Most nights, I sit between the girls’ twin beds listening to a couple goodnight songs with them, holding Stella’s hand as they snuggle into the land of nod. We say prayers and they quietly tell me about this and that.
I usually stay through two or three songs.
Once the last song finishes, I stand and give the girls final kisses goodnight.
Goodnight sweetheart. I kiss each girl on the cheek. I love you. I’ll check on you in a few minutes.
That’s when Veronica hits me up with a deep question.
That’s when she gets all existential, asking the likes of “Why are we here?”, “What is this all about?”, or “When will you die?”
At 8:30 p.m., I’m mentally prepping for the next episode of Homeland, longing to be horizonal on the couch. Instead I take a deep breath, and sit back down next to her to chat. As tired as I am, I can’t sidestep the tough questions with, “Oh we’ll talk about that later.”
Lately, my 7-year-old is asking me a lot of questions about death. Developmentally, it’s the age where kiddos start asking the big questions—at least that’s what I’ve gathered from reading my Baby Center updates and after googling, “How to talk to your child about death.”
I stick to logic, giving her circle-of-life explanations to offer her peace of mind. I tell her we can strive to live a long life like my grandmother (she was 91). We talk about taking care of our health and safety.
I believe we are all interconnected, so I am confident when I tell her that love wins and to choose kindness, respect, and The Golden Rule.
I’m comfortable answering most of her tricky questions.
But the curveball (and the one she is most concerned about) sounds like this: “Mom, where do I go after I die? Where do you go? I don’t want to be without you. What if I don’t see Stella again?”
Life is so precious.
And this question makes me squirm, uncomfortable with my lack of confidence in the answer. I spent years with anxiety and phobias surrounding death.
Yes, I grew up Catholic, schooled in Heaven as life everlasting. Yes, we are raising our girls Catholic. Yet I stumble discussing the afterlife.
Life after death?
I believe in it, but I’m uncertain what it looks like. Is it the big pearly gates? Is it like What Dreams May Come, living in paradise with our loves? Are we reincarnated? Have we met in past lives? Is Heaven in Big Sur, California?
She’s not ready for my internal debate, so I tell her …
I believe in God as a higher power that is greater than us. I am spiritual. I feel pulls, connections, and signs that seem otherworldly. I pray to Mary, and some saints. I think there are guardian angels and karma.
I stick to my roots and tell her about Heaven. I tell her that when I was a little girl, I learned about Heaven.
I tell her that I have faith in something beautiful after this life. I tell her that faith makes me feel like we’ll be together again.
I share stories about my grandma, who she briefly knew and whose light is shining in us.
I tell her I sometimes I talk to my grandma in my dreams and that she sends me signs.
I didn’t tell Veronica about the latest sign, but I want to share here.
Last Thursday morning at dawn, I sipped a cup of coffee while scrolling through my FB news feed, getting updates from my friends and the sites I follow.
That’s when I saw my post “My Grandma’s Rules for Happiness” on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls feed. I was stunned, and quite geeked that they shared my work. It was such a rush to suddenly have so many people reading my Grandma’s Rules for Happiness and stopping by my blog at Rudeysroom.
On the post, I wrote about how special my grandma is to me, about her bright personality, and her Rules for Happiness. She lived her life with meaning and purpose.
However, I left out an important part about my grandma. I was reminded of this Thursday night.
My grandma had uncanny luck. She won … all. of. the. time. If a number was called, it was likely hers.
My luck with lotteries and raffles is sub par. Case in point happens bi-annually at my school. The PTA raffles Target gift cards twice a year during our report card day luncheon. In my 13 years of teaching, I’ve won once.
Well, Thursday night, I had a line into my grandma’s luck. It felt divinely connected, her spirit alive.
My husband and I attended a happy hour event, hosted by the company I use for student travel. This was my first time going to one of their networking events.
Placed in our lanyards were raffle tickets. Numbers were called to give away several global conferences. I won a five-day trip to Rome, all expenses paid.
Then we went to a second party—a fundraiser for V’s elementary school featuring the school’s dad band.
At the door we spent $20 on 10 raffle tickets for VIP tickets to a show of our choosing at Metro Chicago.
Numbers were called. We won AGAIN!
I took these as greetings from my grandma.
Signs like that warm my heart and connect me to what was, what is, and what’s next.
As for Veronica and Stella, we’ll just keep talking. I know that this is a conversation that will continue for many years, perhaps a lifetime. I want to keep the lines of communication open. I want to be part of my girls’ internal lives and learn what feels true to them.
How do you talk to your kiddos about God, spirituality, the Universe, and death?
Do you believe in signs? Are there certain signs you follow? My mom likes to talk about pennies from Heaven.
That’s all from the deep end.