This morning my seven-year-old son, Elijah, began asking me questions about what happens to us after we die. He was rushing me while I strapped him into his car seat, complaining that I was taking too long. It was snowing, and he pointed out that with the door opened, the snow was landing on him, the sucker from the pediatrician’s office he was holding in his hand, and me. He was very explicit about feeling concerned about those three things in that precise order. Then, he said that he was mainly worried about himself.
Before I could ask him what that meant, he asked what happens when we die. I could tell that this was going to be an interesting ride home.
He was basically asking if there was a life after death, and I said that according to our religion there was, and that we called it Heaven. I explained that Heaven was a wonderful place where there isn’t sickness, or pain, and that you can see others who passed away before you. Elijah likes to relate things to video games, so I used the analogy of Mario Brothers to help describe what Heaven might be like. I said that it was like a level without any enemies, and perhaps you could walk or ride through the sky on clouds. Also, all of the video game characters from the past and present, like Qbert and Pac-Man, might be seen hanging out there.
I also said that Heaven was a place you could enter if you were a good person. I told him that his Grandpa Boyne, who passed away when he was much younger, was most definitely in Heaven, and he was probably there with the rest of his family had passed away before him. This was important, because we have seldom talked openly to Elijah about his grandfather passing away, although I think he understands that he is absent from our lives.
This was the first time I have discussed death, dying, Heaven, and Hell with my kids. It just never came up with my older two. But, I’m not surprised that Elijah thought to ask about it, just maybe the timing following a trip to the doctor’s office. With everything that has happened in our lives and nationally, maybe there has just been a lot more discussion about death and he’s picked up on it.
He asked a lot of great questions, too:
●Do we have a life after we die?
●Do pets go to Heaven?
●How long does it take to get to Heaven?
●If you are holding something when you die, does that go to Heaven with you?
●Where is Heaven?
●Where is Hell?
●Does God live in Heaven?
I answered each one based on what I had learned, although I pointed out that nobody could be sure.
I’m thinking it is time for us to give religion more attention, so that Elijah has a chance to ask more of these questions. And, I’m going to need to go so I’m prepared for more of these conversations.
One thing that continues to amaze me is all of the positive ways in which my kids have challenged me by forcing me to take new changes, try new things, and to reflect on questions that I wouldn’t normally take the time to ponder. And, I didn’t mind thinking about death and Heaven during that car trip home, because it helped distract me from my more down-to-Earth problems..