As you know, Easter is the most significant day in our faith tradition. The six weeks leading up to Easter are a time for a probing consideration of our human condition, including sin and its consequences for both individuals and society. This time of reflection is called Lent. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is a day when we recognize and confront death. We find in Genesis, “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust; and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19) With these words, ashes are put on our foreheads in the shape of a cross. This bold confrontation with death begins our time of reflection and repentance in Lent. We begin thinking about the role of sin in our lives and ponder the forgiveness we find in the death, and resurrection, of Jesus Christ, as well as what it looks like to serve as disciples and followers of this Jesus on the other side.
Ash Wednesday has the potential to be a scary and difficult time for children to understand. We wanted to let you know about this because it is possible that the children will have questions about death over the next few weeks. Enclosed in this letter you will find: the schedule for Ash Wednesday, a list of potential questions, and a few helpful resources for parents on the topic of death. We have access to many of these resources and would be more than happy to share them with you.
Ash Wednesday Schedule, February 14, 2018:
- 5:00 p.m. Pancake Supper held in the Fellowship Hall
- 6:15 p.m. Younger and Older Children’s Choir Rehearsal in Choir Room
Pre-Service Lent Introduction in the Sanctuary
Godly Play Lenten Overview in Community Room (basement level)
Nursery available for all children under 5 years old
- 6:30 p.m. All children 5 years old and older will be in the worship service. Your presence beside your children during this service will help alleviate any uncomfortable feelings they might have and allow you to provide guidance and comfort throughout the service. Some of our children and youth mentors will sit with children whose parents are not present for the service. The service will last no longer than an hour.
Potential responses to questions about death
“What happens when you die?” – “Our bodies stop working. The heart won’t beat, the muscles don’t work, and the brain can’t think. Most people die because their body has worn out, but some people die from serious diseases or accidents. Nobody knows for sure what happens to a person after they die, but we know that they’re not in pain anymore. . . and that’s good.” The topic of heaven will probably come up. None of us know what it means to be in heaven until we actually get there. However, it is a place of complete peace and comfort.
“When will I die?” – “We don’t know exactly when anyone will die, but most of us live a long, long time.”
“When will you die?” – Children often ask questions that seem shocking or callous to adults. What your grade-schooler really means is, “Will I still be taken care of?” Even if he/she doesn’t ask outright, it is wise to anticipate worries about how stable their life will be: “I love you, and I want you to know that I plan to be here until I’m very, very old and you’re all grown up.”
“Was it my fault?” – Chances are your child won’t actually ask this out loud, but feelings of guilt are common and worth anticipating, so give them reassurance even if they never vocalize such thoughts: “I want you to know that your grandma died because she was very sick. You were a very good grandchild, and you didn’t do anything to make her death happen. Your grandma loved you very much, and so do I.”
“What’s a funeral?” – “A funeral is a ceremony to help us remember the person who died, and an opportunity to show our love for them. The person’s body is there; sometimes you can see it, and sometimes it’s in a closed coffin. The people who come to the funeral are usually sad, even crying.”
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia
What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? By Trevor Romain
35 Ways to Help a Grieving Child published by The Dougy Center
When Someone Very Special Dies by Marge Heegaard (to be illustrated by your children)
Talking About Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Child by Earl A. Grollman
If you have any questions, or would just like to talk, please contact us. We are grateful for your trust and love your family.
Yours in Christ,
The Pastoral Staff