The kids and I had an impromptu date with Grandma today at Fort Rosecrans. (Fort Rosecrans is located in Point Loma and is a national cemetery for veterans and their families. My grandfather served in the reserves as a young man prior to his lifelong career as a journalist for the San Diego Union, and this is where he was laid to rest.) Rigel and Izzy knew we were going to Fort Rosecrans before lunch, but once we arrived, Rigel asked, "Where's Grandpa?"
Then, after Izzy discovered the flowers Grandma left for Grandpa, she asked the same question. This was a first for me, and I wasn't sure how seriously to respond. Grandma jumped in and replied that he was "in heaven." Rigel seemed to ponder this for a second before he pointed across the bay and asked, "is heaven over there?"
I told him it wasn't, that it was a very special place. Later, while we walked to a bakery for lunch in Point Loma, Rigel paused in front of an office and peered inside the window for a few seconds. "Is heaven in there?" he asked. Surprised this issue was still on his mind, I attempted to explain as carefully as possible how heaven was "a special place where people go when they are all done being with us."
How am I to discuss heaven with my son when he doesn't even understand the words "living" and "dying," and when his world doesn't extend beyond the people and places he has visited? Well, I kind of blew it. In the car on the way home, he asked me, "Can we see Grandpa?" And, I too seriously replied, "No. When somebody goes to heaven, you can't see them anymore." Uh-oh. The finality of that answer--why did I go there? Rigel then inquired, "How come you can't see your family in heaven?" Darn. Now what was I supposed to say? I'd already said too much. I ended up keeping it simple and then changing the subject: "When somebody goes to heaven, they see all the other people in the family who are already there. Hey, do you want to listen to the train song?"
I have got to better prepare for these "deep" conversations, because this is only the beginning... in just a few more years, I'll have to be ready to tackle the "birds and the bees." Yikes.
P.S. Happy Veteran's Day
Photo: Rigel and Izzy's Great-Grandfather (Charles).