How do you effectively explain death and heaven to a three year old, for the first time?
This past week we encountered that reality, and have been sorting our way through the process.
Our dear friend's 4 month-old son passed away this week, from a genetic condition, SMA type 1.
The last several days have been a rollercoaster of grief, sorrow, relief, yet, joy, and thanksgiving. Baby Truman is no longer suffering and has been made new. Though his loved ones are left 'empty-handed' and heartbroken, how amazing that he is now perfect and living with Jesus, our ultimate goal.
Though it's difficult, as adults we know death is a fact of life. Most have encountered it at least once, if not numerous times. Most importantly, as Christians we know this world is not our home. We are only here for a short time... preparing and striving for eternal life with Christ.
- However, for a toddler, this is all foreign and unknown... a concept they have heard little of.
For the first time, this week, we as parents faced the challenge of introducing [human] death to our Alex. It could not be avoided, and we knew this was the time.......
Truman's big brother, Lincoln, and Alex are buddies. They're about a year apart and are both "all-boy", loving tractors, trucks, and playing ball. We were overjoyed when we heard of our friend's [the Heatwoles] growing family, that "L" would be a big brother. And around the time baby "T" was born, we announced our current pregnancy. We explained to Alex that just like "L", he too would be a big brother. I loved watching Alex interact with baby T, and his new interest in babies.
As it became clear, and was announced baby "T" had a special condition [shortly after birth], I remember Alex picking up on it immediately. We talked frequently about baby "T" and his situation over the last several months, praying. Last Sunday, our friends went to the hospital, as baby "T" had gotten sick and was struggling to survive. We shared this with Alex, and surprisingly, he didn't say much.
Tuesday morning we received the news..... baby "T" had gone to be with Jesus. As I stood in the kitchen, "Come to Jesus" by Chris Rice playing, I read the text, and began to weep. Alex came to me several minutes later asking, "what is wrong, Mom?" I told him the news and explained that I was very sad, but happy at the same time, and why. His only reply was that "Truman is with Jesus." I let the subject go for the rest of the day until Alex brought it up that evening, stating that "Jesus can make us all better when we're sick."
The memorial service and viewing were planned for Friday evening. Blake and I agreed that to attend as a family. As it came time to say "goodbye" to baby "T", i felt uneasy and anxious, even upset.
.... How would Alex respond? ... Did we make the right decision? ... Is he too young?
We kept our comments simple, repeating what we had previously told him... "Baby Truman is in heaven." ..... "His body is here on earth, but his heart and soul are with Jesus." "He isn't sick anymore, and he is very happy!" -Needing to take care of some responsibilities, I left Alex with Blake until the service started. Blake later told me that Alex asked to see baby 'T' again, and he then commented, "it doesn't look like him."
Since then, and the burial service Saturday, Alex has made several remarks, but hasn't asked any specific questions. I overheard him after several family-friends, "do you want to see Jesus?" Also, stating, "baby "T" is in heaven!" We are waiting for him to request a "let's talk" family-meeting, as he often does when ready to talk about something, or has a question.
..... I can't help but wonder what his little heart and mind are feeling, thinking. ... My prayer is that, even now, he would start to understand that this earth is not our home. That most importantly, we want to be with Jesus, even if it means being apart from our family for a short time.
And with your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye...
then go in peace, and laugh on glory's side....
and, fly to Jesus...
fly to Jesus....
fly to Jesus, and live....
In honor of baby Truman, balloons were released at the burial service ...
a symbol of our need to 'release' him to God.
Please pray for our friends, the Heatwole family.
Their journey, in a way, is only beginning.