Answering big questions from our little ones doesn’t have to be traumatic. I always tried to answer my children’s questions about death in a simple, loving way. This is a story I wrote about my daughter, Ashley, who is now 33-years-old.
Waking to a loud noise, I sleepily headed towards the light in the kitchen. Who is up? I wondered.
Three-year-old Ashley had scooted a chair over to the counter. Her bobbed haircut covered her face as she looked down into the goldfish bowl. The coveted prize from the fair, Sammy the goldfish, was floating on his side.
“I think you fed him too much, honey,” I told her.
“But he always looked hungry, he kept going like this.” She replied, dramatically re-in-acting Sammy’s familiar opening and closing of his mouth while flapping her bent arms like fins.
Considering the seriousness of the moment, I tried not to smile at her adorable goldfish impersonation.
“Why isn’t he swimming around in circles, Mommy?”
“He’s dead, honey.”
“That means he won’t swim or eat anymore. He’s not alive.”
“Poor Sammy,” she said, her voice choked with emotion.
Oh, Sweety, life is hard already. I’m sorry.
“It’s too early for you to be up.” I said, “I’ll tuck you back into bed.”
I kissed her sad angel face, pulled the covers over her pink-ruffled pajamas, and turned her light out.
I went into the bathroom and unceremoniously dumped Sammy from his glass bowl into the toilet bowl and flushed. Then I flushed again. He finally went down. The third times a charm.
Later, at the breakfast table, Ashley held the now obsolete little pink castle from the goldfish bowl. Salty tears ran down her cheeks and mixed with the milk in her cereal bowl.
“What will happen when I die, Mommy?” She asked, her sweet little button-nosed face looking so serious.
I paused a moment, caught off guard by the question. Then I answered, “You’ll go to heaven and live with Jesus forever.”
“What’s heaven like?”
“The Bible says it’s beautiful. The streets are made of shiny gold.”
I went to the bookshelf, brought back a children’s story about heaven, and we went into the living room and snuggled up on the couch.
“In heaven there will be no more tears…” The book began.
“Will there be candy? She asked, still sniffling.
“I suppose so.” I said, “Everyone is happy in heaven.”
Ashley jumped off my lap and ran to her bedroom. I heard her closet door open followed by sounds of frantic searching. She came back carrying her favorite sandals and struggled to put them on. I sat wondering, What is she up to?
She looked up at me and impatiently said, “Quick, Mom, get your shoes. Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?”
“I wanna go to heaven.”
“Soon enough, Ashley, soon enough.”
“We can’t go now?”
“No, honey, not today.”
“Can I get a new goldfish?”
“That we can do.”
I slipped on my shoes and grabbed my car key. Then, we drove to the pet store to buy Sammy #2.
- Take advantage of everyday moments to teach kids Biblical Truths.