The Sons Of Thunder Face Death

Jun 10, 2009 by

Explaining death to kids is a fascinating study.

As adults, we try and use “comforting” terms and ease into the discussion. We want to keep everything in balance and not upset anyone any more than needed. There are “feelings” to consider.

Yet after the last couple of days, my views are changing.  Kids, much more than adults, seem to realize life goes on. Yes, they will get upset and might even cry, but they too move on.

And such was the case with the Sons of Thunder and the discussion of the death of their beloved maternal grandmother, Mimi. 

The Sons knew something was up when they were interrupted from their Star Wars movie and asked to come outside. There were a couple of glances, I mean, there are rules and one just doesn’t interrupt Star Wars.

So they come outside and sit down with us and notice the Little Black Dress is crying.  And they have gotten use to seeing that over the last few months. But being the kids they are, they go over and hug her.

And The Dress starts in explaining that Mimi has been sick for a long time and sometimes people just get tired and at some point God wants us with Him in heaven and our bodies only last so long and …

“You mean she died?” interrupted Son No. 2

And so it was out; just like that.

And after a quick glance through the window to get an update on Star Wars The Sons gathered around The Dress and said they were sorry.

After a couple of minutes of that, Son No. 3 looked up and said, “Can we go watch our movie now?”

And thus ended the Life/Death Lesson.

Granted, Son No. 1 stayed around a while. He’s older and he also has same heart as The Dress.  Later he pulled me aside and said we should “go to the store” to get The Dress something nice in remembrance of Mimi.  He somehow also found a way to slide in there that they – The Sons – probably should get something too.

You know, something to remember Mimi by, like an IPod or something.

We’ll at least award points for trying.

Since it was close to dinner, we decided to order in Chinese from The Dress’s favorite restaurant. And of course this was the only day it was closed. So that idea fell by the wayside.

And then one of The Sons piped in with ordering pizza, because Mimi loved pizza.


And another Son piped in with ordering from Papa John’s, which was immediately echoed by the other two. And their rationale was quite interpretive.

Basically, it went something like this: Mimi loves pizza (debatable); it has “Papa” in it (true, and their grandfather’s nickname); and it has my name, John (okay, true again).

So they get at least two out of three and so that’s what we have. The celebration of Mimi’s life, complete with pizza.

Later that night The Dress called me upstairs into the our bathroom.   Someone had gotten into “her things,” namely, lipstick. One simply does not get into The Dress’s “things.”

Yet on the vanity mirror Son No. 1 had written – in lipstick:

sorry mimi

died love

you from


And The Little Black Dress cried, but she also smiled.

And there never was a discussion about getting into her “things.”

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1 Comment

  1. Cynthia Hunt

    Thanks for sharing John…this makes me think back to my first experience with death. I must have been around eight years old. One of the neighbor kids had lost a pet. My younger sister and I were in our bedroom talking about it and she expressed concern over something happening to our beloved cat, Bob. I can still remember telling her not to worry because nothing like that would ever happen to us. I remember I really and truly believed that!

    The next day Bob was hit by a car and died. I thought God was punishing me for being so impertinent. After we buried Bob in the back yard, he would be the first to be laid to rest in what would become our pet cemetary, I pondered death, what happens to you, what happens to your body. After about three days had gone by I decided to dig Bob up. I wanted to know if he was still there and if so what was happening to his body.

    I lifted him out of the grave and unwrapped the cloth from around him. He was stiff and cold and lifeless. It was obvious that he no longer inhabitated his body and it seemed to be deteriorating.

    I think it was the first time I really wondered about our soul.
    I knew that Bob’s was gone and that without it his body couldn’t live on. I wondered if animals went to heaven.

    I buried him back and as I continued to wonder about death and why God let Bob die I began to understand that God wasn’t punishing me. With time I saw (with the help of his ministering spirit) that he wasn’t mad at me. It was a valuable life lesson that taught me that I wasn’t immune to loss or tragedy.

    Four years later I would lose my only Grandfather, a year later my dear, sweet Mother, and a year after that my only Grandmother. I know it sounds strange, but I was thankful for all those years earlier when God, in his grace, had prepared me for death. I am not comparing the loss of my Mother to that of my pet, I am saying that God helped me to understand that in this life I could not escape death or it’s sting. My Mother’s death was the most difficult loss I have ever faced. I know that God wants us to get on with the art of living our lifes. I think we honor those who have gone before us by living the best life that we can. We will fall, but we get back up, sometimes with the help of others, brush off our knees and keep on going. I think our loved ones are up there cheering us on!

    I think children understand more than we know. I think God is always there helping them and us figure it out. It is funny, but as a child I don’t remember talking to anyone about my thoughts about Bob and death, tho I may have. I don’t really remember anyone explaining death to me, tho they may have. What I remember are my own thoughts and experiences and with God’s help coming to terms with it for myself.

    I’ve attached a story I thought you and Corby may like, you may have already read it, but here goes:

    Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owner, his wife, and their little boy were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family there were no miracles left for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
    As we made arrangements, the owners told me they thought it would be good for the four-year-old boy to observe the procedure. They felt he could learn something from the experience.

    The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. The little boy seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on.

    Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.

    We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

    The little boy, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”

    Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. He said, “Everybody is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right?” The four-year- old continued, “Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”