August 19, 2012

A moment for grace.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , at 1:00 pm by openendedcomment

Yesterday morning we brought our children to a cemetery.  To the grave of their Grandmother, exactly one week after her passing.  We had made a decision, and I say “we” as all four children were allowed to make their own decision regarding it, to not have them attend the formal wake and funeral.  I struggled with what others would think of us for not having them there.  His family, friends, siblings and even her, his Mother, what she would think of their absence.  I no longer have any doubts.  It was the absolute right decision.

Our children did it their way as was their right and our obligation as their parents to allow.  They had been to a funeral only weeks before and they knew it wasn’t what they wanted to experience.  Funerals are for the living; our way to find closure and peace and to a certain degree our deep-seeded sense of social and familial obligation rooted in centuries of tradition.  Especially for our Catholic group.  The mass and the prayers are for us, the last rites and the confessions are for the departed.  I believe their peace and their closure is complete long before the pall bearers and processions.

They said their good-byes through the innocence and love that only children are capable of expressing.  They did so without the confines of proper etiquette and without the scrutiny of second and third cousins eyes on them, there to witness their pain.  They came in shorts and sneakers, bearing little hand-written notes and the flowers they chose, one left a key chain he had meant to give her on her next birthday, formed with his own hands.  They walked to her place of rest and gently set them at her feet.  They prayed their own prayers, took their own time and though they did cry what seemed a river tears there were also smiles of remembrance.  My husband led them in a Hail Mary, her favorite prayer.  They sat down, in front of dirt not yet covered in sod in a little circle of love surrounding the Nonni they had known and asked the questions any child would ask if granted the opportunity.  We answered as we could and they accepted as children do.

Then, as we prepared to leave, one returned.  He placed his hand in the soft soil covering her and pressed to make his mark.  The other three followed his lead, etching messages under their little prints.  We love you, we miss you, smiley faces and hearts pressed into the soil soon to be covered with sod and a stone.  Their own tribute, something we who have been through far too many burials would never think to do.  And that, that is what made it so perfect, so right.  It was their peace, their closure and their love left with her without our advice and void of our traditions.

As it should be.  Their experiences are not ours and their memories, forever to be locked in through the eyes of a child will never be what ours were.  Perhaps this is what I needed to learn, that children should never be placed in adult situations, not because they have no place there but because by doing so we remove the beauty of their ignorance.  We take away their ability to cope and to grieve as they need to, not as we think they should.  And isn’t that something we could all take a lesson from?  To navigate through difficult times as we need to and not as we are told we should.  My four little teachers are wise not beyond but because of their years.



  1. Jamie said,

    I had not been able to shed a single tear for my aunt until reading this. It is so wonderful to read that others see that we all have our own way of grieving and that we don’t all feel the traditional funeral setting is for us. I do cry now for my aunt who has left this place before she should have, I cry for the empty place it has left in my cousins and their childrens lives.

    • I’m glad you were able to gain some comfort from this and from them. No, not everyone grieves in the same way and not everyone should feel forced to. With each person in our lives we live differently and feel and experience differently than any other individual that may know or have known them…so why should we all react and then act the same way when they leave? As long as in your heart you know your decisions are right, that’s all that should matter.

  2. Funerals are hard for children to understand. My children know Grandma is dancing with the angels. In religion we teach our children to God is grace and loving, but it’s difficult to understand why he takes our loved ones. If you asked my child, “Because she couldn’t dance with her wheelchair, but can now.”

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