A couple of weeks ago, in the typical chaotic fashion of the evening routine of baths, pajamas, and bed my older daughter comes wandering out of her bedroom after 45 minutes of ruminating in her room.
“Momma” she says. Yes I say. “I need to talk to you.” The look on her face is one of perplexed emotion. I immediately stop what I am doing and invite her to sit down with me on the couch. I look into her eyes and it is clear to me that she has the weight of the world on her little shoulders. Man this is something serious. I cringe inside when she starts, “Momma, I need to talk to you about some things.” I say tell me what they are and we will talk about them one by one. She does, and we go through the first two mine fields with relative ease and come up with some satisfactory plans on how to alleviate her worry. It was the last two items that put me to the test, literally.
As she summons up her courage, she takes a very deep and soulful breath, looks me straight in my eyes and clearly states “Momma, I hate God for taking Grandpa. Why did he have to take him away from us?” My throat dries, and my mind begins racing. How do I begin? I say, Kat hate is a pretty strong word and I am not sure that is the emotion you are feeling. Could you be really angry with God? I say to her, I am, I am angry, sad and confused why Grandpa died. We move in and out of the delicate dance of what she is really feeling and try to attach the appropriate words.
Ok Whimsy, you need to pull out all the stops, dig deep into your theological musings and try to enlighten her. I say to Kat I know it doesn’t seem fair that your Grandpa left us so soon. It is ok to have those angry feeling with God, he understands, he has his reasons and those reasons don’t always agree with us. She looks at me quizzically searching for the clarity in my words. She is still listening which is good. I tell Kat while I am not particularly religious I do find there is spirituality to the world. I say I want her to find her own path and her own way that she can talk to God.
I say for example while you are lying in bed you can talk to him. She cocks her head to the side and says “Does he send notes?” In between the tears in her eyes I say not necessarily. He speaks to each one of us differently. I say Kat you know when your cat comes into your room at night and lays on your belly. You know that feeling in your heart you get when you pet Ollie? How you start to feel better? She nods yes. Well Kat that is one way God speaks to you. That is his note to you. He comes to us in weird times and weird places. He has so many people to care for and so many places to be he tries to talk to us in the best way our hearts will hear him.
I tell her that God has many names in this world, Jehovah, Buddha, Allah, Mohammad, Jesus, as many ways there are to celebrate God that is how many names he has. I ask her if she would like to speak to one of his workers. She knits her eyebrows together in a very tight frown (family trait), crinkles her nose and emphatically states “No! They don’t even know his favorite color!” I giggle, well, I…..well Kat you are probably right but I have a feeling that God has many favorite colors. Kat says “like what?” I point out the back window at the tree gently swaying in the wind. There! I believe that is his favorite color. She turns and looks out the window and gives me the kid version of pishaw and pffttttt all at the same time. “Mom, Mother Nature made that!” I say who do you think is his right hand woman? “Mother Nature?” she says. Yes, Kat Mother Nature. They make so many wonderful things together.
After another half hour to the forty five minutes we have been talking, negotiating why Mer Mer the cat died and why did he leave her behind, she and I move on to what was primarily on her mind, Grandpa.
“Momma, how did Grandpa die?” Ok, I thought I had narrowly escaped the whole theological discussion without pinning her to one way of believing.
On a side note, my goal is to educate my kids about the different ways to celebrate God; I am not particular as to how, as long as the positive message is in their hearts. I grew up a haphazard Catholic, the church, mass, baptism, communion, the whole bit. I dabbled with other churches but what it really came down for me is that the institution, the organization of a religion is very distasteful to me. I am not infallible, nor do I want my kids to have beliefs they are infallible, there are too many layers in this world to deny the differences and celebrate those things which make us unique. I don’t want them to have the fear of infallibility. I have my own mind and I want my kids to have theirs. My job is to help them navigate through the garbage, and believe me there is plenty of garbage out there, and allow them to make the best decision they can because they have the knowledge to do so. I didn’t get the choice; I don’t want the same for my kids.
Well, Kat, Grandpa had an accident, a very bad accident. I can see the tears welling up in her eyes and it breaks my heart all over again. I say listen Kat, take a deep breath, you can’t hear me if your emotions overwhelm you. Count to ten and I will count with you. She asks me again what happened; I can only respond with no one is really sure what actually happened. I give her my guess and let her know that it is only a guess. I ask her, Grandpa made a big impression on you huh? She nods yes. I tell the stories of when Grandpa was there when she was born, how Grandpa would teach her so many naughty things at the dinner table, how he would escape with her in his arms and how I was so upset with him when he scared her with the towel.
Kat’s face lights up, she giggles and smiles broadly. That smile she has, it is his. That smile that envelopes her whole face. That smile lights up my whole world for that moment. I tell her that she was Grandpa’s only rosebud. I tell Kat Grandpa’s giggles touch my heart, and that I can hear his mischievous laughter.
The yawn, her eyes become droopy and I know she is done. Our theological discussion is tabled for the moment but I know she will be back. I have a lot of reading to do. If I am going to give her the answers I had better know the material. Her mind and heart are sated for the moment.
One mom lives for another day.
Kat scoops up her Oliver and carries the cat into her room to go to sleep. Five minutes passed and she comes storming out of her room with eyes on fire. "You told me that God was in the cat and he bit me in the face! He bit me in the face!" My eyes glazed over and all I could think in my head is Oh F**K, this cat has completely thrown me under the bus! I say quickly, that was the cat part of him, that wasn't God biting you. Remember I said that God will speak to you through the cat?! Yeah, that was just plain cat part. That was Ollie. She gives me a wary eye and it is clear Ollie will have to find another place to sleep for the night. Great. Nice work cat!
Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.
~ William S. Burroughs