Copper, the dog, had gone to heaven. He was hit by a car. Cleo the cat had gone to heaven. She was also hit by a car. That was in the Spring of 2001.
Then my grandmother, born in 1907, raised 5 children, sewed beautiful dresses and gowns, helped raise my brother and I, she died in August of 2001.
She’d had dementia for a few years. She remembered my oldest son, but not the others.
One day she asked, “Who’s baby is that?” I told her he was mine.
“Who are you?” she countered.
“Maryleigh,” I answered.
“Oh, no, you can’t be Maryleigh,” she said. I’d just had a baby, hadn’t lost the weight, wasn’t looking my best. I didn’t look like the Maryleigh she had helped raise, every day for most of my life. That she didn’t remember me didn’t bother me as much as the fact that I didn’t look as well as she pictured me in her mind. It made me feel worn and aged.
As a girl, she had a horse. I grew up on stories about how she raced the trains in Normandy, Kentucky on her horse, Lou. That’s how I always pictured her spirit–so free, so strong, so full of life. When she died, I rejoiced that her spirit soared, broken free of the frailty of body and mind. Her spirit raced its way to heaven.
There’s something wonderful about celebrating the life of a loved one. My dad had died in the 1997. He’d never met my sons. It’s sad when someone dies, and you have nothing to celebrate. However, grandmother had a life worth celebrating, remembering, and missing.
A few weeks after grandmother died, my 3-year-old was talking to one of his teachers at church: “My Gigi (great grandmother), she died. . . . She’s in heaven. . . .She was hit by a car.”
Somewhat taken aback, I thought, “Oh, my, I’m going to have to address this.”
A few months later, he was all tucked in bed. I was straightening his room when he said, “Mama, I don’t want to go to heaven.”
“Why?”I asked, knowing what was coming.
“I don’t want to be hit by a car,” he answered.
I snuggled up with him in bed, explaining that Gigi hadn’t been hit by a car. Then we talked about heaven. “Do you love Jesus?” I asked. He did. I think he did since the day he was born when he was held in the hand of God.
He always seemed to understand things about God and life, yes, even at 3. Earlier that year, he and Perceiver of Truth were fussing at each other–the high school student trying to verbally one-up the 3-year old, but unable to do so. Finally, the 3-year-old had enough, “In the Name of the Lord, ____, Shut your mouth.” Perceiver of Truth shut his mouth. It was amazing. Of course, I did have to talk to the little guy about not using the power of God when we’re angry at someone else.
That night when he asked about heaven,we talked about loving Jesus, living how Jesus wants us to live–even to a 3 year old, and letting others know that Jesus loves us, asking Jesus to forgive us when we’re naughty, that’s how we get to heaven.
Needless to say, he was relieved that he didn’t have to get hit by a car to get into heaven. I was somewhat relieved, too.