Here's a little story, I'd like to document for my memory bank (one of the real reasons I blog).
Mondays are 'show and tell' days at school. Mathew loves this day. He gets to show off his favorite toys, stuffed animals, books, and such. Yesterday morning, he asked me "is it 'show and tell' day?" And before I can even get the word "yes" out of my mouth, he got all excited and ran upstairs. He came back down with his little red photo album. This album is photos of him and his Uncle Robin (about 40 plus pictures). I made this for him about a month after Robin passed away. I had a fear that he would forget who his Uncle Robin was (this fear is long gone now). I have found this album tucked up next to him at night while he is sleeping, moved in different locations, and left open many different times. He evidently views this album frequently, to my surprise. He talks about Robin, tells me he dreams of Robin, or that he imagines Robin sitting next to him. He does get sad at times and cries when missing Robin, but for the most part he expresses his thoughts of Robin in a positive way, as I try to role model that same positive behavior.
I just realized that I have to give you a back story (didn't blog about it - strange?!) before I carry on with today's story. On thanksgiving day of 2009, I took Mathew for the the first time to the cemetery to visit Robin. I was hoping to wait for the ability to go to the cemetery without crying, but I realized that idea is futile. But I didn't want to wait too long before taking him to visit either. I remember that it was a spontaneous last minute idea to go to the cemetery (maybe more for me) on our way down to my parents house for thanksgiving dinner. Mathew and I have still been sending balloons for Robin on the holidays and for 'just because' reasons, (which reminds me I need to buy eco-friendly balloons). So I thought, we would send the balloon from the cemetery this time, foolishly not aware of the possible reactions. On the way, I tried to prepare my son (again not fully envisioning or preparing myself for this "talk"). I totally winged it (oops)! I started with my first mistake, I told my son "we are on our way to see Robin." Idiot! Now he thinks we're actually going to see him. Smarty pants Mathew asks "are we going to heaven?" Great idea! Wouldn't that be an amazing trip!? So naturally, I had to clarify that we weren't actually going to see him, but that we were going to visit his "body" in a cemetery. This led to questions about the cemetery and discussion of appropriate behavior at the cemetery. I told him that many families have loved ones buried here and that we have to respect the cemetery and others, use our inside voices (even though we are outside), and walk only on the paved walkways, etc, etc. He asked many appropriate questions that I was proud to respond to. Then as I described to him that Robin was buried underground, I realize my next mistake. I literally smacked my hand on my forehead as soon as that came out of my mouth. I've been telling him Robin is up in heaven and now I'm saying he's buried underground. So before another smarty pants question could come out. I tried to explain the difference, that his body is underground in a box (coffin) and the his soul is up in heaven. Okay, no confusion there. Then he asked more about this box thing and why we bury people in a box. I did the best I could, talking about being buried with the dirt and how our body goes back into earth. I couldn't believe I was having this discussion with my four year old son, and who seemed to be clearly grasping this all (in his own way). Another back story, I didn't mention in my blogs, is about vultures. Mathew and I witnessed huge vultures eating a dead bird by our house many months before Robin even passed away. So I used that opportunity to give him a lesson on vultures; what kid of birds they are, where you can find them, what they eat, etc. Smarty pants Mathew asked me one time if vultures were going to eat Robin (knowing that vultures eat dead things). So, on our car ride to the cemetery, we were able to tie in the discussion of being buried underground where the vultures won't get to him and the cemetery. This car ride contained the most intellectual conversation about death, cemeteries, and heaven with my four-year old son. It didn't start there, nor did it end there. I still get questions and comments randomly. Like yesterday, he asked me "how do you talk if you're in heaven?" It is obvious he is thinking and processing this complex idea in his deep and thoughtful 4 year old head of his. Every story, every experience, every moment is magnificently absorbed by my son with such understanding and comprehension. I am truly amazed! Not to mention that me having to be so matter-of fact with my son about death has helped me cope with my brother's loss more than I can fully appreciate. The bluntness of my words I have to use for it to make sense to my son don't feel as sharp as they once did. They don't pain me to speak of the truth, the facts, what us adults usually have a hard time dealing with. I thank my son for helping ME deal with the truth, to smile and think positively about Robin. Back at the cemetery, I kept it brief. I showed him Robin's name on the makeshift sign (for now). We have to wait for the one year anniversary to put up the "headstone". I showed him what others looked like. We had a little talk about that. Yes, I cried a little hoping to mask it behind my huge sunglasses. There is no hiding my emotions from my son. He asks me why I was crying and I simply stated that I miss Robin. He told me that it would be okay and hugged me. I love his hugs, they cure all my grief! On our way out, we stopped by my aunt's plot. I told him that he never met her, but that she was a beautiful, loving aunt and is up in heaven with Robin. She is Mimi's sister and Mumu's (Muriel's) mom. We left a rock on her headstone and left to Mimi and Papa's house. The next day he wanted to send a balloon to heaven for Tata Lilianne and Robin! He has such a compassionate soul and huge heart...he's amazing (and I KNOW I'm biased)!
Okay, so back to today's story...let's see where did I leave off. Oh, Show and Tell Monday!
Mathew brings in his photo album of his Uncle Robin on Monday. This morning, when I drop him off, I asked the teacher how 'show and tell' went yesterday, since I was a little worried he may be too blunt with his words in front of the other children. I can tell she was worried too, but she said it ended up being just fine (sorta short and sweet). He didn't get sad, he just talked candidly about his Uncle Robin, showed his picture and said that he was in heaven. She told me that he has been drawing Uncle Robin several times now. She saved me the one he drew yesterday (and told me I will find others like this in his 'daybook'). The drawing I received this morning, was of Robin in a "box" in the cemetery. It wasn't a detailed drawing, it wasn't negative, dark, or gloomy, it was simple and matter-of-fact, like our conversations. That's why the teacher asked me if I took him to the cemetery. It was just that one time a couple months ago. Amazing! The teacher told me that this was healthy, he is expressing and processing his thoughts in a positive way. She tells me that he is so smart and maturely advanced for his age. He's doing just fine.
As I walked back to my car, drawing in hand, my heart broke into a little million pieces for Mathew. It's not right for a four year old to have to cope and learn about this. My heart hurts thinking that Robin is not here watching him grow, guiding him through "mental toughness" lessons, laughing, playing, sharing, hugging, and talking with him. It hurts to see Mathew hurting and missing Robin. All these thoughts came flooding in on this short walk, and as I sat in my car the flood of tears came pouring out (as I'm doing now).
Every story, every moment, every experience magnificently absorbed by Mathew with such understanding and comprehension. I am amazed! I am so proud of my son, especially in these emotionally, somber moments!
We ❤ you, Robin! and if it isn't obvious enough, we miss you tremendously!!! You are always, always with us in our thoughts, our dreams, and especially in our hearts.
❤ Forever Together ❤