skipping, cars & questions: why I took my 4 year old to a cemetary

There’s a stoplight in Marysville by some busy train tracks and we usually wait a while to get through the light. The line of cars pause in line sandwiched between a Catholic church and a cemetary. While waiting in this line, I’ve heard a preschool voice from the back seat pipe up, “Mom, what are all those things in that yard?” “They’re gravestones, Isabella. When some people die, their family puts their body there. It’s a nice way to remember them.”

She would ask some follow up questions and then we were off to Target, Costco, the park or some other adventure. 
But a couple weeks ago, as we paused in the line of traffic, the little voice said, “Mom, can we visit that place? I want to read all the names.”
Now, as a pastor, I’d like to think I’m more comfortable than many in a cemetary. I’ve shared words of hope, offered our grief in prayer and cried plenty of times as I’ve watched people say goodbye to their loved ones. But to take my 4 year old daughter? Hmm. At first, I put it off a couple weeks. Then last night as we were deciding what we wanted to do on Friday Day with Mom, I asked if she wanted to visit the cemetary before we got groceries. “Yes!”
So this morning we woke up to a cloudy day after a week of unusually warm Pacific Northwest weather and it seemed fitting that our Friday adventure included roaming around a cemetary. We pulled onto the property and she asked if we could see the person who’s graveside service I had recently done. We started there and I explained that they put the body in the ground and we believed the person’s heart and spirit was with God. We missed the person a lot because we can’t see them like normal, but we’re happy because they’re doing just fine with God.
Wesley (1.5 years) was all giggles and smiles as he hustled across the green grass and headstones to escape us. He somehow found a gravestone of a 3 year old boy with lots of toys people had left around it. They grinned and played with the toys for a moment. It was a surreal moment to watch two children skip and play in a cemetary. A place of death, deep sorrow, fear and anger. And yet, somehow joy was skipping along right on top of it, with not a care in the world. 
After ten minutes of walking, Isabella exclaimed, “Mom, there are so many people who died!”
She proceeded to walk up to over thirty different gravestones and ask, “What’s their name? Who’s this?” So we read their names out loud. They’re not forgotten. They’re lives were celebrated this morning by a 4 year old who needed to know their name. Thank you, God.
At one point, she grabbed my hand and said, “I miss Great Grandma.” Two of her great grandmothers passed away in the last year or so. “Me too, Isabella.” Tears sprang to my eyes as I thought about my Grandma Emma. She said we should visit Great Grandma Emma’s grave in Ohio this summer on our trip. She then said, “I prayed for my Great Grandma’s and I will again sometime.”
We rounded up Wesley and got everyone buckled in the car and as we’re pulling out of the parking lot, she asks, “Mom, when people die do they go in Jesus’s body?” Hmm. What do you think? “I think they do.”

Then I heard, “When people die do they just keep dying or are they alive with Jesus?” I stopped the car and turned around and looked at her and said, “I think they’re alive with Jesus.”
“Okay, Mom, let’s go get groceries now.”

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