Still Working On It

The Next Family

By: Barbara Matousek

“Where is Grandpa Jim?”

We are in the car and we have just driven past a cemetery, the same cemetery we drive past twice a day, every single day, on our way back from town.  We have never talked about this particular cemetery, and my father is not buried there.  But somehow Sam has made the connection.

“In heaven.”

There.  I said it.  I wasn’t ever going to talk about heaven in such concrete terms.  But any parent will tell you that there are lots of things that you swore you would not do before you actually had kids, and I have run out of ways to explain death to my 3-year-old.

“Where is heaven?” he asks.

“In the sky.”  I cringe when I say it, but I can’t stop myself.

“Where?  I don’t see it,” he says, looking up at the thick gray clouds that threaten rain.

“It’s invisible.”

“But where is it?”

“It’s hard to explain.  I’ll have to get a book to help you understand it.”

“No, Mommy!  Don’t buy a book.”  He is three.  He yells things like this at me frequently.  He wants what he wants, how he wants it.  And he always wants it right now.

“Okay,” I say.

The spring rains have left the fields to our west a muddy mess, and the wind is pulling the car on the road.  I push the button to open the garage door and hope he will be distracted by the sight of his bike.

“But what is heaven?” he starts again.  “I don’t know what heaven is!”

“It’s where people go when they die.”

“But where is it?!”


Last week I struggled with “What is February?”  and “What does salty mean?”  A few days later I explained my friend’s father’s multiple sclerosis and the fact that we were walking to raise money for a cure; Sam wanted to know what “cure” was.  Cure is an easy concept compared to Death, and Sam now knows that we walked to “try to fix Kelly’s daddy.”

I’m still working on Death.


[Photo Credit: Flickr Member John Seb]

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