Heaven is my Home


Ma died two years ago, S was two years old. To him, a child with a fixation with numbers, she was Nana number nine… because she lived at number nine!

And he still says it…

I had to forewarn him that tomorrow, we will be going to see his Uncle M and Aunty J.

“Ohhhh, Uncle M lives at number one, Mummy!”

I also told him that we’d be going to the “big garden” (the crematorium) to put some flowers down for Nana and Granddad.

“Nana lives at number nine, Mummy!”

He hasn’t seen his Grandmother since August 2011 but in his mind, she’s still there. Nana lives at number nine. End of.

He’s never asks when he’s going to see her again.

He never asks why he hasn’t seen her for so long.

He never talks about her except to look at her picture and say, “Nana lives at number nine doesn’t she, Mama?”

I just ruffle his hair and say nothing.

How can I tell him that she’s no longer there?

How do I explain that she died, that he’ll never see her again?

How do I talk about loss and death to a child who sees the world in a literal sense and who is still only four and a half years old?

Tomorrow we will take him to the crematorium. I’ll go through the motions of cleaning the stone and arranging the flowers. I’ll read the words engraved on the plinth, “The song has ended but the melody lingers on”.

S will have no concept that what remains of his Nana (in body) is there.

My son may be autistic but even if that’s the case, it’s wrong of me to allow him to keep connecting the word Nana with the number nine- the address of a house that belongs to someone else.

So this time, when he said, “Nana lives at number nine” with a heavy heart I said, “No, Nana doesn’t live at number nine”.

Words escaped me and I reverted to the only phrase that I know, “Nana lives in Heaven with Granddad”.

S didn’t question me, he simply carried on watching Numberjacks.

I didn’t push it either, I left it at that.

I know I probably shouldn’t have used the words “big garden”. I should use the word crematorium but the truth is that I hate the word.

Crem-a-tor-ium is such a glum sounding word. Urgh!

I know I have to talk to my child in the literal terms that he understands. I mustn’t use the word “sleep” or “rest”, it must be “died” or “dead”. “Nana was very poorly and she died”…

Heaven is a concept that he will learn because he attends a faith school. While I don’t necessarily agree with some people’s concept of God and Heaven, I do believe that we go somewhere but for now he will know of Heaven- so Heaven it is.

Ma believed in Heaven so I guess she’d approve. That’s presuming she made it through the gates. Well she did swear occasionally, mainly after a couple of gins.

Of course she made it to Heaven. God himself would have had to roll the red carpet out ready for Ma’s big entrance, and it had better have been Axminster or woe betide him!

S will never remember this wonderful lady or indeed his other Grandmother. He will never really know a Grandmothers love. I feel sad for him.

Ma loved all her Grandchildren. She loved their unique personalities. She was immensely proud of each and every one…all eight of them don’t you know! We were reminded often enough, especially at Christmas when it cost her “a bloody fortune”. She threatened it often enough but we never did have to visit her in the workhouse…

S was her “sweetpea” from the day he was born.

“How’s my sweetpea today?”, she’d shrill down the phone.

“I’ll give you sweetpea, Mother…the little bugga has done my head in today!!!” I’d sob back.

She loved him because he’s different.

He will never know her but I will make sure that he knows of her along with his other deceased Grandparents who died before he was born- his paternal Grandmother and my Dad. I intend to make up a little photo album, just for him.

But for now I need to work out how to tell him, in a way that he will understand, that Nana doesn’t live at number nine anymore.

You’re alone when you come in this world
You’re alone when you go
And it doesn’t matter who you are
It doesn’t matter who you know

Randy Newman ~ Heaven is my Home

Image source


18 thoughts on “Heaven is my Home

  1. No worries, Tracy. You can quite safely let little’un believe that Nana is in Heaven – and also that she still lives at number nine.
    A popular term to describe Heaven is … ‘Cloud Number Nine’, or in other words – a state of blissful happiness!

    • Hi skattykat πŸ™‚
      Nana may well still live at number nine – she could be haunting it! :0
      The ‘Cloud Number Nine’ is a nice way to describe Heaven but I have to try and be as literal as I can. If you can understand me, S would drive us (and himself) nuts trying to find the ninth cloud and it would become a routine, a need…and then what about the days where there isn’t a cloud in the sky? *trembles*
      Hope you’re well, lovely lady. xXx

  2. I has similar problem. N’s Dad (my husband) died in a motorbike accident few years ago. N was only four with severe autism and I assumed had no understanding of the situation so I didn’t tell her for a few days as he often worked away so was often not home. But then I felt that she should know even if she stores the info and processes it at a later stage so I sat on her bed when she was playing and just said “Daddy’s died. He’s gone and won’t be coming back” it broke my heart but the way that child looked at me and held my gaze I just KNEW she understood. After that she used to turn his photographs over and has never mentioned him to this day. I still wonder what she thinks

  3. Have just realised that I’ve selfishly given account of what happened to me and N but haven’t helped with what you were asking Tracey! I guess what I was saying is that it depends on the child’s understanding. I certainly think that you have to say what your child can cope with at that time and then add extra details as time moves on and they learn more about how death works. N will never understand death and that’s why I felt it best just to tell her plain and simple and let her store and process. Not sure if that’s why help!!

  4. I can’t begin to imagine to explaining to a child with autism, you are mummy and you know best. I have always been truthful and explained death to mine….never ever have I said they have gone to sleep, didn’t want them to have a fear of sleeping!!! Like injections at the Drs, I’ve always said it will hurt but it will then be over…why do mums say “it’s just a tickle”…. It’s not, it hurts.
    Such a sad blog Tracy and you have it twice as hard, not only dealing with your grief but helping S in the way you feel is right for him to manage.
    I have a word I hate….FUNERAL…it bloody starts with FUN….no fun in funeral.
    Love you Tracy & your Ma would be so proud of how you have managed/coped S in such a brilliant way as he grows into a young boy xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  5. I have used the analogy of a broken clock before. If a clock stops you can wind it up or replace its batteries. Sometimes you need to take it to the menders and they take it apart and clean it, or replace a part and then when it’s put back together it works again.

    Then the day arrives when no matter what you do to the clock it just will not work again. Ever. So you put the clock away, into the bin. But you sometimes smile and remember how the clock looked on the kitchen wall and how it reminded you to get ready for things you needed to be on time for.

    Nana is like the clock. She needed food and drink like a clock needs batteries. Sometimes she got poorly and then she went to the doctors to get medicine to be mended. But one day she got so poorly that not even the very best doctor could mend her, she had worn out and come to the end of her life, so she died. That means she stopped working forever, like a broken clock.

    When you go to the big garden (and I think that’s a beautiful way to describe the crematorium) it’s a special place to remember how much we all loved Nana. Every time you look at her photo you can smile and remember she loved you.

    And she will always be Nana number 9, but she doesn’t live there any more because she doesn’t need her body. Just like the clock doesn’t need its case. The memories live in your heart/in the photos/whichever makes most sense to your wee man.

    Any help at all? And good luck, even if you don’t think S will understand it’s surprising how much info little minds take in, even when they take a long time to process the information. ((((((((hugs))))))))

    • Thanks so much for this…it’s very helpful.
      S went to the big garden today. He couldn’t cope with the concept that Heaven doesn’t have an address, a number. He was getting upset so we ended up saying that the grave was number 101 (his choice) so that’s where Nana is now.
      I will use the analogy of the clock because he likes clocks (numbers) so he’s more likely to take information in.
      Thanks once again. xXx

      • I’m pleased that might help.
        And sorry if it’s very inappropriate but I’m sniggering slightly about putting your mum into “Room 101” But I think from what you’ve told me she might find that quite amusing xx

  6. I must admit, I stifled a giggle myself when he said it (wasn’t really the place to start laughing hysterically and it would have ended up that way) but it was his choice so we’ve gone with it. lolol and yeah, Ma would love it. πŸ˜‰ xXx

  7. Such a poignant and touching post. I love the term big garden, I think it’s beautiful. I also think it’s a terribly special and unique link of remembering part of her as nana lives at number nine, i’d be tempted to buy a number nine plaque and leave it in the big garden, then she will always live at number nine.

    • That’s actually a beautiful idea….
      However, we’ve sorted it…(ish) I’ll be doing a follow up post. ‘)
      Thank you for your lovely comment. πŸ™‚ xXx

  8. I love the fact that you call the crematorium ‘the big garden’.
    Would it maybe help him understand if you put a picture of her at her headstone?
    Not much help, sorry. Love you xxxxx

    • I’m going to do a photo album for him but with all his grandparents in. There are some great ones where she’s holding him as a baby..
      We’ve sort of worked something out regards the address…blog post will follow. πŸ˜‰
      Thanks, sis. Love you xXx

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