When our son gets home, the first thing he does is run next door. He and the boy next door play on the same t-ball team, and spend a lot of time together.
The last time I remember talking to the boy’s father, Jeff, something had happened between our boys—our son had scratched their son’s face during one of their tussles. Jeff walked right up to me before a t-ball game. Was he upset about his son’s face? If he was, he didn’t show it. All he wanted was to make sure that there were no hard feelings. More than anything, I think he just wanted us all to get along.
For Father’s Day, our daughter has been collaborating with other girls on the block to organize a dramatic production for the dads on the block. Just like they did for Mother’s Day. Two of the girls—I think the oldest is eight—are Jeff’s daughters.
The Father’s Day production was dropped a couple days ago. Those three little kids next door have suddenly lost their father. Jeff is no longer part of the world.
That day on the ball field, I was overcome by Jeff’s need to keep the peace. I told him that there was no problem; that everything was fine, and that I was sorry about his son’s face. I wish now that I had done a little more to convince him that everything was good. I wish I’d tried a little harder to reach out to him.
As a realist, I don’t believe in heaven, but when I saw Jeff’s little boy struggling with his sudden loss, I heard myself telling the boy to believe. I could not stand to allow the child to acknowledge his loss.
I hate that this has happened. My sympathy to the family, your family, and those of the neighborhood.
I was struck by the thought that a belief in heaven is not acknowledging loss. If I read this as intended, I must disagree. Even for those who believe heaven as a real place, there is still profound loss.
And I am not sure how much a child can understand or be comforted by the concept of heaven. But loss of presence is what I know they do understand, and they need comforting words, presence of family and friends, and ritual to give them permission to grieve, to show them how, and to give them room for that grief.
And if he is from a family who does believe in heaven, at this time of loss, you have done a kindness to him by supporting those beliefs.
It does break your heart though….
Thanks for your sympathetic comment, Donna.
I see what you’re saying. I think I didn’t give enough detail (typical). Yes, his family attends church and he had already been told that his father is with him in heaven. When he, with the typical skepticism of a child, rejected that notion, I backed up the heaven talk. I don’t think he was convinced with the abstract talk, so my white lie probably had little impact. I think a boy that age is happy to have someone to play with. Hopefully we’ll give him plenty of that. I’m afraid, though, that as he ages his needs will become more exacting.