Merry Christmas…What Happens When You Die?

I should have known a question like this was coming after capturing this beautiful – some might say heavenly – picture of the Ft. Lauderdale sunset on Christmas Eve.

We were on our way home from a Christmas Eve gathering at my in-laws last night when Dylan asked, “Mommy, where’s your Grandma?”   Without warning, Mike and I were blindsided into a conversation about death.

Dylan: Mommy, where is your Grandma?

Me: I had two grandmas – Grandma Dorothy was my Mommy’s mommy and Nana Ruth was my Daddy’s mommy.  They are…not alive anymore.

(My Grandma Dorothy had lung and colon cancer.   She actually died on the second night of Hanukkah.  I was in about the fifth grade.  My Nana Ruth died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease when I was in my late teens.  I made a quick calculation that this was too much information for a five-year-old.)

Dylan: They’re dead?

Me: Yes.  They were old and sick and they needed to close their eyes and rest in peace.

Mike: They needed to pass on so they wouldn’t be sick or hurt anymore.

Me: Even though they’re gone now, I miss them very much, and they’re always with me in my heart.

Dylan: Did bad guys make them dead?

Me and Mike: No.

Me: They had boo-boos that made their bodies sick and weak.  Bad guys had nothing to do with it.

Dylan: Am I going to die from a boo-boo?

Me and Mike: No!  (Perhaps boo-boo wasn’t the best choice of words.)

Me: When you scratch your knee or get a prick in your finger at the doctor, those are teeny, tiny boo-boos.  Grandma Dorothy had a big, huge boo-boo inside of her that made her whole body sick and weak.  It was good for her to close her eyes because once she passed on she didn’t feel any pain or sickness anymore.

Dylan: When you die, your body stops moving?

Mike: Yes, when you die your body stops moving, but your soul lives on forever.

Me: When your body stops moving, your soul rises from your body and travels around planet Earth and lives in the stars, the planets, the sun, the moon, and rainbows.  Whenever I see a rainbow, I know my Grandmas are watching over me and loving me.

This is where I started talking about the circle of life and how when people die, babies are also born.  Then I remembered reading an article about answering tough questions from young kids, and the advice was to answer only the questions they actually ask.  Good advice, though I wish I had thought of it sooner because my mention of the circle of life prompted a lot of questions about how and when he was born.

Dylan: Did I fall onto planet Earth when I was born?

Me: No, Mommy and Daddy made you and then you lived in my belly until you were ready to come out.

Mike and I told him about going to the hospital and being lifted out of my belly, wrapped in a warm blanket, and put in our arms so we could cuddle.  This was a whole lot easier to talk about than death, but he bored of it pretty quickly.  “I don’t want to do this story anymore,” he said.

Dylan: Is planet Earth dangerous?

Mike: No.  It’s far enough from the sun not to be too hot but close enough not to be too cold.

Me: It’s the perfect distance for plants and flowers and trees and fruits and vegetablesto grow for humans to eat.

Dylan: What’s a human?

Me: People are human beings.  Mommy, Daddy, Riley and you are human beings.

Dylan: Are there bad human beings on planet Earth?

Me: Yes,but most people are good.

Dylan:Is Santa coming tonight?

Mike and I: Yes, after we’re all asleep. (An easy one!)

Dylan: Bad guys wear dresses and funny shoes. (He recently saw “The Smurfs,” so I think he was referring to Gargamel.)

Me: Dylan, Mommy and Daddy will always protect you from bad guys.

As I prepped the coffee pot for the morning, I asked Mike, “How did we do with that death talk?”  He said, “I think we did okay.”  I think we did okay, too.

In honor of beautiful sunsets and rainbows (and Grandma Dorothy and Nana Ruth), wishing you all a Merry Christmas!  May your day be filled with joy, love and peace, and as few conversations as possible about death, birth, dangerous planets and bad guys in dresses.

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Filed under Christmas, death, tough conversations

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