Let’s play funeral, Mami!

Yesterday, Tornado and me played “Lego Funeral”.
No, you can’t buy it in a box set. Not yet.

funeral

For Tornado boy it was the logical suite to declaring a Lego fireman “really dead this time“. He was killed in a (for me) confusing war, that involved two kings, a flying saucer with wicked sound effects, a pyramid made from cardboard and a mysterious deadly weapon in the form of a Lego fish.
We already have the church (from our cardboard city)and in reference to an eerie church yard we visited last year in Wales, he had made me fabricate a “stone that says ‘i love you'”. That’s how I had explained to him , at 3 years old, the many old and partly fallen tombstones we both admired there at the time.

church

St Augustine in Penarth, Wales

We made a box out of Lego, because “Dead people go into a box!”. We have discussed that a lot lately, as they were learning about Egypt and mummies in kindy. I spent about half an hour to make him pronounce ‘sarcophage’ one day only to be told by my husband later that it’s actually ‘-us’ in English so we are back to just “box”.

I told my boy that the whole idea of the funeral was for the other Lego people to say goodbye to their friend and that often, there will be singing. Tornado thought this was an excellent idea and after the fat controller (me..) had said a few solemn words, he made up a heartbreaking song about war and firemen and being ‘sleeping dead’. It was quite upbeat though and in the end had a chorus that sounded a lot like “Oh the hotties” but it was a fine ceremony and finally, we put the box into the bottom drawer of the unit where we had placed the church to play.

I was admittedly starting to feel a little bit queasy by then.

Now I believe that you should talk to your child about death, even if you don’t have a goldfish that conveniently dies to help you answer those questions. Simple answers to simple questions, that’s how I tackle the more difficult areas of life. One step at a time but without detours. But sometimes life overtakes you and cuts you right out of the dead angle. You’ll understand.

Tornado then asked me if I know more church songs and proposed we could get some on the computer. We 014 (3)boften search for songs online, to help me with the lyrics or show him singers/bands he has come to like. I had attempted not long ago, to vary our bedtime ritual with a gospel I had learned and often sung as a kid, but had to stop because it brought up so many emotions and memories I simply could not deal with it. I wasn’t really sure how I would go today, but I went on spotify and found what I was after (another great souvenir I brought back from Wales) .

I am not a religious person as such, I do have some beliefs, but they are more universal and less mystic than what most churches propose, although, admittedly I have often envied people who had the support of faith and community at times of personal hardship. But in my High School, we could chose choir as a subject matter and the teacher in charge, a great guy, managed to transmit his passion to us via musical songs and Gospel. I loved it, back then, and I still am full of glee (indeed!) when I listen to classics like “Oh Happy Day“, “Michal row the boat ashore” or “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho” (normally around Christmas).

But after the first tacts of Etta James singing”Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” it was clear that I shouldn’t have gone there today. This was the gospel I had sung to my brother’s guitar at camp fires and on sailboats, at the tender age of 6 or 7 – long before I would even learn English! It was always a tearjerker and a great success with my proud mother and her friends listening in awe to my angel little self.

At “Happy Day” i was a sobbing mess and had to flee to the kitchen to get busy because I did not want Tornado to get worried. What was I thinking anyway ?

Talking about death had become increasingly more difficult over the course of last year when my mother’s cancer became terminal. From straightforward and simple, I changed to vague and evasive when it came to questions that reminded me of his grandma’s rapidly decreasing health. A planned family holiday overseas earlier this year then was cancelled as I had to fly over in a hurry and on my own. That I arrived just in time to hold her hand during her last hours and be there for the beautiful, musical funeral my brother organized, was of little consolation to me.

loving

It was a very hard time, and for many reasons, I am obviously not at terms with my own grief. Especially, because of the very difficult relationship I have had with my mother, with the many things left unsaid upon her death. I am trying to give my best at parenting. But giving answers and doing the right thing by my son is difficult at times when his questions, games and the songs we sing catapult me back into my own childhood, and I find myself feeling like a little girl who doesn’t understand how life works yet either.

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11 thoughts on “Let’s play funeral, Mami!

  1. leechbabe

    😦

    I was taking Heidi for her blood test last week, we walked through the hospital following the well remembered blue pathway that also leads to the cancer ward where my father in law had received treatment before he asked to go home so he could die in his own home. So there are Heidi and I walking along the blue pathway to go get her blood test and I’m trying to remain calm for her and not panic about my baby getting a needle stuck in her arm. Heidi asks ‘We see granddad?’ :: tears :: she does not really remember him as he passed away when she was 3yo, but she remembers walking the blue pathway to go visit him 😦

    Reply
  2. amandab75

    My father-in-law passed away suddenly when Princess was 18 months old. She doesn’t remember him as such, but we do talk about him and have photos of her with him, tell her how proud h would b of hr and how sh would make him laugh.

    These conversations often start with her looking at her Dadda and saying “Your Daddy died.” or “Your Daddy is dead.” She doesn’t understand that this might make someone sad but saying it this way, for her it is a simple fact.

    We take her with us to where his ashes are scattered and we all share a Cherry Ripe with him. She finds it vry funny that we all bury a piece of Cherry Ripe for Granddad 🙂

    Reply
  3. Toushka

    oh my goodness. that post had me laughing at the start and in tears at the end.
    I also often end up in tears while searching music as it brings up so much that I’ve pushed down.
    I love how you have described headstones as “stones that say I love you” that’s beautiful.

    Reply
    1. kaykay

      thank you, it was really all a bit emotional. and yeah, i also liked the description for tombstones, and my son understood what it meant when the whole concept of death and memory was still a bit vague for him (at 3). the one without a name really stood there like that. odd 0_o

      Reply
  4. Being Me at Sunny Side Up

    You said:
    “I am not a religious person as such, I do have some beliefs, but they are more universal and less mystic than what most churches propose”

    And I have to say, this is very well said – I am the same and often cannot put it into words (on the spot) as well as this. Thank you for the words to describe xx

    On the matter of your mum. Sigh. Oh boy, what a biggy. Especially when parenting in the aftermath/shadow of that. I feel for you tremendously. This post has really touched me. The opening paragraphs were gorgeously descriptive and I felt like I was right there watching you both! What an amazing little Tornado you have there. Hugs to you. (though I know it’s trite to say… but it is meant, from the heart)

    Reply
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  6. pioneerprincess

    I agree with the comment above — I was kinda giggling at first! Then I grew more thoughtful with you.

    Here’s a hopeful prayer being sent up for you. 🙂 I know death is one of the hardest things to deal with in life, but a prolonged one, sometimes even more painful. Bless your heart.

    Reply
  7. The Mental Secretary

    That was a beautiful post. Death is such a painful yet fascinating subject. I love how your kid gives morbidity a playful tone while he learns about death. I’ve never been very exposed to gospel music, but I love soul music and Etta James is amazing. Singing soul music is one of my favorite pastimes, so I’m going to check out the songs that you linked to. The gloomy, atmospheric tone to your pictures of St. Augustine Church added an interesting sense of tonal shift where they’re placed in your post. I really hope you can pull through your mom’s death and grow with your son as he catapults you back into your childhood. Keep on keeping on.

    Reply
  8. terryludwig

    Touching post. Greif takes a while to move through; and some things will sneak up on you and bring it all back such as a song or poem. I am always happy when I finished with the tears; because then I have spent sometime with fond memories of that person. Take Care

    Reply
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