Bubblegum from Heaven

“Love the people God gives you, because one day 

He will need them back.” 

I sincerely wish I knew whom to give credit to for that quote, but I don’t. Found it while I was trolling Pinterest. At any rate, it’s a keeper.

Now, where was I? Oh, right. Death. Wait….what??????

After peeling myself away from Pinterest yesterday, The Man and I picked The Beans up from school and drove over to Hollywood to run a few errands. As we passed Forest Lawn Cemetery, a place we have driven by hundreds of times…from the back seat I hear, “Mama, what’s with all those flowers?” It was, of course, Sweet Pea, asking. I replied, “That’s a cemetery, baby.” 

BOOM. There it was. Off to the races.

SP: What’s a cemetery?

Me: A place where people are buried. 

SP: You mean where people die? 

Me: No, it’s not where they die. It’s the place they are taken and laid to rest after they die.

BB: (chiming in) People are buried in the ground over there. The flowers show where they are, so you don’t step on them. There are big stones with their names on top of them too.

Me: (silently saying, WTF? in my head) 

At this point, I’m wondering how in the world Butter Bean knows about headstones and flowers and that you are not supposed to step on graves. I am also telepathically thanking whomever taught her. Because I’m certain I’ve never taken her to a cemetery, and to my knowledge, neither has anyone else. So it wasn’t me. My synapses are firing on all cylinders, and I finally decide it must have been Phinneas or Ferb, or  maybe, Spencer from iCarly. Yes. That’s it.

But it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot.

SP: What if they come back alive? If they are in the ground, and have big stones on them, how can they get out?

Me: Well, they don’t get out. Or come back to life. Once they reach the cemetery, that’s where they stay. Forever.

BB: Unless they turn into zombies.

Me: There are no such things as zombies. They are only in the movies, or on television. Oh, and in that game, Office Zombie on Daddy’s phone. But you know that’s not real.

If you are wondering….yes. I am now certain where she learned about cemeteries, AND kicking myself for being the cool mom, who let her play that game, and glimpse whatever zombie crossed our television screen. Seems to more often than not, bite me square in the ass. I am also…no longer thankful. Instead, I am panicked about what else she knows at the ripe old age of 7. F-F-Double F.

Just when I think it’s D-O-N-E, Sugar Bean, who has been silent the entire conversation decides to muddy the waters with, “What about people who are resuscitated?”

Me: Well, if they are resuscitated, then they don’t make it to the cemetery to be buried. Resuscitation means they are brought back to life. 

BB: Like zombies?

(shaking my head)

Me: (to The Man, who has also remained silent) A little help here????

Fortunately, there was something shiny up ahead, and the focus shifted. Whew—crawling out of that hole might have been more difficult that coming back to life as a zombie.

Regardless, the conversation did start my cerebral gears turning, which reminded me I can’t recall being taught about death myself. Not in a matter of fact, logical kind of way that is. In addition, I’m pretty sure I grew up with the idea that children shouldn’t go to funerals. Why? It’s part of life. A sad part, but an inevitable one. Sheltering doesn’t make much sense, suddenly. However, as we mothers often do, I am guilty of subscribing to this school of thought handed down from my own parents. An obvious parenting fail.

My first experience with the loss of a loved one was the death of my maternal grandfather, when I was 18. He was 90, and lived a long, healthy life. No tragedy involved. Somehow that makes it easier, I believe. Ironically, I had the unexpected honor of explaining death to my niece, Meaghan, who was 4 years old at the time, when she walked up to Papa’s casket and asked me to hold her up so she could see him. The conversation went something like this:

Meaghan: If Papa isn’t here, then how is he here?

Me: Well, his body is here, but his soul is in Heaven.

Meaghan: What do you mean? There he is….right there….sleeping.

Me: No, sweetie. He isn’t sleeping. He is resting, but he isn’t going to wake up, because his soul is in Heaven.

At this point she is still looking at me, in silence, with a preciously confused little face, on the verge of tears.

So, I decide to get down on her level, intellectually speaking.

Me: Alright, let me see if I can help you understand. You know when you have a piece of bubble gum, and you unwrap it and put it in your mouth to chew it? 

Meaghan: Uh-huh.

Me: Well, the bubble gum is really sweet and you enjoy it, and you smile while you have it, right? 

Meaghan: Yep.

Me: Then, after a little bit, all the sweet is gone, so you take it out of you mouth. But you still have the wrapper, don’t you? 

Meaghan: Uh-huh.

Me: Papa’s bubble gum is in Heaven, and this is his wrapper. 

Meaghan: (wide-eyed) OOOOHHHHHHH…..I get it!!!!

Mission accomplished.

Without hesitation, I explained death to a 4-year-old. But only because it was right there in front of her. What’s the standard response when it’s not? Perhaps that’s a fine reason to allow children to attend funerals when they are observant and vocal enough to ask about the flowers in the cemetery.Definitely something to ponder.

Strangely, The Man is away this weekend attending the unexpected memorial for one of his family members. I stayed home with The Beans, after remembering children have no place at funerals as it would simply be too hard to explain.

Why didn’t I remember THIS instead?

Because I have zombie mommy brain, that’s why.


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  1. This is classic!!!! I am thankful for the sweet memory. I lol over the zombie iss
    ue ……I love you…

  2. The bubble-gum wrapper idea…that was fantastic! Will have to use something similar when my 3-year-old discovers a cemetery.

    • Thanks Crystal! Funny that I came up with that analogy as a childless, 18 year old, yet I couldn’t adequately explain what a cemetery was to my own 5 year old a week ago! Feel free to use the story whenever you need to 🙂

  3. Love the bubble-gum analogy! Nice work, 18-year-old you!

    Recently I have heard from an expert and also personally experienced that it is actually OK for kids to go to funerals. I so get that we want to shelter our kids, but death is part of the human experience. Not necessarily a comfortable place to go for parents, especially when all of the questions begin – some of which we’d rather not think about, or we just plain can’t answer. But as long as we keep it as simple and as age-appropriate as we can, it might actually help them understand the “circle of life” a little and not be quite as scared about death. When my father-in-law passed away a few months ago, my kids went to the viewing and the funeral. I was so unsure about it all, especially the viewing part. We were advised that it was not harmful to our children; actually, quite the opposite. And in the end, we experienced it as a family, gave each other comfort, talked a lot, and got through it. It was HARD. But there was something beautiful there, too.


  4. just stumbled upon you via momastery 🙂 love your words and your space! {also, my three year old driving past a cemetery on memorial day {decked with flowers} – – “Look mom! A dead people garden!” I may never be able to pass one now without a giggle. 🙂 Great explanation with the wrapper!

    • Oh Tara, thank you!! I LOVE “a dead people garden” 🙂 Out of the mouths of babes, right? Now I will never be able to pass a cemetery without giggling either. Good times….

  5. Friday we went to the funeral for a dear friend’s 8 month old baby. The pallbearers and speakers included her 4, 5, 8, 12, and 14 year old siblings. Most heartbreaking thing I have witnessed so this topic has been on my heart the last week as I have explained it to my kids over and over when they continue to ask where baby Chloe went…

    • calibamamom says

      Ahh…I’m so sorry for your loss, Tawni. I actually remember you telling me about the family’s tragic situation with baby Chloe a few weeks ago, and ironically, one of their older sons is in Sugar Bean’s English class at school. I simply can’t imagine how grief stricken they must be. There just are no words 🙁 Only time and an outpouring of support and love from those around them can even begin to heal that kind of wound.


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