By Jeremy | August 17, 2005
Judah gets it.
Death, that is.
The last two weeks have been hard on him. When I told him about Caleb, he got pensive and said, “I’m sad because Caleb won’t be able to see his parents anymore.” A promise that Caleb could see them from heaven satisfied him for the moment.
Then last week the reality of Nonna’s situation hit him hard. As I recall, it was Friday night, late, just before bedtime, and he started imagining what Nonna would do when she got to heaven. He acted everything out with as much energy as his wild imagination (tempered only by the late hour) could muster, joyously singing and dancing as only a four year old without rhythm can. Then suddenly he began to sob. He said he would miss not playing with Nonna, that he wanted to be able to see her. We promised that he would see her again in heaven. “But that’s too long,” he said. Why? “Because she’s 80 and I’m only 4.”
Then on Sunday, when we suspected she wouldn’t survive the night, Diana stayed with her at the hospital. Judah wanted to know why Di didn’t come home. When I told him, he began a muffled cry. “I want to say goodbye,” he said. I tried comforting him with, “You said goodbye to her last week at her apartment.” That wasn’t enough for him though, because, “That was goodbye for that night. I want to say goodbye before she goes to heaven.”
Today when we got to the wake, Judah was energetic as ever. I took him to the casket early, before the crowds arrived, so I could explain what was going on. “Can I touch her?” he asked. “Sure, gently.” “It doesn’t feel like her.” “That’s because it’s just her body, but the part of her that gave her life is with Jesus.” He returned to the coffin again before finding mommy in the back of the room, looking into her eyes and bursting into tears.
“I want to play with her.” “You will, Judah, in heaven.” “Not in heaven, here on earth,” he said.
He calmed down a few minutes later and discovered lots of fun things to do at a funeral home with cousins he never met before today. But he returned to the coffin periodically to gaze at Nonna, gently touch her hands, and kiss her arm. He asked how she got dressed, and if he could take her “Grandma” broach off her blazer, the one he, Willie and Amber gave her for her eightieth birthday.
One of his kindergarten friends came to the wake tonight. Judah took her to the casket and explained exactly what was going on: why we and the body were there, where Nonna is now, and why her hands felt “like plastic.” Her mom thanked us over and over that Judah could explain everything so well.
UPDATE, 8/19: At the Memorial Service last night, Roger mentioned a conversation he overheard Judah have with his friend in front of the coffin. “That’s her body, ” Judah told her, “but she’s not there anymore. Now Nonna’s with Jesus in heaven.”
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