This weekend I found myself having to console my daughter yet again about the topic she is the most dramatic about…death. Now luckily the subject we were dealing with was my childhood cat, Rajah, who at a amazing 20 years old passed away this weekend. I broke the news to J soon after my Mom called to tell me. After I told her, J as usual got overly dramatic. Even though Rajah lived with my parents who live an hour away J cried many “How will I live without a cat I hardly see??” tears.
I'm finding that death is really hard for a young child to understand and accept, even if it's just a carnival goldfish, or in this case a family cat. Although my children know what heaven is, I don't think they have truly grasped the concept. They know its "up", they know its where you go when you die, they know its nice, but since they are kids and haven't had any bad things really happen to them they don't understand how it can be any nicer than the world we live in. And they still seem confused when the God they hear is the greatest and "all good", "all loving", is the one who "takes" their beloved pet.
So, as is our normal “death therapy”, I sat with J answering her questions and giving her my "Hallmark" responses…”It’s for the best.”, “She lived a great kitty life”, "She's off to catch all the mice in heaven"... etc. etc. I was certain it was going to be a typical long drawn out, tear drying, evening... but to my surprise our conversation didn’t last longer than 2 minutes.
“It’s okay Mommy, she’ll be fine…she has Adam to take care of her. Right Mom?”
Suddenly I got the same goose bumps I had gotten a month earlier, when my daughter had first told me about an amazing experience she had. If you have read the book “Heaven is for Real”, you will love this story, for we found out through J that it is VERY true.
“Adam” is my Grandpa. He passed away from lung cancer in 1995. It was the first true tragedy of my life as I was incredibly close to him. He was always my hero, a man I could truly trust and count on. His character was one that won’t come along again, a true soul. Since his death, he’s my angel. I find myself praying to him nearly every day. I named L after him, giving him Adam as his middle name, because if there is one person I would like him to strive to be like, it’s my Grandpa.
Now J has from time to time been told stories about my Grandpa. But, she's really never "seen" him. The only picture she has seen is this one, a picture of him and I, my favorite picture of all time. Although this picture speaks volumes to me, it really doesn't show J what my Grandpa looked like. So, to her, I think she sees him less like a person and more like an angel, a star in the sky, a glance to heaven, someone I talk about occasionally. She knows his name was Adam because I told her L is named for him, but she always called him "Mommy's Grandpa".
Last month I had to travel for a mediation and had to leave very early in the morning, 5:00 a.m. early. I had made J a promise that I would give her a hug before I left even if she was sleeping. I followed through on my promise and at 4:45 a.m. I tiptoed into her dark room and quickly gave her a light “please don’t wake up” hug. Much to my surprise, she scared the life out of me by jumping up after I hugged her.
“MOMMY I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!” she said loudly, her eyes trying to open.
After I recovered from my small heart attack, I watched her wipe her eyes and in a groggy sleepy, yet very excited voice she rambled: “Mommy, I saw him! Mommy, I saw Adam, and Mommy! Mommy! He knew my name!! He knows I’m J Lucille Mommy!! Mommy I saw him!”
Now, I’m a huge believer in angels and having just read “Heaven is for Real” 2 months prior I of course wanted details…“You saw him? What happened?”
J: “Yes Mommy, he knows me! Mommy he knows me! And he tried to give me something, but I just said ‘No thank you’.”
Oh damn...he gave her something. See, thanks to my Grandma and Mom who raised me with countless stories about dearly departed coming in dreams to warn of things, I suddenly got scared to death…did this mean something was going to happen to my Grandma?
So I continued… “What did he give you J?”. But she just lightly mumbled “I saw him” and fell back to sleep. Oh I was as mad as I get at a good cliffhanger when the fall season of my favorite show ends. Oh come on...don't fall back to sleep!! But alas, a couple seconds later her calm sleeping breath was all I heard.
My heart was racing, and of course at 4:45 a.m. you can’t pick up the phone and tell anyone about it. I got in my car, nervous, excited, and amazed at what had happened. I couldn’t wait until she woke up so I could ask her more about it. As I drove I seriously think I saw every minute on the clock waiting to call and find out more…
At 6:30 a.m. I called my husband from my car…I told him what happened and asked him to get more details. He texted me back for the next 20 minutes as he conducted the interrogation for me… “Mandi she saw him…he’s really tall…he knows her name…he had blonde hair, a brown coat, and a hat…and really blue eyes”. Okay, getting scarier…as he did have beautiful blue eyes, and blonde hair when he was younger. “What does it mean?” texted my husband who obviously has been around my Polish, Catholic, “Dreams mean everything” family way too long. So of course you know what I asked next? “What did he give her?”. A few minutes later the text came through… “Some sort of candy, but she didn’t take it”.
This moment brought tears to my eyes, what an amazing experience. Over the next week or so I got more details… and surprising for a 5 year old the details were always the same. She’ll always mention his blue eyes, she was so amazed how tall he was. And for some reason she is most happy about the fact he knew her name. What’s even more strange is that after this dream, she only refers to him as Adam. Of course we visited my Grandma soon after to tell her the story. J was super excited to tell my Grandma: “Amma, I met Adam. And he knows I’m J Lucille…he really does”. After J told her story I said “Gram, I’m surprised he would wear a hat and brown coat, I thought he’d be in that blue sweater he always wore”. She smiled. “I know exactly the coat she’s talking about” she said calmly, confident in J’s rendition. She turned to J: “Yes, J, Adam knows you, and now you know him.”
My crazy family has yet to decipher what J’s dream means…was he warning her about something? Not sure. What was the candy for? Who knows. I, for one, don’t think it meant anything, I think he was just coming to meet her.
So, thanks to my Grandpa, J was calmed down about kitty death in about 2 minutes flat. I guess it took her glimpse into heaven to become a little more at ease with the concept. As an adult, who has long passed the fairy tales and make believe world of childhood, J’s dream was something I’ll never forget. I miss my Grandpa every day. I have always wished he could see my kids…I can see him amazed at the fact H has his blue eyes, I know J would have melted his heart, and I know he would be so proud to know I named L after him. Now after J’s dream, I’m at peace knowing my wish came true.