ERIN: Where’s Nana Maureen?
ME: She’s in Heaven.
ERIN: Where’s Heaven?
ME: It’s up there beyond the stars.
ERIN: Why is she there?
ME: Because that is where we go when we are finished our time here.
ERIN: Can I go to heaven?
And on and on the conversation went one morning when I was driving my three-year old daughter to the local supermarket to buy some groceries. Why her great-grandmother came into her head that morning I’ll never know, but what really had me pondering afterwards was this whole conversation about heaven with a three-year old. Over thirty years separate us in age yet this was probably the longest time I ever spent talking about heaven with someone. Unfortunately I’m sad to say that the more I spoke about it to her and tried to describe it, the less I was believing in it and the more magical the concept became just like one of her bedtime stories.
When you become a father for the first time, you experience an emotion that you have never experienced with anyone else. It’s a great deep inner love that is a great strength but also your greatest vulnerability. Every time you hear about the abduction, or abuse, or worse – fatality of a child, you can relate to it much more having a child yourself as you are now ‘aware’ of the importance and meaning they give to a parent.
Without getting too deep or spiritual, having conversations like the above with your child does make you think more about life. The reality re-dawns on oneself that nothing is forever. That one-day we will no longer be together and maybe that magical place above the stars is just a story to keep us sane or to explain to a child why someone is no longer with us.
If anything, it has made me be more ‘present’. I try to put down the hypnotic phone more often now and turn to listen and converse with my daughter. Someday someone may say “Where is Grandad Garry gone?” and hopefully I played a part in bringing as much joy into that person’s life as Nana Maureen did into ours.
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