A Happy and Thankful Life


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young and insightful

Today I took my youngest niece, nephews and sister to Boo at the Zoo. I know this is a common thing around the country; costumed children run around the zoo stopping by different treat stations dispersed amongst the animal exhibits. I took the two youngest last year and they had a blast and were excited to go again. We had a great time checking out the animals and all the cute costumes. I also got to have all their pixie sticks as my sister didn’t want them to have the pure sugar. I can’t imagine why! 

I’m thankful for the time we had together today. But I’m also thankful for what I heard my oldest nephew say when I was talking to my sister. We were in the car heading home and were bouncing between talking between all of us and just me and my sister. I heard the youngest nephew say out of the blue, “J sick”. It shocked me and as my sister kept talking about something, I zoned her out to hear how the oldest nephew responded. I was very touched and proud of what he said.

He said, “No, J isn’t sick anymore. He’s up in heaven. His body is here because he doesn’t need it in heaven. He isn’t sick or in pain. He’s in heaven with Jesus.” I tried hard not to cry.

I had struggled with telling the oldest when I knew J wasn’t going to survive. He overheard my sister telling a cousin and he was devastated. We tried hard not to talk about cancer around him. J didn’t want to say that “C” word around him. He knew that J was sick at times and had to stay in the hospital. We made sure to explain that he had something that so few people ever get and no one could catch it. It just meant that he had to be really careful around germs so he didn’t get sicker. 

In June, I found myself with the even harder job of explaining to the oldest nephew what was happening. How do you explain to a nine-year-old that his favorite uncle and one of the few consistent, positive male role-models  in his life has died? I spoke from my heart. I explained that J loved him very much. That J had a particular type of cancer that so few people get and he and his doctors worked so hard to beat it. But he was so very sick. I answered the oldest nephew’s questions the best I could and with a lot of tears. J’s body was on earth but he, his soul, was in heaven. He wasn’t sick or in pain anymore. And I’m sure that he misses us as much as we miss him. That it’s okay to laugh, to cry, to joke, to be upset, to be sad, to miss him.

I sometimes underestimate kids. I think many of us do. I struggled with what to tell him as I wasn’t sure how much he understood. But, today, I know that he gets what is important. As much as we may miss J, he’s in heaven and finally free of cancer. It took a sweet voice from the backseat to show me that he knows and will share that grace and knowledge with his siblings.

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