So, we've had a rough week. We lost my uncle and my grandfather within days of each other, so we had a funeral yesterday and today. We spoke to FS's therapist and caseworker in detail about their opinions on taking him to the funeral. After much discussion (with and without him) we decided to try it. Two funerals in two days does not a good time make, however it did turn out to be quite a learning experience and, oddly enough, entertaining. Ah...kids.... FS5 met my uncle one time and my grandfather numerous times. I wasn't sure how he'd react to the whole thing. His grandfather died last year so he understood (somewhat) about someone dying and not seeing them anymore (he didn't go to that funeral.)
He's very logically minded and likes to know how things work and asks "why" about EVERYTHING, so we expected lots of questions about this situation. We had multiple conversations over the past couple of weeks and I wanted to pass along what we came up with that seemed to work very well.
One night he was afraid of "ghosts". Now, not to get too involved in religious or belief discussion, basically, I don't want to dismiss his fears of the possibility of ghosts being around, but I think it was a stall tactic before going to bed. I told him ghosts aren't to be feared, they are just spirits of people who used to live and they come down to visit. He asked "Like Grandpa?" I said yes...now "Grandpa comes to visit" every once in a while according to him, but there hasn't been a fear of ghosts since then. So, he knows spirits are like ghosts and spirits go to heaven when people die.
Which leads me to his question of what happens to the body? We were pretty scientific and logical in this explanation. Simply, the spirit doesn't need the body anymore because it's in heaven now, so the body gets put in a safe place (mausoleum, cemetery, etc) while the spirit is always still "alive" in heaven. That being said, we explained that he may still see the body at the funeral and that's because some people still want to see them one last time. Also had to explain things that are appropriate or not appropriate to say about the body (scary, gross, cold, etc...lol). We told him he can ask us but whisper in our ears so not to upset anyone.
Next question, why or how do people die? Well, we were careful not to say they got sick or died in their sleep because we didn't want him to think if he gets a cold he'll die or afraid to go to sleep. We said they lived a long life (which obviously isn't always the case, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it) and did a lot of good things during their life and God told them they were done learning and working here and He said it was time for them to come to heaven and help there.
So, uncle's funeral was yesterday, we prepped him VERY well on appropriate behavior, being quiet, sitting still, no talking. We had a backpack full of quiet activities (stuffed animals, mazes, coloring, books, etc) and while I don't encourage and rarely let him play with phones/tablets, I was willing to pull it out if need be. I was amazed at his behavior! He was slightly restless, but listened and sat still. We didn't even pull out any toys (except in the car, long ride.) He jumped from one person's lap to another every 10-15 minutes, but did it with very little disturbance. He didn't seem the least bit bothered by the open casket and even said "Goodbye Uncle G" as we walked past. He did ask (quietly) to me why they cut off my uncle's legs. No, his legs were not cut off, apparently there wasn't the bulge in the blanket that he expected, so he thought they were cut off! LOL Oh my gosh..... He again behaved well at the cemetery and at the luncheon. I couldn't be prouder and made sure to tell him that and that he should be proud of himself.
That leads me to my grandfather's funeral today, we prepped him again about appropriate behavior, had backpack ready just in case he needed it today. We had a slight fight over what he was wearing, but that's nothing new. We had done most of the preparations for this funeral and were some of his closest family, so we were there from the beginning.
Almost right from the beginning he made pals with the funeral director and employees. I swear, you can't make this stuff up... He started with a tour of the place including the funeral director's office, closets, etc. In one "closet" area was a gurney. He asked what it was for and the funeral director looked at my husband with wide eyes, like "how do I answer this?", then almost right away FS said "Oh, that's probably for the bodies so you can move them easier." LOL Then her eyes got bigger. Well, he is a logical kid! Then he was helping pass out cards and hold open the doors as people were coming in. (We kept trying to pull him away, but he wanted no parts of that and the employees kept pulling him for new "jobs". lol) Suddenly I find him with a "name badge" and flag pin that "all employees wear"! What is happening here? He's such a little charmer...lol
Finally we had the service and he did wonderfully. Again, the funeral director actually came to him and said he's "still on the clock" and asked if he wanted to help dismiss people by aisles. Well, of course he did! lol At the end, he said bye to Poppy and even patted his shoulder on his own. Then, he obviously remembered about Uncle G's "missing feet" so he full out asked to see Poppy's feet! And the funeral director was just more than happy to show him! (After people had mostly left. Boy, this child had people very entertained, I must say.)
I was ready to book it out of there, I didn't want to see them close the casket, I just wanted to get to the car to get ready to follow to the cemetery, but of course the little guy had to see what was happening, so we stayed. (I could have left him with my husband, but I just turned away while it was being closed and carried out, I was ok and glad he wanted to learn....as odd of a thing as it was to learn, still it's good to learn new things.)
So, I'm thinking his "job" is done now...um nope. They asked him to help hand out roses for people to place on the casket. Then, he wanted to stay to watch the casket get lowered. I could not stay for that, I did take off and left him with hubby then. Ok, even odder still (yes, my family is full of oddness), my 11 year old niece and 5 year old FS stood side by side with my niece's arm around FS watching the casket get lowered and my mom asked my husband to take a picture. Honestly, it was a sweet picture, but geez....who takes pictures of this kind of stuff? LOL
Luncheon was fine, nothing overly entertaining, except how many compliments FS got about all his help. Oh my....this child will never stop surprising me. Unfortunately, he apparently had so much "fun" that he's kind of looking forward to the next funeral....um, we have a problem here. I made it very clear, though, that this is NOT how a "normal" funeral will go and he will just be a guest in the future. I don't know how this got out of hand so quickly. lol School will be interesting when we get to career day. "I want to be a funeral director when I grow up." Do you think they'll call a parent conference for that?!