When our kids were little, we lived about eight hours from their grandparents. Our long trips across Texas, with three little kids buckled in for that long ride, were…well…long! We tried all kinds of tricks to make the ride seem shorter as we passed through town after town.
We tried traveling at night when they would normally be in bed. That worked about half the time; the other half, they were wide awake and afraid because it was too dark.
Once, I gave each one of them a box of Band-aids, thinking that would entertain them for hours. It was entertaining, no doubt. They loved peeling and sticking them so much that it lasted only minutes instead of hours. Then, it was time to move on to the regular, boring time-passers like snacks, coloring books and tattling on each other…with little white “back of Band-aid squares” floating and clinging to skin, car seats, windows and the dog.
Every time we passed through another small town, we heard the question from the back seat, “How many more towns?” The dog even seemed to be wondering as she pressed her face into the wind, looking down the road for the next town.
We accidentally figured out that playing Jim Reeves music put everyone to sleep. We had to keep each other awake; we had no Band-aids or coloring books for entertainment.
So, when my husband’s grandfather passed away, it was the kids’ first experience with death. They didn’t see him a lot, but they loved him, just the same. I had to tell them but wanted to keep it positive for their young and tender hearts. I simply said, “Grandpa passed away last night. He’s in Heaven now.” There was just silence for a few seconds, and then our four-year-old asked me, “Mama, is Heaven the last town?” I smiled, “Yes, it is. Heaven is the last town.”
That was about 30 years ago, and since then, they have experienced more death. When Alzheimer’s claimed my parents, it was my grandchildren who were experiencing death for the first time. Still, we kept the message simple and sweet. I love picturing Mom and Dad arriving at the last town. The trip was over; Alzheimer’s was gone; they could get out of the car…they had finally arrived.
“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.” Billy Graham
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