Yesterday evening I took Jennie & Jackson to Journey of Hope, which is a grief support group for families who have lost loved ones, aimed particularly at the children. I was thinking we might be past the need to go, because Jennie & Jackson seemed to be doing well, and I was feeling better about Dad's death. The children were asked to draw pictures: on one side of the paper they were to draw the bad things that happened last year, and on the other side of the paper what they wanted to be good or fix this year.
When my group joined the others downstairs, Jennie ran to me and said Jackson was crying and couldn't stop. He was surrounded by concerned facilitators and sobbing like his heart was broken. "I miss Grandpa. I want him to come back." His picture showed Grandpa dead and then in heaven on one side, and the other side was our whole family, with Grandpa standing together and smiling, all alive. Poor darling, that's what he wants and when he drew the picture I think it made it real to him that this wasn't going to happen. Grandpa wasn't coming back. And he finally brought up all the grief and feelings that had been in there that he hadn't dealt with. I held him and comforted him, and even carried him to the car (no mean feat -- he's 50 lbs. now), and I told him to just cry until it was all out. It was hard on his asthma and we had to do a breathing treatment when we got home, but I think it really helped. This morning he was happier and bouncier -- and hungrier! -- than I've seen him in months. He's been having almost constant stomach aches but today he said it was hunger and ate a big breakfast.
After we left the group last night, I took the kids to Braum's for a chocolate milk shake. On the way, we talked about Grandpa being in heaven, and Jennie said she wasn't sure there was going to be a Paradise. "Well, how do we KNOW it's going to happen?" she demanded. I said that really we don't know for sure until it comes but we can have faith that God will take care of the people who believe in him. She said, "well, it's been AT LEAST 2000 YEARS and he hasn't done ANYTHING." So we talked a little about God's concept of time versus an incredibly impatient 9-year-old's concept of time. Then they both started talking about what they do and don't believe about God, the Bible, and stuff like that. Jennie is very much the questioner and skeptic: "How do we KNOW Moses was real? And Adam and Eve?" Jackson said confidently, "I know Adam and Eve were real -- WE'RE here, aren't we? How could we get here if we didn't have two people to start it off?"
I was amazed at both of them. The maturity with which they were discussing this subject just astounded me. It shows that they had thought it through and came up with some very adult questions and concerns. I told them what I believed and told them that they were well on their way to proving to themselves what they believed and that, whether it was Bible-based or not, it was okay. What matters is what kind of people they become.
I enjoyed being able to talk about anything with them without feeling like I had to direct their beliefs in any particular way. No guilt, no pressure, no anxiety that if they didn't believe like the rest of the religion they were doomed.
Pretty productive evening! (It ended at Blockbuster Video with me buying them each a video because I'm a big softy and can't stand to see either of them cry.)