Tony and I weren't sure how to approach the subject of Isaac's Great Grandpa's death. We've had to put down our tabby kitty Callie in his short life and of course, the concepts are brought up in various movies and shows . . . but that just doesn't compare to telling a child that a person he is connected to is no longer with us.
We just very straight forward told Isaac that his Great Grandpa had died. I'm not sure what memories he had of John, so he was a little confused in who exactly he was. I didn't want him thinking that Tony's paternal Grandpa had died or that my maternal Grandpa had passed, so I tried explaining that it was Grandma Dawn's Dad. He then questioned "So . . . not Grandpa Don, Grandpa Tom or Grandpa Dusty?" He seemed relieved to know it was none of the three and quickly moved on.
The day before the funeral, I knew I had to prep Isaac for wearing something other than comfy clothes. I asked him first if he remembered what respect meant. Nodding his head, I told him that it was out of respect for his Great Grandpa that we would be wearing nice clothes. Remarkably, when dressing him, he didn't argue one peep when I asked him if he remembered why we were wearing nice clothes. It was one of those moments as a mother where you see the silver lining and I was filled with appreciation that my small boy seemed to have a grasp on the importance of the situation. He doesn't have khakis that fit, so we settled on jeans and a nice sweater. He now insists that jeans are only for pictures . . . and funerals.
While at the service, Isaac kept asking where Great Grandpa was and really wanted to say good bye. Tony and I just repeated over and over that while his body is here, that he is in heaven. And then, when we went to lay his body to rest, when I told Isaac we were going to put it in the ground he got very upset and said "But he's going to get dirty!"
Over all, I think for a 3 1/1 year old, he handled it very well and I really hope that Tony and I gave him the right information.
Last night before bed, he very matter of fact looked me in the eyes and told me "Great Grandpa is dead." I agreed with him and asked him if he knew where he was, without skipping a beat, Isaac responded "In heaven."
Not sure how much to further our conversation, as Isaac seems to get upset if I ask him questions that he hasn't asked the answer for, I wasn't prepared for his next question. "Mama, we have that thing from church up there." He pointed to the cross we have hanging in our living room and it seemed such a natural segue. I asked him if he knew what it was and he shook his head no [ahh little attention span for all the times he's been told]. I told him it was a cross and then explained God's great love for us in sending his son to die for our sins, like when we lie. I then shared with Isaac that that's how Great Grandpa ended up in heaven, by asking Jesus into his heart to forgive his sins. I told Isaac that both of his parents had done the same and then asked him if he'd like to go to heaven. Without a second hesitation his eyes shot to mine and he said "No!" Unsure how he would react to hell, I reminded him that while Jesus died for our sins, all of the people who didn't ask for forgiveness would be in hell. His eyes widened as he told me "Mama, hell is where all the bad people are." I then asked him again if he would like to go to heaven when he died and he assuredly nodded his head yes. I asked him if he would like to ask Jesus in his heart and he replied "Yeah . . . sometime."
I figure that's as close as a yes as I've gotten and decided to not press the matter further.
Tony's Grandpa was known as a great man of faith and shared his testimony often, from what I gathered at his funeral service. Who would know, that he would still be bringing others closer to God, even after his passing?