Tomorrow would have been my dad's birthday. He passed away in 2006, when my son was 8 months old. We don't go to the cemetery very often, just for his birthday and Christmas and maybe one or two other times a year. It's not that I don't care about going, it's just that I don't feel like I need to be there to connect with my dad. In fact, in some ways I feel like he's always with me now, and that makes me happy. It's a good thing I feel that way, because going to the cemetery with a 4 year old provokes some interesting, unanswerable questions.
"Does Pup eat cake in heaven? What kind of cake does he have? Where is he, is he under this stone?" Those were the easy ones. Then the inevitable questions about heaven, along with, "When will you die? When will I die? Does everyone die from cancer?" How do you answer a question when you don't have the answer yourself?
There are an alarming number of young children buried around my dad. My son is always drawn to the toy cars and trinkets people leave as a remembrance, and of course I find this all particularly heart wrenching. As we were looking at the grave of a 3 year old, my son said, "Will he grow up in heaven?" I wish I knew the answer.
This past year I have drawn closer to God than ever before, and yet at the same time some of my religious views are changing. I find myself unable to find a church I enjoy attending, but I am becoming more in touch with my own spirituality and my connection to the divine. I no longer believe in an angry, vengeful God that will send you to hell if you don't behave. In fact, I don't even think I believe in hell anymore, other than the one we create for ourselves.
As my own spiritual thoughts are evolving and changing, I have the questions of a child to answer. His questions make me examine my own feelings, and help me to sort through what I truly believe. I guess I must be doing ok with the answers, because my son never seems to ask follow up questions. The questions make me think about my own philosophy of life/death/heaven/reincarnation/spirituality. Maybe the same question asked a year from now would have a different answer, I don't know.
At least I didn't have to think about his last question before leaving the cemetery. "What does Pup do in heaven?" That's an easy one. I'm pretty sure he's on a perpetual hunting trip. As a vegetarian, I always hoped my dad would come back empty handed from his hunting trips when he was alive. Happy Birthday Dad, I hope you come home with a big one this time.