Kids really DO say the darndest things, y'know? And it's always EXACTLY what you need to hear! Let me give you this little anecdote.
We're sitting at the Shabbos table on Friday night, just shmoozing. That's me and my kids, mind you; hubby's flat out on the couch for a post-chicken soup snooze. And it's one of those lazy, delicious conversations where everyone's chilled and just chatting, when suddenly...DEATH strikes!
Don't you love it? Kids and death. There's this fascination, this macabre romance children have with morbidity and beyond--not unlike us adults, only we suppress it. Here's the way the convo unfolds:
Child: It's so sad that So-and-So died. She'll never see her grandchildren and great grand-children...
Me: Yes she will. People who leave this world aren't gone--they're still living, just in another world.
Another child: Really?
Child: Then why is it sad when people die?
Me: It's sad for US because we miss them here. But it's happy for THEM because they're in the Next World, in Gan Eden (literally: the Garden of Eden, commonly referred to as "Heaven").
Child thinks for awhile.
Child: Mommy, do you think I'm going to Gan Eden?
Me: Of course!
Child: Yeah. Well, I'm just getting started doing mitzvos (good deeds). I think I'm going to go to Gan Eden after 120.
Me: Uh huh.
Child: Mommy, do you think YOU'RE going to Gan Eden?
Me: Hmmmm... Well, I never really thought about it. I sure hope so. Some days are better, some days are harder, but I'm definitely trying.
Child: Well, I hope you go to Gan Eden because I want to see you there!
Now tell me something. Where, in the world, would I be without my kids? Certainly not wondering about whether I'm going to Heaven! :-) But seriously--have YOU ever thought about whether you're going to Gan Eden before?
It's not perjorative to acknowledge that I am awkward at paying shivah calls. If anything, the hope is we will have to pay too few to become overly comfortable with the procedure. On Motzei Shabbos, I dragged myself out for my last chance at nichum aveilim for a high school friend whose father passed away. Shlomo HaMelech says "Tov leches l'beis avel mi'leches l'beis mishteh"--"Better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting [because the first evokes feelings of repentance the true meaning of life while the second masks the important mission of life with partying and indulgence]." I feel as though in many ways I arrived at the Shiva empty and left full.
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.