10 September 2010

Preparing Their Hearts

How do we include the children in the service? How much do we expose them to? Should they attend the burial? Will the experience frighten them? These were some of the tough questions we wrestled with before the funeral. Our funeral director, who had had a lot of experience in this area offered us some wise council. He challenged us to consider our reasons for not wanting to include the children in some areas. After all, we had included them in everything up to this point. They had met their sister, they had held her, could they not cope with her funeral as well? What would their imaginations come up with if they didn't attend? What would we say, when in the future they asked us why we didn't include them in the funeral? We began to realise that we were the ones who were afraid, the children would be okay. A new question arose: How do we prepare them?

"Dear God, help us as we try to explain death and resurrection to our children. Reassure us about the ability of children to understand and their capacity to believe, and make our faith equal theirs. Then grant us the right words at the right time to satisfy the mind and comfort the spirit of our children. Amen." William H. Armstrong for 'Water Bugs and Dragonflies' - D. Stickney

We decided to begin by reading them a story adapted by Doris Stickney called 'Water Bugs and Dragonflies.' It is a story that helps to explain death to small children. It is about the miracle of transformation, when water bugs change into shiny dragonflies moving from life in the pond to the wonderful new world of sun and air.

"No one can predict the reaction of children to this story. The world of imagination is more real to them than the visible one. They surprise us with a clear grasp of that which we would make complex. And with unerring honesty, they see through our flimsy pretenses."I don't know," is an honest admission. But, "I believe" gives our children confidence in a future to be anticipated and in a Creator whose plan can be trusted."
D. Stickney

When we had finished the book, we began to walk the children through the funeral day, to prepare them for what they would be confronted with. It was very painful for Grant and I to share with them the realities of death and burial, as we were exposing them to subjects which we would have preferred to protect them from. They were shocked at first, but this quickly gave way to a calm acceptance, as we weaved the confronting subject of death with the beautiful hope of eternal life.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote about the experience of losing her best friend at 9 years of age in her book 'On Asking God Why'.
"My playmate was dead. The sight was very real for me. It was not a shock. Children are not shocked at things. It is their elders who cannot face reality. I was awed and solemn, and I thought about it for years afterward. It was a very wise decision of my parents to take me to the funeral."

From 'Grief and Grace' by A. Axelby -
"Heaven - The children learned that they now have a sister waiting for them in heaven, someone they want to meet again. A tie has been formed with heaven that gives them another reason to look forward to that day when we will all be reunited as a family."

We concluded by telling them that Charlotte's funeral provided a wonderful opportunity for them to be able to personally honour their sister. One way they could do this, was through their attentiveness to her memorial service and their behaviour. This could be their gift to her -

The day was now prepared...
The children were ready as they could be...
It was time to face reality...

"People were bringing little children to Him in order that He might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant, and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."
Mark 10:13-15 NRSV


Jenny Tonkin said...

Julianne,your children were so well behaved at the service and burial. They have a very good understanding that Charlotte is in Heaven and that one day they will see her again. Grant and you have done a brilliant job of conveying this. You are both awesome parents and because of this, your children will have amazing testimonies. Well done!! Love and hugs, Jen. x

OhlsonFamily said...

I'm crying again!!! I'm in awe of how wonderful you have walked through this journey with your three older children. What amazing parents you are! In the midst of devastating pain and numb hearts you are nurturing their souls and pointing them towards Christ, their creator and father, with whom Charlotte is rejoicing. Your selflessness in this is something they will cherish for the rest of their lives as they look to their eternal future in heaven with their sister. You and Grant are cherished role models to me of godly parents. Thank you!! Loving you and wishing I could pop over and give you a REAL hug!

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