by Rev. Laura Barclay
Every year, it seems, my niece teaches me a little something about the Christmas season by reminding me what it’s like to see the world through a child’s eyes. This year, perhaps one of the most comical and poignant moments came the day after Téa had built her first snowman, reaching a noble 1 and ½ feet tall, and declared proudly to us all that his name was Tito.
The next day brought the bright morning sun which reduced Tito to a pile of mush. I came down the steps and found Téa sitting by herself with huge tears falling silently down her face, clutching something close to her chest, and looking out the window at Tito’s remains.
“What’s wrong?” I asked
“It’s Tito. He went away.” She looked up at me with big, sad eyes.
“Well, he will come and play with you the next time it snows. But it’s okay to be sad. It’s sad when something we care about goes away. What do you have in your hand?”
She showed me a picture of her on a "pirate" ship with her Mommy, Daddy, Nana and Pa.
“Does remembering a really great moment help when you are sad?”
“Yes. I had fun because I was with family and we sang pirate songs!” She looked momentarily upbeat before remembering Tito’s demise.
“It’s ok to be sad. And we need to really enjoy when we are happy and take a picture with our minds so that we can think of it again when we are sad to bring us comfort. Also, building a snowman is one of the best things about winter. Being at the beach on a pirate ship with family is one of the best things about summer. The great thing is that we know those times will come again, and we have the opportunity to create new happy memories.”
Téa nodded, gave me a hug, and said she needed to think about it for a while and wanted to be alone. Ten minutes later, she had processed it and was ready to create a new memory, bounding into the kitchen to help Mommy cook breakfast.
This moment stuck out in the holiday season as a primer to a young one about grief and loss, which so many of us deal with during the holidays. I thought of it as a trial run and a way to dissect my own feelings about loss on an elementary level. I realized that in teaching a child, you always learn something yourself. In going back to the basics, we can get to the heart of human processes and thoughts on the most visceral level and reexamine our own lives through the wonder of a child’s eyes.