Ice cream with Dad

I had ice cream with my father in April for his birthday and again on Father’s Day.  It was nice.  They were both beautiful days.  The sun was shining.  It meant alot to me.

I started this little tradition a couple of years ago.  I take a few minutes out of my day to visit my Dad.  I sit quietly, eat ice cream and tidy up his grave site a bit.  You see, my father died 3 years ago.  Cancer.

My Dad really liked ice cream.  He and my mother would have ice cream at night pretty regularly.  He’d say, “I’m pouring, do you want some?”  It’s an inside joke and an expression that my family still uses occasionally when someone offers to spoon out some ice cream after dinner.

While I was standing at my father’s headstone, enjoying the warm sun and the cold, sweet ice cream; it occurred to me how very present my father continues to be in my life.  I think about him all the time and, because I think I look a bit like him, I see his face when I look in the mirror and hear his voice when I open my mouth.  I don’t need to go to the cemetery to feel close to him, but taking some time to make this short trip a few times a year feels good.

Explaining death to children can be unsettling and emotional especially when our kids start asking questions about family membrs who have recently died.  We are uncomfortable with the topic ourselves and may be still hurting.  When I talk to children about loved ones who have died, I try to keep a few things in mind.

Tell the truth and be honest.

I see these as different.  I believe in telling the truth about death.  Whatever your beliefs, children need to have the facts.  When someone we love dies, it means their body stopped working.  We won’t be seeing them anymore.   Keep it simple.  Answer their questions.  I am not a big fan of  telling children things like “God needed him in heaven” or “She went to sleep for a long time.”  Children are very concrete.  We don’t want our kids to be mad at God or be afraid to fall asleep.

Be honest about how you feel and what you believe.  It is important for children to learn to grieve and they learn it from us.  When someone dies it hurts and its sad.  Talk about what you believe happens after someone dies.   Remember, keep it simple.  Children will ask questions that they are ready to have answered.

Keeping people who have died present in our lives can be an important thing for kids and adults.  Keep pictures of deceased loved ones.  Talk about them and your memories of them.  Develop traditions that can help keep these connections real and meaningful.  Like having ice cream at the cemetary.

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  1. nance

     /  June 25, 2012

    Good one, Barry, but then I would not except any less from you 🙂


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  • Barry Sanders

    Barry is the Director of Religious Education at First Parish Church. He is also a husband and father of two, a social worker, an avid soccer fan and an aspiring harmonica player.

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