Talking to Kids about Life and Death.

This week in the year is always a very emotional time for our family. It is our eldest sons birthday – when we first became parents. It is also the anniversary of Granddad Michael’s death.

Our son was born at home on my bed on the 17th July 2006 at 11am in a 100 degree heat wave. Of course his life started 9 months previously at the moment of his conception. To explain this to him we recently put up a scan picture of him at 9 weeks post conception “Look Alex – it’s you!”

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But now here he was – all 9lb 11oz of him! (4.4k). He made me a mother – something i had dreamed of becoming since i was 4 years old. I felt totally overwhelmed, intensely proud, completely helpless and wide eyed with wonder at this little human being who had been kicking me from the inside for the past couple of months!

I truly believe there is no bigger adjustment anyone can go through in their entire lives that becoming a parent for the first time. It really does change everything. Things that seemed so important before are now forgotten. Things that meant so much to you before, now hold no interest whatsoever. This tiny being, this baby has suddenly totally re-ordered all your priorities, wants, needs and aspirations. The love you feel for this tiny creature terrifies you because you have never felt this way about anything or anyone in your entire life – not even your spouse. You would give up your life for this child in an instant. You notice everything: every tiny movement, every wrinkle, every breath they take is the most fascinating thing you have ever seen. Your heart doesn’t even know what to do with itself it is so in love! And all you want is for this child to love you back.

Of course the day our son was born was the morning my husband was due to start his big new job. Needless to say he had called in to say he wasn’t going to make it that day! Of all the days I could have gone into labour, it had to be the day he was starting his new job! I told him weeks ago that there was never going to be any question of it – THAT was the day I would have the baby!

We slept the rest of that day and then spent the next day calling and sending photo messages to the rest of our family. We asked for no phone calls because we wanted to just spend the first day or so together just the 3 of us. This decision was the biggest regret of my life.

The next day my husband completed his first day at work and came home to me and the baby. I hadn’t slept much and was still in shock from becoming a mum. But we sat together and congratulated ourselves that despite the chaos, we were doing OK. Then the phone rang. It was my husbands mum. She was calling to tell my husband that his father had just died. We hadn’t even named the baby yet.

To say this news was unexpected was an understatement. This man was fit as a fiddle. He swam in the sea everyday, cycled – you name it. No-one was expecting this.

We both remember the crazy mantle piece we had going on at the time: we had cards saying ‘sorry you’re leaving’ ‘congratulations on your new job’ ‘it’s a boy!’ and ‘with deepest sympathy’. It was like a time line of events that should have spun a few years – not a few days.

We decided to give Alex a middle name of Michael – after his Granddad. We take the kids each year to visit Granddad Michael’s grave. This year was a particularly happy time because it was the first time Angelica had visited his grave. We show Alex the date on the grave stone and tell him the story again of why his middle name is Michael. We talk about the fact that Granddad Michael is in heaven for ever now with Jesus and how happy he must be. We ask him to pray for us.

Life and death are a normal part of any families life. We are fortunate that in our family we have a time in the year where both mysteries can be contemplated together.

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