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