A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer

We haven’t had to deal with any death in the family with Ladybug and WhatAboutMe? (formerly known as Butterball) so we had never discussed the eventuality of attending a funeral with them.  Grandma Max’s death caught us unprepared and off-guard. In our shock and grief we just jumped into a car and headed to her town, wanting to be there for Pop. Looking back on it, I am sure there are tons of resources and books out there that could have helped and guided us with age appropriate ways to talk to a 5 and 3 year old about death and funerals. We had none of that and, in fact, the idea didn’t cross our minds until Tuesday as we approached the memorial chapel for the viewing. We quickly came to the decision that we would take turns inside the viewing room with family, while the girls stayed in the provided children’s play area–never to be any wiser as to the adult goings on.

Nanny had discussed with the girls that the next day we would be attending a ‘special event’. Not using the words funeral or death, she explained they would have to be on their best church behavior: quiet and still, knowing they were familiar with that and would understand. You can imagine my dismay when I arrived the next morning to realize it was going to be an open casket. We had ten minutes to spare, so I grabbed Nanny and asked her if we should prepare the girls in some way? Considering the room was only about 20’x30’, there was no way they wouldn’t notice a body in a casket in the room. She quickly came up with the idea of telling them that “like in the movie Snow White” there would be a lady sleeping in a casket at the front of the room, but they had to be on their best behavior and I told them if they had any questions to save them until after the service. It seemed as if it just might work, but I have learned over the years….never underestimate the brilliant mind of a child.

Scene: Inside a small memorial room with four rows of seats a beautiful woman of 92 dressed in a lovely pink gown, lies in repose in an ornate white casket, surrounded by a sea of fragrant flowers. A grandma, holding her 5-year-old granddaughter’s hand, makes her way to the back row followed by her husband and her eldest daughter who is holding on to her 3-year-old daughter. They take their seats and the 5-year-old begins craning her neck—trying to see past the other mourner’s heads to the front of the room and eventually scoots up into her grandmother’s lap to see better.

Ladybug: (whispering) Grandma? I still can’t see.
Grandma: (whispering) That’s okay, honey. You’re not missing anything. You’ll be able to see the pastor when she comes out to talk.
Ladybug: (whispering with a hint of pleading) But Grandma, I can’t see it.
Grandma: (whispering) Shhh, sweetie. Just hang in there, we’ll be done soon.

 There is quiet for a moment and then the child leans back towards grandmother’s ear:

Ladybug: (whispering) Grandma? Where are the dwarfs?
Grandma: (stunned) Huh??? Oh, ummm, well, they’re not here.
Ladybug: (normal voice) Oh. So it’s just Snow White in this show?

The grandma takes the little girls hand and quickly exits the room. On the way grabbing the mother & telling her they need another meeting out in the hall before the service starts.

 Later in the day, we were able to laugh about it, as did everyone who heard the story. At the time, I was too worried that she was going to grow up and tell everyone the story about the time “Grandma took me to see a Snow White show and all I got to see was a dead body.”


Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal


Only Happy Tears


  1. First of all let me offer my sympathy on the loss of your Grandmother. My Grams crossed over almost three years ago and I feel her absence still as keenly as I did then. We were very close, so I can identify with some of your feelings.

    But on another note, what a cute story…albeit likely it wasn’t so funny as it unfolded.

    When I was three years old my great-grandmother crossed over. At the wake my mom was mortified when I attempted to crawl up into the casket to lie down with great-grams to nap and share my bottle with her — something I did every single day when she was alive, as we were children together…her mind was three years old as much as mine was, due to her senility…she was 98. But what can you expect to happen? My mom told me she was “sleeping” too 🙂

    Hugs hon…and again, please accept my condolences.

  2. LOL that is too cute about the Snow White Story though. My thoughts and prayers are with you through this time 🙂

  3. I am so sorry you and yoru family had to go through all this. But the story is so cute. I think you did a wonderful job! My son was 7yrs old when my grandmother (my mom is my eyes bc she helped raise me, my mom passed when i was only 5)and then he was only 6 when my mother in law passed away. My mother in law passed away suddenly, I was 2months pregnant and already emotional, so it was up to my husband (sons step dad) to explain to him what was going on. He still didn’t really get it at the time, just understood she was on her way to spend forever with God and that she wouldn’t be here on Earth. Then when we found out my grandmother was very sick and would be passing very soon, he was able to follow the process (sadly) and he got to understand a lot better. It sucks he had to learn at such a young age, but now he’s almost 10 and he talks about them both with love and understanding so it makes me feel like we did something right. I really don’tknow how I would have explained it if he were any younger.

  4. After we got the dx Brennan was going to die, I sat down with my then 4-yo and 7-yo sons. I explained to them what was going on at a level they could understand. My 4 year old climbed into my lap and said, “Mama, Brennan will be sitting in Jesus’ lap just like I am sitting in yours.” He had it down exactly.

    Kids are amazingly versatile.

    Super hugs for you my friend.

  5. Oh no I am so sorry for your loss. I will have to keep that in mind. We haven’t taken our children to a funeral yet, so my kids would probably react the same way. I think kids understand a lot more than they let on at times.

  6. I am sorry for your loss. I do think the way kids process all of this offers us a different look at sorrow. They remind us how good life is!

  7. Oh, if we could only think like a child more often, how much pain would just pass us on by??

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