Excited about a fieldtrip to the Museum of Science and Industry, my youngest son, Joey, could not contain his joy. He spent the morning of the big outing channeling Sheldon Cooper like a boss. The kid could not decide what to wear. He wondered who would be in his group. He reminded me ten times to pack a brown bag lunch and a juice. He panicked when we were two minutes late heading out the door.
I could not drop off my little apple dumpling fast enough.
Several hours later, I noticed a message from his fieldtrip chaperone. Joey had apparently brought along several stowaways to the museum. In need of comfort and familiarity, Joey invited some of his dearest friends to partake in the adventure.
Sadly, none of these friends are actually alive.
Deep within his paper bag lunch, Joey had stashed his treasured collection of prayer funeral cards for a beloved neighbor, a lifelong friend of his father’s and the grandmother of his best buddy.
Thankfully, Joey’s school chaperone not only had a sense of humor, but a deep regard for all things cherished and loved by children.
Stuck between being alarmed, amused and touched, I worried over what it all meant. Thankfully, I was too busy packing for our spring roadtrip to Florida to indulge my neurosis for very long.
Yet after several hours of relaxing on a warm beach, I again started obsessing over what was “normal” for a kid and what was not. Had it been a mistake to allow our boys to attend all the wakes and funerals we’d gone to through the years? What kind of adults would they ultimately become after experiencing so much loss and instances of grief?
Worried, I casually looked over and spotted my husband messing around on the beach.
Here was a guy who had lost his mom as a young adult and who had attended more funerals than anyone I have ever known. As I studied him more carefully, I figured out what he was doing.
Joe was burying all the dead jellyfish who had washed up on shore.
The big, strong firefighter, as it turns out, is made entirely of mush.
I stopped worrying about little Joey that second.
As an aside, I also stopped worrying about stepping on jellyfish.
I now choose to celebrate the fact that many people will always be remembered and loved by my children. Names will never be forgotten. Stories will continue to be told.
And these friends continue to accompany my children on their own life’s journeys, both in spirit and as hidden guests, just underneath the surface of their minds and paper bag lunches.
I don’t care if it is “normal.”
I think it is beautiful.