While the toddlers were eating breakfast one morning, I was in the next room getting their clothes ready for the day and overheard them having this conversation:
“I have two daddies and two mommies.”
“No, I have two daddies and two mommies.”
I’m sure this interpretation of their lives came from their teachers at daycare trying to explain the circumstances of Kaleb and Kenzie’s unconventional family as their classmates’ mommies and daddies arrived each day to pick them up.
So thinking this was a teachable moment I came in, sat down at the table with them, and attempted to enter into the conversation.
Kaleb and Kenzie, you have a Daddy and Poppy is Daddy’s daddy. And you have a Mommy and Nanna was Daddy’s mommy. You two are sister and brother; so you have the same Daddy and Mommy and the same Poppy and Nanna.”
That explanation didn’t seem to register with them and the discussion on parenthood quickly took an unexpected turn.
“Is Nanna in heaven with Jesus? Did she go in the car?” (referring to Nanna’s minivan that she drove them around in)
Now let me tell you this before I describe the remainder of this conversation with the toddlers.
This is not the first time we have had a discussion about Nanna’s death.
It’s been a little over a year since Nanna died and I have tried to explain it to them on a number of occasions and in ways they can understand.
Most conversations have been with Kaleb since he’s a year-and-a-half older than Kenzie and remembers more about Nanna.
I’ve tried to have this discussion with them like the experts on death and grieving say to explain it. And I’ve also tried to explain it in a way that I think the Bible teaches.
But my explanations always seem to sound like a story out of one of their children’s books.
So, this day I told the toddlers that Nanna got very sick and went to live in heaven with Jesus. I was careful to distinguish between getting sick and getting very sick to assuage any fear they might develop about sickness leading to death.
But this day they didn’t seem to make the distinction and began to express some of their basic toddler fears.
“Do you go to heaven with Jesus when you get sick?” Kaleb asked.
“No, only when you get very, very sick.”
“Nanna’s with Jesus?” Kenzie inquired.
“Will Nanna be back?” asked Kaleb.
“No, Nanna won’t be back. Jesus wants her to be with Him. She didn’t want to go and leave you, she just got very, very sick.”
And, I tried not to leave the impression that God took Nanna away from them, but again, my explanations weren’t appeasing them on this day.
“Will you go to heaven too, Poppy?” Kaleb asked.
“No, I’m not going away any time soon. Jesus wants Poppy to stay here and take care of you.”
“Jesus loves you very much and He wants to come and live in your heart. One day we will all go and live with Jesus and Nanna in heaven, but not right now.”
Kaleb seemed to ponder this for a moment.
And I’m sitting there all misty-eyed and thinking how Nanna was so much better with the toddlers than I ever will be.
And then it all all somehow made sense to Kaleb because he announced: “God likes to give hugs!”
Maybe, sometimes God speaks to grown-ups through four-year-olds!