As we dealt with the deaths of three of our parents in 14 months, we also observed how Aaron would process this sad reality. Never did we see a tear. The thought of Aaron crying over any one’s death, even someone he loves, just doesn’t fit the Aaron that we know. Instead he will seem emotionally flat, unaffected except for perhaps a flicker of surprise that crosses his face.
However, as always, Aaron is processing this information. He needs to file it away in his brain and make it a part of his factual world. He does NOT need to express outward emotion the way that we do. In fact, our emotion baffles him. It makes him uneasy and probably feel very insecure. What does he do with a crying mother? He is totally unprepared to handle that issue, and so he withdraws from it and doesn’t show any concern or offer any comfort.
Yet Aaron does, in his own way, show that he is sad and that he cares. He demonstrates this, as usual, by doing what Aaron does best – talking! At the most random moments he will mention something about Granny or Granddaddy or Grandpa or Mama Rachel, etc. Perhaps it’s to talk about a special memory, or a physical feature of one of them, or a gift they had given him at some point. The most endearing comment that he makes, though, is when he says, “I miss Granny.” – or one of the other grandparents. He’ll want to know if we miss them, too. We know that he cares and we must allow him to show it in his own way, not in our way.
We often pass a large, beautiful cemetery a few miles from our house. Aaron will talk about the big cross, the flags, the headstones, or why a covering is up as a funeral is being prepared. The funeral processions that he sees as he’s driving around with his group particularly intrigue him. Just the other day he said, “Mom, today we saw some of those cemetery cars. Why do we have to stop when they come by? I don’t know that person!!” There again, factual Aaron doesn’t display care or concern over the grieving family. I’m able to use that as an opportunity to discuss how important and meaningful it is to show respect for any grieving family and for the loved one they lost. I’m not sure that concept made much sense to Aaron, though. I know him well and I’m pretty confident that he’s pondering why on earth he should show respect to someone he doesn’t even know!
One day we were driving to an appointment. Aaron often points out things to me that he sees as he rides around with his day group. On this day as Aaron and I were riding along, he bent over and was peering intently out the front windshield of the van. I wondered what he saw. Then suddenly he said, “There!! Up there, Mom!” I asked him what was up there and he replied, “See those flowers and that cross? Someone is buried up there!!”
Oh my. I told him that this site was a memorial set up by the family of someone who had been killed there in a car accident. As we talked I realized that Aaron had seen other memorials such as this and thought that all of them were graves. He wondered why people were randomly buried all over town! Flowers and crosses mean graves, right? I was glad that we cleared that up!
And ever aware of the way that Aaron connects the dots in his world in the way that makes sense to him.