Saturday, September 3, 2011

First funeral

One of my friends lost her grandmother this week. Thursday I got a text from my friend, asking if I could sing at the funeral on Friday.

My friend felt bad asking me for the favor, but it made me feel so good to be asked! I sing, but I don't do a lot of solos, and it meant a lot that she'd trust me.

The songs went great, but that's not really what this post is about. This post is about my kids, attending their first funeral.

My original plan was for The Engineer to take half the day off so he could watch the kids during the afternoon service. But then I found out that there would be a room for kids at the funeral home, complete with childcare. I had to take Chickie out of school 30 minutes early, which was a lot better than The Engineer taking four hours off work! So I packed up Zoodle, picked up Chickie, and headed to the funeral home.

The kids had come with us to a memorial service a few months ago (again, staying in a separate room during the service.) But there wasn't a casket at that service. At this one, there was, and when we arrived, it was open.

Kids, of course, don't have the same attitude toward death that adults have. In fact, I don't think my kids have thought a lot about death in the past. When one of their friends (the deceased's six-year-old great-granddaughter) asked Chickie and Zoodle if they wanted to see her grandma, they eagerly agreed.

As my friend's husband (who was accompanying me on guitar) and I practiced our songs, Chickie and Zoodle repeatedly followed their friend to the casket to peek in. I later heard that their friend even touched her grandmother to show my kids that she wasn't alive.

Sound weird? Yeah, it does. But I think it was such a healthy, concrete "introduction to death" for my kids. They didn't know the woman who had died, so they weren't dealing with any negative emotions. They were just interested. Afterward, they had questions about what it means to die. We were able to talk about the body and the spirit, and how the woman's body had stopped working, but her spirit had stayed alive and is living with Jesus.

My kids have now looked at someone who is dead. That's a bridge they crossed earlier than I expected they would. And maybe since it happened so early, in a completely un-traumatic (and dare I say, even positive) way, just maybe it will help them not to fear death. I hope so. It was also good for me, talking so candidly with them about a subject that can be hard to contemplate.

Even funerals can be learning experiences for kids--and for moms too!


Call Me Cate said...

My first memories of funerals were much more traumatic, I think because I wasn't exposed to funerals until it involved much more emotional losses. Sure, people I knew had passed away but they were people on the outskirts of my life. Friends' grandparents. That guy at church. My great-grandfather I only saw once a year (actually, I remember when he married my great grandmother more than I remember the impact of his death). It was no different to me than if the person had moved away.

This meant that from 15-16, I dealt with the death of two grandparents, my best friend, and a sibling all in twelve months, all completely unprepared.

Anyways, it doesn't sound weird to me. It sounds like a calm first step in preparing them to understand for a time when, unfortunately, they will have to deal with the loss of someone closer.

Linda said...

Beth, this is very similar to my kids' experiences. Our church choir often sings at funerals, so they've been to several, for people we knew, but didn't know well.

Having asked all of the questions ahead of time because they've seen funerals before helps them, I think, when it is time to say goodbye to someone they're close to.

This past year, two of the kids' schoolmates were killed in a car crash. It's a small parochial school, only about 10 kids in a grade. Not only did the schoolchildren attend the funeral, but they sang Jesus Loves Me and another song chosen by the boys' family.

At the end of the school year, the location of the school picnic was adjacent to the cemetery where the brothers were buried. Again, the entire school gathered at the gravesite and the children learned what it means to "pay your respects." It was a hard and sad lesson to learn, but they were so confident of the boys' new home in heaven that they didn't feel the sadness that the adults felt.

Dan & Hillary said...

What an intestesting day

Dan & Hillary said...

(oops...) for you all. It is difficult to understand and explain the difference between our bodies and our souls but the pure curiosity of children will help simplify it, it seems.

Anonymous said...

For our adoptive daughter Katie, death was all too much a part of her childhood. She had to learn about death in the most traumatic way possible, and I think it would have been easier for her if she had been exposed to the subject before losing her parents.

I think you handled the situation beautifully, and used it as an opportunity to talk openly and honestly about death. As much as we want to, we can't protect our kids from everything, and by allowing them to learn this way, you've given them a chance to be prepared for when it happens to someone close to them.