We started our drive. I don’t let my kids use technology (most of the time) as we shuttle around town. For a reason. We have these really silly imaginative or extremely deep, awesome and sometimes hard conversations in the van. At red lights. On the highway. In our driveway. Or we listen to music.
The other night, one of my seven year old boys asked, out of the blue, from his backseat by the window,
“Can a kid cry in Heaven?”
I think we have more talks about God, Jesus, dying and Heaven in the van than the average family. My kids ask really, REALLY hard questions that most times, I don’t know the answer to. Questions that cause me to think about the most painful stuff as a parent. A child dying. My child dying. Going to Heaven before me. But without me.
Suddenly, a million thoughts floated frantically around in my head like a snow globe that had just been picked up and shaken hard. By a little boy. I suffered from a rare temporary loss of words, I didn’t know how to answer him. So, I dug a little deeper. I asked him a question back, knowing that his sweet answer may cause the huge lump in my throat to expand, making it difficult to talk. Or answer him.
Wait. Maybe we could just talk again about the ten deer we had just stopped to see. As we pulled up next to them eating at sunset, they nonchalantly stared back at us. All of their eyes looked up at us, as they chewed on their grass. My boys thought it was awesome. I did too. One of my boys said he would like to have a pet deer. To which his younger brother replied, “do you want one with horns or not?” No bucks. Good to know.
All of these spontaneous thoughts volunteered to help me change the subject, but I just couldn’t ignore his question or dodge it either.
So I asked him, “Why would a kid cry in Heaven?”
Then out came his too-quick-of-a-response.
“Cause they miss their mom and dad.”
My heart dropped. Or maybe it stopped for a second. And then I was driving and silently crying. His sweet answer physically hurt. His honesty, his innocence. It really doesn’t matter how great Heaven is if you have to go there without your mom and Dad. That’s scary and sad. I got it. I understood him. And so I talked about how God and Jesus and so many others, like Gammie, would hold, carry and love on a kid in Heaven and how even though it seemed like a long time to not see their mom or dad for a little while, they would get to spend forever with them. One day.
Then my son said, “I wanna be a kid when I go to Heaven.”
I quickly replied,
“I don’t want you to be a kid when you go to Heaven. I want you to be a grown up. A lot older than you are. Like Grandma Fritz.”
“No, I don’t want to die like a kid…..I just want to be a kid when I’m in Heaven.”
Oh. Okay. I could understand why he would want to have a kid’s body and energy to live and explore and play in Heaven. Maybe because Grandma Fritz needs help moving, going to the bathroom, or getting out of her chair. She also has a hard time hearing. She’s 94. That’s who they know that may be going to Heaven soon. Its not easy describing how our bodies may look or be different in Heaven in a way that is easy for seven year olds and four years to understand. Or me. And it’s not like I’ve been there to speak from experience. So then, he asked me a few more questions.
“Does it hurt when you die?”
My goodness. Another tough one. I talked about how I hope it doesn’t hurt. How I hope it’s peaceful for Grandma Fritz. But I said I didn’t know. Again.
We had twenty more minutes to drive. The sun had set. The car was dark. And I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. It’s hard thinking on painful things that aren’t supposed to happen. Things that are my worst nightmare as a mother. It’s hard to be separated from my boys for a few long shifts away at work. I definitely don’t want to think about death separating us. Too soon. Before I’m ready. But it will happen. A temporary separation. One day. Hopefully, a long, long way away.
Of course, it’s more fun to talk about pet deer. And taking rides on shooting stars. And the human body, especially the spinal cord. Most days, I would even choose to talk about how to handle mean kids that mistreat and call others names than talking about Heaven and dying. But, for some reason that night, my son needed to know if a kid could cry in Heaven. So, I answered him the best I could.
Then, I started to think about the moms and dads that go to Heaven. Too early, too young. Too soon. Without their kids. How I would cry in Heaven too. Cause I missed my boys. Temporarily. Just a blink of the eye when compared to forever. So, I will keep believing in forever. I have to. Even when it’s hard, painful, confusing or unknown. And a little scary. Maybe there are temporary tears in Heaven. Maybe not.
Either way, I shake up the snow globe of my thoughts again. This time I think on the excruciatingly happy moments of life. I imagine the joy of birth, hearing my son’s first cries. Holding them for the first time. I picture their arms wrapped around me, snuggled up in the rocking chair. I imagine them reaching up and saying, “Hold you, momma. Hold you.” I imagine the joy of seeing my school-aged boys waiting for me to pick them up after a long day at school. I imagine the joy I felt when I hugged my big sister after not seeing her for over a year. I imagine the time my husband showed up at Starbucks when I was working and he had just gotten back from Australia. Or when my best friend flew in town and showed up unexpectedly in my hospital room. I remember the joy of driving home with the windows down from the hospital after weeks of being there. I think of our crowded dinner table, growing up and still, everyone talking, eating, and laughing.
The moments keep coming. Accompanied by the joy felt when experiencing all of these times and a million more. I collect all of this joy. Gather it up, and set it in a special nook in my heart. I hold it tightly. Dearly. This happiness. And it helps me feel a lot better if there are temporary tears in Heaven.