I spent this morning’s commute trying to explain to my sons the concept of death.
Search: Mommy, why did Cooper have to die?
Me: He was very old and sick, sweetie. He didn’t want to be in pain anymore.
Search: I miss him.
Me: Me too, buddy. Me too.
Search: I want him to come back. When can he come back? He was my friend.
Me: Oh sweetie, I know you loved him. But he’s not coming back.
Search: He went to the doctor. Wasn’t the doctor supposed to make him better?
Me: Sometimes the doctor’s can’t help. And Cooper had to go to heaven. I’m sure he’s very happy there with lots of doggie friends. Because all dogs go to heaven.
Search: Did Daddy take him?
Me: No, unfortunately no one can go with you there.
Search: He had to go by himself?
Me: Just his spirit went. And all other loved ones already there were waiting to welcome him with a tennis ball.
Search: Mommy, I love Cooper. I really need to hug him again.
Me: Oh honey, I know. Even though we can’t hug him, we can remember him.
Search: How do we do that?
Me: We can tell happy stories about the times we did get to hug him.
Search: Can we do that after school? And can you show me pictures of him?
Me: Of course. As soon as we get home.
It’s been three years today since Grandma Winnie left us. And as I held the above conversation with my 4-year-old, Grandma Winnie’s namesake no less, I smiled.
I don’t know that I believe in heaven or any kind of conscious afterlife. But I do believe that our spirits live on in the memories we leave behind.
So while pictures of a yellow puppy await me this evening – alongside the tales of his hilarious hijinks – please join me in remembering Great Grandma Winnie.
Grandma Winnie was never a huge fan of dogs. She told me on several occasions she just couldn’t let herself get too attached just to lose then so soon.
If there is a near wild heaven, I hope she’s found an eternal best friend.