Today is All Hallow’s Eve and with all the skeletons lining the yards of homes I can’t help but think about death. My mind wanders to how I will experience with my children the death of those that we love, because if there is one thing I know, we all die.
Some have a the sensation of fleeing the scene of a loved ones impending death. I have seen this a lot over the years. The usual rationalization is, “I want to remember them the way they were,” or, “I don’t want to see them that way.” My problem with this response is the “I” portion. Someone’s death is not about you, it’s about the dying person. They way you remember someone is up to you, but until they die, they still have personhood, and can probably hear you. Don’t cut the relationship off prematurely because you are uncomfortable.
I have seen this rational extend to children. Parents don’t want their children to see the family member in a poor state. So, they block their children from seeing the loved one, or they don’t them go to the funeral, with the best interest of the child in mind. The rational is usually that they want their child to remember the loved one as they were, not as they are now. I don’t really buy this rational. I think it’s more about discomfort then protecting a child’s memory.
I have also seen people skipping the part of loss and pain and going right into hope in Christ’s resurrection and hope for life with God. We tell children that their loved one is better off in heaven and miss the part where they won’t be coming over to play anymore.
We are a culture that do not know how to deal with death. I propose that we just confront our own discomfort, name it, and work through it. Talk to our children openly about it when the time comes. They won’t have the world shattering existential crises you are imagining. Be honest about missing the person, the pain of loss that you feel, it will hopefully help your own children own their feelings later on in life. Hopefully they won’t be retreating when your dying, with a lame excuse like, “I want to remember you the way you were.”