How can we remember grandparents in heaven?
It was my father's birthday this week. Always a special and poignant day, but for me all the more so because he's not here to celebrate. So the responsibility, I feel, falls to me to remember that day and mark it as being special.
My very special dad died a long time ago...half of my life ago, in fact. So he's never known my children and, other than a photo that sits in our home, they've never had the chance to know him.
But that doesn't mean I can't try to let them know who he is, or where their family has come from.
Should we tell our kids about relatives who've died?
It's always a tricky decision as to whether to raise the subject of a relative who's died - children have enough to get through in their own little lives without raising the subject of mortality. But we all know they will face losses in their time, be that of pets or people, and we can't entirely protect them from this...and besides, my kids can recognise for themselves that there is someone missing in my family set-up. Denying them the truth is no more helpful.
But while they are aware of my dad having died, it's not a subject we discuss with any frequency, and his picture is not in a prominent position in our home. Knowledge can come without 'weight' attached to it. It's just the way my family ...their family.... is.
So why raise it at all? Why make them remember?
Because in truth I think there is some benefit to them having this knowledge. I think it helps them understand who I am, and why things - relationships, and values - matter to me in the way that they do.
It helps them understand how special a bond can be between a parent and a child, and that even after all this time, nothing changes my love for my dad.
It can help ease the burden of other losses....my father is the current owner of several goldfish, a gerbil and a guinea pig that have all passed from us to him, to be looked after in a lovely fluffy, fun, cloud-filled place.
And sometimes, when they are sad or scared, I can tell them how lucky they are, that they have their own personal guardian angel who will watch them and be with them, and make sure that, even if there are some tricky times, everything will be okay in the end. It's not a ghostly-goulish thing - I am definitely not one for that - but it's just a comfort for them to feel that they have someone 'magical' rooting for them.
As the photo says, it can help them cherish my yesterdays, and dream confidently of tomorrow, while we live happily today.
Celebrating with cake & cards - helping children remember... happily.
I'm sure this blog post will divide opinion, but, right or wrong, that's my way. Denying my dad his place as a grandfather, just because life dealt a rubbish hand, doesn't seem fair or right.
So we had a happy time making cards for his birthday, and baking a cake and blowing out a candle. And then we took the cake, at my daughter's suggestion, out into the garden, and threw pieces of it into the wind and up to heaven. I'll admit a neighbour spotted us and probably thought we'd lost it completely, but it was an act filled with fun and laughter as the cake hit the car, the porch roof and everything in between.
And that seems to me like a pretty good way to remember.