About two weeks ago, I followed through with my plan for breaking the news to The Boy that his former teacher had died. We went through the social story, and I reminded him about The Man’s mother’s death and what we had talked about when that had happened. I could see that by that point he was getting a little agitated with all of this talk about death, so then I told him that somebody that he knew had died and that it was his former teacher.
He seemed to take it in stride, and then began pacing. He does this when he is nervous, or when he is thinking deeply about something. He began to talk about Steve Jobs, and I remembered how interested he had been when Steve Jobs had died. He is fanatical about computers, so it would follow that he was struck by Jobs’ death. In any case, he began talking about Steve Jobs and how he had died, and didn’t he have a headstone? and wasn’t he in heaven now? And his teacher would be in heaven, and did she have a headstone? His talk primarily focused on Steve Jobs, though, and I was a bit worried that he didn’t understand. He was pacing anyway, so I suggested we go for a walk.
We went down the block and his thoughts seemed to settle a bit. He remarked that he had voicemails from all of the people he knew that had died on his yellow phone, and that is how he will remember them (all imaginary, of course, along with the imaginary yellow phone). I suggested that I remembered people that died because I had stored good memories of them, and I could recall them when I want to.
And that was it. He was on to the next thing.
A couple of days later, we were driving to get school supplies, and he pipes up from the back seat, “What’s cremation?” I had mentioned this when talking about the rituals of death, and hadn’t properly defined it, it seemed. I answered his question, and again, that was it.
Truthfully, I think he is still processing it, but she may have been removed enough from him for this to be less of a blow than I had anticipated. Or this could be bubbling under the surface and erupt days, weeks, months into the future. Only time will tell. But I am confident that I did my best to present the subject to him, and I will continue to do my best to make sure he understands, and help him to express any latent feelings he has.