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I See (Really Nice) Dead People

February 21, 2010

This is our back yard:

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It is quite literally our backyard. That’s the back of our house, between the trees.

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We do our walking and sledding and exploring in the middle of a (very, very old) snow-covered cemetery.

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We’ve been trying to figure out what to tell our (very imaginative) almost four year old, when he thinks to ask about the funny shaped rocks with letters.

Well, son, there’s a bunch of dead people out back. Let’s go meet ‘em.

Personally, I could spend all day in a boomtown-mining-era cemetery. John and I have already taken a morning getting to know some of the families buried out there, learning their stories through numbers and names etched on stone.

My heart broke for the young Ella Foust, who lost a toddler the same year she bore another daughter, only to have the second little girl die at age 6. Ella followed both of them three years later, in 1895, at age 31. The space for James Foust’s name is empty, leading us to wonder if the grief drove him away from the snowy mountain town that claimed the lived of these three girls he loved.

I love an old graveyard.

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But our almost four year old has the most ridiculously active imagination I’ve ever seen someone his age.

His talk of the friends we can’t see starts to freak me out a bit until I remind myself John reminds me that this is the boy who pretends and believes he’s 21 years old, can drive and is Peter Pan. Also, he mentions that thing about having a God who is bigger than anything or anyone else… dead or alive. And that we don’t personally believe that the dead, you know, walk the earth or anything.

Let’s hope that’s all true, I said with raised eyebrows and a hand on my hip. Because otherwise he’s gonna have a whole heap o’ new friends to play with in that backyard. And I’ll be alone with all of them as company for the next year.

Don’t worry, he replied with a smug grin. This is our cozy little mountain mining town, remember? They’ll all be nice ghosts.

I love-punched his arm.

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Ok, Mrs. Ehlenfeldt, you can live just outside my back gate. I’d just better not find you making pancakes in my kitchen some morning.

What would you tell two extremely imaginative boys if YOU had a cemetery for a back yard?

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15 Comments »

  1. SS says:

    I don’t think it is that big of a deal. Esp. given your beliefs on faith and death? My in laws live across the road from a cemetery and my imaginative 3 and 5 year olds know that when people die their spirits go to heaven but their bodies go in the ground. Further questions result in discussions on the stones being there so people have a special spot to remember their loved ones.

    February 21st, 2010 at 9:37 pm

  2. Erin says:

    I say similar things to SS. There is a cemetry along the way to my friends house which I often pass when I have her kids in the car.
    When her son asks me what it is I say that when people die their family like to have a special place to remember them, so they put stones up which tells us about them.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 1:38 am

  3. Lucy says:

    I’d tell the truth. My children (6 and 2) are also imaginative but they know that when people die their body is left behind but it is empty, like clothes that are taken off, because the real “them” has gone to Jesus. They know that we respect dead bodies and their graves, because people are made in the image of God, so we behave in the right way in cemetaries – no running, no shouting, no stepping on graves, showing respect, and as we are Catholic, we say a prayer for the souls of the departed, that they would rest in peace. Our son has attended funerals with me, and visits the graves of dead family members and knows the heasdstones are reminders, just like having photos at home, and because it is very matter of fact, just accepts and behaves fine with the whole dead people thing.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 2:03 am

  4. LeAnna says:

    I think I’d just tell them the truth, too. Knowing that sweet boy of yours, he very well may turn it in to a chance to Evangelize the neighborhood with his thoughts on how people spend eternity! :)

    February 22nd, 2010 at 6:05 am

  5. Jessica @ Life as I See It says:

    I’d probably turn it into a chance to share the gospel with my little one and then I’d take the kids out to do paper rubbings of the grave stones. (If that wouldn’t be considered disrespectful there!!)

    I would just never take my son to a nursing home soon after explaining to him about people dying and being buried. He’s a bright little guy and would totally connect the old people and the graveyard and I would HATE (tho secretly love!) to see what would come out of his mouth!!

    February 22nd, 2010 at 6:14 am

  6. abbyleigh says:

    i would kill for a snowy graveyard like that to play in :)

    February 22nd, 2010 at 7:06 am

  7. mishel says:

    You make me laugh. : )

    And of course whatever you tell them will be the truth. I just wish I was there to hear Troy’s questions and thoughts afterward…it’s gonna be good! LOL

    Love you bunches!

    February 22nd, 2010 at 7:46 am

  8. Sara says:

    It’s nice to now other people love a good graveyard. Our friends think we’re crazy to enjoy wandering through an old graveyard. Although, I’ve never experienced one in so much snow. Good luck with the questions. :)

    February 22nd, 2010 at 9:51 am

  9. Hillary says:

    I’m jealous. I LOVE old cemeteries.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 10:42 am

  10. Tricia says:

    I think you’re on the right track. I think it would be pretty darn cool to have a cemetery in the backyard! And I love reading the stones, too….looking back in time, in a weird way. Love your post…as always!

    February 22nd, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  11. Darcie - Such The Spot says:

    Your story of Ella and her daughters had me intrigued…no wonder you’ve found some entertainment back there. Though if I’m being honest it would kind of creep me out to have that in my backyard. {Says the girl whose backyard is filled with rattlesnakes and scorpions and horned toads}.

    February 22nd, 2010 at 6:28 pm

  12. Hillary @ The Other Mama says:

    Hmmm… Maybe that they are special historical markers or something? Not necessarily for DEAD people, but just there. Is that too close to a lie to work??

    February 22nd, 2010 at 10:31 pm

  13. Heather says:

    :) I’m with you…I love an old cemetery…the stories, the peacefulness. This was (as always) a great post :)

    February 23rd, 2010 at 9:51 am

  14. April says:

    Ohmygoodness, I SO have to come visit you! I LOVE old graveyards! (in a morbid, peaceful, contemplative sort of way…)

    As far as what to tell your little guy…I’m absolutely no help. The plain, ordinary truth?

    Wait, Troy is almost four?

    February 23rd, 2010 at 11:45 am

  15. Nicole says:

    Rofl!!! Oh my!!!

    I have no idea what you should tell them; the truth is always good, just an age-appropriate version.

    I love reading about Troy; he has such a precious, innocent, creative, fresh way of looking at the world. Only through the eyes of a child, ya know? Makes me wonder what’s in store for us in the next few years as Caleb grasps more vocabulary and starts asking questions of his own . . . ;)

    February 24th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

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