It was my turn today to take 5-year old grandson, Tim, to his afternoon kindergarten session. Grandma had him dressed in his white shirt, tie, and khaki pants – the required uniform for the day at his charter school. And with his backpack in place, he strapped himself into his car seat in the back, and we were off on our 5-minute drive to school.
Tim quietly asked me a question that I couldn’t hear clearly, so I rolled up my driver’s side window to cut down the noise.
“What did you ask, Tim?”
“Do other Grandpas have surgery?”
I paused for a moment, letting the question sink in. Tim often asks questions like, “Can we go to WalMart and buy a toy?” But, Grandpa needed to get to higher ground with Tim on this question.
I replied, “Yes, some other Grandpas have surgery too. That’s why doctors know how to do surgery on your Grandpa.”
Seeing Grandpa go to hospitals this past month has become equated in Tim’s mind as having surgery, which is yet to come in the course of my treatment.
Then extending his thought he stated, “All my life you haven’t had surgery.”
I replied, “You are right Tim. All your life your Grandpa Wood hasn’t had surgery. But, that’s what we do to get well when we are sick. And other Grandpas have done that too.”
We arrive at the front door of the school, Tim unbuckles his seat belt, and then thanks me for the ride, but this time with a level of maturity that would match his Dad’s or his Uncle’s.
As I drive back home I’m comparing this event to many other events we’ve shared in the year and a half that we’ve been a 3-generation family. Tim has been gifted with an enormous amount of energy that bursts out in Tigger-like style as “I’m the only one!” And fortunately, 4-year olds are given enough slack in a supportive environment during these times that they can still consider themselves to be at the center of the universe.
But today Tim was pondering his universe, a life-death issue, as best he could.
JK Rowling, the legendary author of the Harry Potter series, summarized her writing this way in an interview with a reporter for the London Telegraph in 2006.
Death is the key to understanding J K Rowling. Her greatest fear – and she is completely unhesitant about this – is of someone she loves dying. “My books are largely about death. They open with the death of Harry’s parents. There is Voldemort’s obsession with conquering death and his quest for immortality at any price, the goal of anyone with magic.
We have many opportunities to weave the mystery of death into the mystery of life. We have the assistance of novels, of drama on the movie screen, or from stories in scripture, and our own family history.
But, today I’m grateful to explore this mystery, just between Tim and Grandpa, for the few minutes we traveled the High Road together to kindergarten. He now joins his 5-year old cousin, Audrey, in exploring what it might mean to lose someone you love, through sickness or surgery.
I also want to explore as best I can, how they can expand their universe beyond this life, as found in this scripture:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?