I remember doing VIP (Volunteers In Preschool) when I was at my previous church, and these parents dropped their kid off with us. Sweet child but incredibly clingy (yeah, I know — insensitive; I’m a guy, deal with it hehe), so when the parents went on to the worship service, the kid started to scream bloody murder. Of course, he could only go full throttle for so long, so as soon as I found an opportunity, I distracted him. Worked for a while, but if he ever got a chance to think “Mommy and Daddy ain’t here”, he’d start back up again.
This, of course, was in stark contrast to the other preschoolers that were with us, instead of in Little Kid Church, Big Kid Church, or Grown-up Church. Yeah, some of them were kinda sniffly when Mommy and Daddy dropped them off — and maybe even a little ticked off that they would dare leave them alone — but they knew they’d come back.
I can’t say that I couldn’t relate. I remember when my Dad was in the Navy, and he’d go off on his ship and be gone for months on end. I hated to see him leave, but after the initial shock, I found myself just biding time until his first phone call from port or his first letter, when my missing him would kinda hiccup — go away for a moment, only to come back worse as soon as the phone call or the letter were concluded, followed by recover and then more waiting.
My kids still do this, particularly my son. They’re always wanting to go to the store with me… and not because Daddy buys them stuff. Far more often than not, the only thing they get at the store is a big fat NO. But they ask to go anyway.
See, the important thing isn’t that they get some special privilege, but because they got to go someplace with Daddy, la tee da, and that makes all the difference in the world.
What’s striking to me, though, is that so many people look at death as being so different from what those kids in VIP experienced, even though they grieve in very similar ways. As we lay my wife’s grandfather to rest today, I expect to see many of the same stages taking place, from overwhelming grief to grudging acceptance to bittersweet patience. I might even see some anger, but I kinda doubt it. Bill Harding Sr didn’t foster a whole lot of that in his kids and their kids.
And just like those kids — who, to varying degrees, were able to look past the fact that Mommy and Daddy ain’t here “now” but they will be here later — many of Grandpa’s loved ones will find a bittersweet peace, knowing that while the separation is painful, it has nowhere NEAR the permanence that some people would ascribe to it. As they grieve, they will grieve in the knowledge that they’re not grieving their lost loved one, but themselves, who now find themselves patiently biding their time until they can be reunited.