“Momma, you are going to die and go to heaven before me, right? Because you are older than me.”
Yes, that’s probably right, bud.
“But you’ll still be my Momma.”
That’s right, Joe. I will always be your Momma. Even when I am in heaven.
“And then when I go to heaven one day, you’ll still be my Momma.”
“And when I was growing inside of your belly, you were my Momma and now you are my Momma and when I am all grown up, you’ll still be my Momma!”
Joe, that is right. I will ALWAYS be your Momma, my sweet boy.
“How do you get to heaven?”
Well, just your soul goes up to heaven. Our bodies will stay here on earth, because they don’t work anymore.
“What is a soul?”
The soul is the part of me that makes me Momma. The part that makes me laugh, that makes me do silly things, that makes me your Momma and different from all of the other Mommas. You soul is not a body part like your arm or your heart. It’s a part of your body that we can’t see that just makes us who we are. Does that make sense, bud?
“Ohhhh, I know what you are talking about! But why don’t our bodies go to heaven with us?”
Because God gives us new bodies when we get to heaven.
“Even old people?”
Oh, yes, old people get new, young bodies and very sick people get new, healthy, strong bodies in heaven.
“Why do we get new bodies?”
Because our bodies here on earth don’t work anymore. When you die, your ears no longer hear, your eyes no longer see, your heart no longer beats, your mouth no longer eats food, so when your soul gets to heaven, it gets a new body.
“Then where does your body that doesn’t work anymore go?”
It returns to the earth. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. When God made us, he scooped up a handful of dirt, breathed life into it and created man, so when our body dies and our soul goes up to heaven, our body here on earth that doesn’t work anymore will return to the earth and it will then become vitamins and nutrients for the flowers and trees and grass.
“God made us out of dirt?? That’s funny.”
I know!! That is pretty silly, isn’t it?
“Is God the size of a giant?”
No, I think God is probably just the size of a grown-up, but he is as strong as a giant!
“Did God ever live on earth?”
No, he has always lived in heaven, so that is why he sent his son, Jesus, to earth to tell us all about God.
“Is Jesus as strong as God?”
No, I don’t think so, but he is still very, very strong. God is the one who created all of the heavens and the earth, but when Jesus lived here on earth, he did all kinds of cool tricks like part the ocean and multiply loaves of bread to feed all those people, so that’s how we know he is very strong.
“Is Santa Claus as strong as God and Jesus?”
No, no, now Santa Claus is very strong and can certainly hear and see us, but here is the difference. Santa Claus only creates toys and needs all of those elves to help him, whereas God created EVERYthing all by himself. All of the animals, the oceans, the fish, all of the planets and stars. Everything. And Santa Claus goes on vacation when it’s hot outside. He really gets busy and starts paying close attention to us when it starts to get cold outside, but God listens to us every single day.
“What country is heaven in?”
Well, all of the countries all over the world share one great, big heaven.
“But, Momma, how is that going to work, because people from different countries speak different languages? How are we going to be able to understand each other?”
Well, those are good questions. Maybe God has a universal language in heaven.
“What does that mean?”
Maybe God just has everybody speak the same language in heaven…please be English, please be English, please be English…or maybe when God gives us our new bodies it will come with these big and really smart brains, and we will know how to speak all the different languages so we will know how to talk to each other so we can all be friends.
“Do all of the countries have just one hell for the bad guys?”
Yes, that’s right.
“So, you can either live on earth or heaven or hell?”
Yes, but everybody starts off on earth. When you are born and you are a baby, you live on earth, and then when you die you either go to heaven or hell.
“Ya, the bad guys go to hell and all the good guys go to heaven.”
Mmmmm…ya, it’s sort of like that, bud.
“But once you go to live in heaven, you cannot return to earth.”
That’s exactly right. Once you go to heaven, you live there forever. You ask very, very good questions, Joe. Do you have any more questions for Momma?
“Ya. Um, Momma, can you snuggle with me for a couple of more minutes?”
You bet, bud. I would love to snuggle with my boy.
I was so grateful to have that conversation with Joe on Sunday night. I am even more grateful that the help of our social worker, pastors, and family therapist, and my own limited research of children’s developmental stages at different ages and what they are capable of understanding about illness and death, all helped prepare me for that moment. I am grateful that just that very morning, I had prayed for words. I didn’t pray for a miracle that morning for God to ultimately heal Chip’s body but instead for me to always be able to find the right and truthful words when I need them to try to explain all of this to our kids.
And sometimes that makes me feel guilty, but I sit through all of these doctors appointments, I read all of these articles and protocols for different drug trials, and I read the pathology reports from our scans, so sometimes I just have to leave the praying for a miracle up to others, because I am too bogged down in the details and intricacies of this disease to be able to pray that particular prayer anymore. I am too busy praying our alarm clock goes off in the morning so Chip doesn’t miss his biopsy scheduled at 7 AM at Johns Hopkins. I pray we both don’t die in a car wreck on the outer loop of the Capital Beltway driving to Baltimore early one morning. I pray for good labs so we can receive our infusion and for the chemo to not make Chip feel too badly. I pray for bowel movements. For us to remain on schedule and there to not to be any traffic so we can make it back home in time to pick up the kids from daycare and that I don’t have to text a friend asking him or her to pick the kids up, which would most certainly alarm them. At night I pray for Chip’s breathing so I, too, can breathe more easily. I pray for restful and restorative sleep. I pray for good trips home and for “normal” visits with our friends and family. I pray for more quality-filled days together as a family. I pray for my own mental strength and physical health, and I continue to pray for the words. The words to help explain all of this to the kids when I don’t really understand it myself. I pray I don’t screw all of this up too badly.
I also pray Chip and I will rear affectionate children, because they have witnessed their parents be openly affectionate with each other. I pray Crosby will learn from her Daddy how a man is supposed to respect and treat a woman. I pray Joe will learn how to be a gentleman, how to be compassionate, how to be a team player and how to lose, and how to be a friend by witnessing Chip’s actions. I pray they will bear witness to our authenticity and commitment to one another in this marriage. I pray they will know the true character of their Daddy, flaws and all, because that is what makes him so genuine and perfect and real. I pray they will remember and always know their Daddy.
I am grateful for the sense of peace that washed over me as I lay there snuggled up next to my boy that night, and I continue to pray for sustained moments of peace and understanding for us all.