My youngest two kids have been talking a lot about my mom lately.
I blame Bambi. My son requested to watch it during last weekend’s football game. He and his sister watched it for a while, then got bored and moved on, but he started asking me questions about my mom’s death. “Did it hurt her to die? Did she tell you that it hurt?” I had to explain to him that my mom was sick in her brain, so she wasn’t able to communicate like that. I told him I believed she was not in pain when she died.
My daughter usually expresses her sorrow at my mom’s death by saying she’s sorry it happened and that she hopes I never die. She’s four, so I don’t belabor the point, but I do take those opportunities to talk about how we all will die someday but that as Christians we will be with Jesus forever when we die.
With my boys especially, when they bring up their Gran-Jan, I try to remind them of who she was when she was alive, and not just let her be their grandmother who died. She was a huge presence in their life. She loved to be around them and vice versa. It’s really only struck me recently, however, that all of my children have now known more life without her than with her.
My kids are 9, 6, and 4.
They were (almost) 5, 2, and 2 months when she died, so of course it makes sense that they don’t have many memories of her. My oldest has a handful of specific things that he can remember doing with her, but mostly he relies on the stories I tell him to flesh it out.
This reality can cause me to sink into “it’s not fair” kind of thinking, but instead, I’m trying to grab each opportunity as it comes to tell them stories of my mom. I want them to understand that a lot of who I am is a result of who she was. I want her to continue to be a huge presence in their lives, instead of a looming question mark like so many of my own family stories. I want them to feel freedom in asking me hard questions, and grappling with hard things like death together. And I want them to be filled with hope that the gospel is true and that Gran-Jan believed it and we will see her again.