On Tuesday, my great Uncle Bud passed away. He was 85 years old and his health had been declining steadily. When my favorite aunt called to tell me her father-in-law passed away, I eyed my calendar. X-man had a birthday party on the schedule at 3 p.m. I was going in for eye surgery on Thursday and didn't know if I'd be okay to drive. So MacTroll was going to have to go with me if I couldn't drive. I knew one of my friends would be fabulous and offer to take X-man. But on the other hand, X-man had been asking a LOT about death over the last year.
So, I took a chance and asked him that night if he'd want to go to the funeral. I explained to him who Uncle Bud was, how he died and that a funeral was a chance to say goodbye to the people that you love and get together to remember the person who died with family.
"Do I get to go by the stones?" X-man asked.
"The ones with the names on them?"
"Oh, the grave stones!"
"I want to play hide and seek in the graveyard like on Scooby Doo."
"Mmmmmmmm. Let me explain further."
As it turned out, he really wanted to go. He was even willing to wear his "fancy clothes" without complaint. So, we left our house at 7 a.m. this morning. We drove up to Western Springs and made it to the 9:30 a.m. visitation. X-man saw Uncle Bud's remains in the casket at the end of the aisle. He asked questions about his skin color, about how the casket worked, about why everyone was going up to see a dead body, if he wasn't going to talk or move or answer back. These were all good questions. It helped that the church was very kid friendly. They even had activity bags in the back of the church for kids to use that were labeled with age appropriateness. There were also booster seats in case the kids wanted to see more of the service.
We'd done a fair job of covering the technical parts. Things like explaining that the choir and piano were upstairs in the balcony. That the candle that was lit was really a light bulb that looked like fire, but wasn't so the church wouldn't catch fire. We could explain who each of my relatives were and why they were so sad that Bud had passed away. That, yes, just like there was an Anthony in his school, he had a baby cousin named Anthony. The part we hadn't figured he'd have the most questions about was the frequent use of "Our Father" and "Jesus." And little informational sentences whispered into a five year old's ear at the back of the church service only leads to more and more questions about some giant topics.
I thought I was doing fairly well regarding God and Mary and Joseph and Jesus. But he couldn't quite figure out the whole aspect of spirit impregnating a virgin (who was married to someone else) and her giving birth when he knew only people could reproduce with people. Just like before the service started when he asked me about the toy ark and why it had two animals. I told the story, and his reply was, "Mommy, that's made up. That can't be real."
"Because there's not enough room for EVERY animal. There are a lot of birds. And how would one guy feed them all?"
I thought this was a fairly logical question.
But in the sanctuary, he asked a big question. "Is God Dead?"
I took a breath and looked at MacTroll. He nodded his head at me indicating that it was time we started talking about world religions with X-man. We'd been wondering when this was going to happen, because we've been on the whirlwind of what is real and what isn't. Most of the time it's really easy to explain that so far aliens, werewolves, vampires, Handy Manny and The Joker, aren't real.
But with religion, there are so many parts that many, many, many, many people do believe are real. So many variances of how literally they take the Bible or don't, whether or not Heaven takes everyone... or not. Reincarnation. Confession. Vegetarianism. All kinds of different aspects. MacTroll and I always thought we'd share what he and I believe but explain that X-man can believe whatever he wants to believe. That when it comes to spirituality, there's not really a wrong answer. Be an Atheist. Be Jewish. Be Buddhist. It's all fine to us. Just be peaceful and kind and treat everyone like your equal.
I whispered in his ear that some people think he is just a story, but some people do believe he is alive and looking over everyone.
In the end, we were able to grab a quick lunch at McDonald's and hustle back to Champaign for a 3 p.m. birthday party. It was definitely the first birthday party that all three of us had attended in fancy clothes. MacTroll in his suit, me in pantyhose and a skirt and X-man in a collared/button-down shirt. We looked totally out of place, but X-man had a totally good time, and was sad when it was over.