My mother-in-law, Concetta, passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly in early February 2007 at the very young age of 60. It left our family in total and utter shock. My husband, Peter, and I were struggling how to tell our children, Kiana (seven) and Jacob (three) about Nonna's (Italian for Gramma) passing.
Other than family pets, our children had not experienced the death of a close family member, let alone another human being. It was hard for us to know what was right to tell them and the best way to deliver such devastating news.
Through our faith as Catholics, we found the right words, were honest and explained Nonna's death in terms they could comprehend as young children. Peter and I decided that Kiana and Jacob should attend the funeral.
Death, after all, is a part of life and we felt that they should share in the grieving process with the rest of their family, both immediate and extended,as well as the numerous people whose lives were deeply touched by their nonna.
Nothing could have prepared me for the reaction of my two children during the viewing prior to the Mass of Christian Burial. In hindsight, I should have prepared Kiana better, as she was very apprehensive about seeing Nonna in her casket.
Jacob on the other hand, could not take his eyes off Nonna, as she was lying in her "Heaven Bed" (a much nicer term for a casket, I thought, and very insightful for a three year old boy).
As Peter and I took turns holding Jacob in our arms during the viewing, he would struggle to see between or over people as they passed by to pay their last regards to Concetta.
During these efforts, Jacob would remark, "I can't see Nonna. I want to see Nonna". He was most at peace when he could see her. After the Mass of Christian Burial, Concetta was entombed at a local Catholic Mausoleum.
After the celebrant, Father Sam, completed the last of the ceremony at the Mausoleum, it was time for Concetta to lie at her final resting place.
Members of our immediate family followed Father Sam and Nonna's "Heaven Bed" to her tomb and those in attendance trailed after us.
As the casket was placed into the tomb, it was a very emotional moment for all, as this would be the last time we would be that physically close to Concetta again.
While this was occurring, Father Sam was giving his individual condolences to our family. As he approached me, with Jacob hugging me tightly, Jacob remarked, "Nonna's in her Heaven Bed".
Father Sam, with a tear welling up in each eye, looked lovingly at Jacob and asked me, "What is his name?" I responded, "Jacob".
Father Sam placed his hand on Jacob's head and said, "God Bless you."