We’re doing our best to raise both of our children to be good people, encouraging strong family values from within. But faith is another matter. What they should believe regarding the path to their own spirituality, what I believe, and what my husband believes…I suppose that will all be shared in time. When they come of age I plan to encourage them as best I can to find their own paths. I think for now it’s the best I can do, the most I can offer while staying true to myself; but I’m always going to wonder if it’s enough.