I alluded to this a while back, I think, but I find the concept of explaining death to Jacob very difficult. Obviously when my aunt died over a month ago, not a lot of explanation was necessary. Jacob never had to come to the funeral or anything like that, and really all he knew was that I was gone for a couple days. I did mention that people were sad, but I just couldn't really get into it beyond that.
On one hand, death is part of life. It happens. And as much as I don't want him to be exposed to it anytime soon, I know that some day it will happen and we'll be tasked with the challenge of explaining it to him as gently as possible. Death is sad because it's a loss. Someone is no longer with us, and we will miss them. The good news is that as Christians, we have a happy ending--that the one we've lost has gone on ahead to heaven. They're happy there, and someday far in the future we'll see them again. I don't know about you, but I like happy endings.
On the other hand, Jacob is so young and so innocent. I feel like it's almost cruel to even broach the topic with him. It's far too complex for him at this point, and there's just no need for him to experience true sadness at this early stage of his life. And yet, there are times when it comes up. Maybe it's as simple as something on a TV show, or in the context of an animal's passing, or something else along those lines. Sometimes I feel like he should have some concept of it, or that at the very least we shouldn't entirely shelter him from it, because some day he will have to deal with it and I'd hate for it to be such an unexpected blow--more than it would have been with some background knowledge, at least.
Lately there's been a couple things that have had me thinking about it. I mentioned here the other day about the book I was reading, "Two Kisses for Maddy". I just finished it a few minutes ago, actually, and just reading about how the author has had to ease his daughter into understanding her mother's death definitely makes you think. I mean, that little girl had no idea that her mother died, and not having known her at all, still has only a partial concept of what happened and what's missing from her life. She's aware of her mother, knows she isn't around, but just doesn't get the full scope of what happened. Her father's girlfriend fills the practical void of her mother, but obviously there will be a lot of explanations and discussions for many years to come as she truly begins to understand what happened. Still, death will always shape her world. But the thought of having to explain death to Jacob just boggles my mind, and frankly I'm so happy we haven't had to yet. That could change in an instant, I know, but God willing we'll have a lot more time.
The second thing that's made me think about it is the Easter season. Obviously Jacob isn't that aware of the whole Lent thing, really, but last night we went to my parents' church's Good Friday service. At its core, Good Friday is about death. It's a sad day, particularly if you don't know the happy ending that's coming on Sunday. Jacob has an Easter book that he got last year in his basket from my parents, and we've read it a few times in the past few weeks. It mentions Jesus' death in very simple terms, and obviously talks about the resurrection and why Easter is so special. I haven't dived any deeper into the death discussion when we hit that part of the book, but I sometimes wonder if Jacob gets it at all. Anyway, during the service last night, the church got progressively darker. It was a beautiful service that had many good, thought-provoking parts. My favorite is when we walk up to the front with red "sin strips" (just a long strip of red cloth) and hang them over the large wooden cross. After we're done, the black-draped cross is stood up, and the red cords hang down like blood--in a pretty, non-gory way. Even Jacob participated this year. But by the end he was asking about why it was dark, and my mom explained to him that Jesus died. Later when Jacob asked about the darkness, he answered his own question, saying that it was because Jesus died (or, "dived", depending on the moment) and that it was sad. It was so sweet and so innocent. Obviously it's a big concept for a little boy, but for now, I think that's just right.
We've prepped him for Sunday, saying how everything is going to be bright and happy because Jesus will be alive again. And again, I am grateful for the happy ending. But unfortunately, the real-life journey from death to life for us earthly humans is a heck of a lot longer than three days, and I do worry just a little about the first real death we'll face. Will Jacob be expecting a miraculous resurrection then too? How will we explain the difference between Jesus and us without souring him to this earthly life for good? You can't protect your kids forever, but it's darn tempting to try.
In the Bible we're told to not worry about tomorrow. Today has worries of its own, and God's got the rest under control. So, I'm not obsessing about this at all right now, but it's definitely been something to think about lately. I'll worry about it for real when the time comes, but for now I'll appreciate the happy ending, for more reasons than one.