Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pure of Heart

My son went through a phase last year where he was afraid of the elderly.  Partly because he recently attended a family funeral and was becoming aware of age and mortality.  And maybe partly because my grandma once showed him how she could take her teeth right out of her mouth.  
During this time, we took a family trip to the arboretum, where I thought we would spend the day playing in the children’s garden and exploring the surrounding areas.  Upon arrival, I noticed there were a couple of large buses in the drop off/entrance area.  Sure enough, it was a field trip for a Senior Care center.  You would have thought we were at a haunted house the way my son gasped and ducked at every older person we encountered.  He literally hid his face under my shirt as we walked past a couple of ladies in the bathroom.  
We spent a few months dealing with this issue, and grew especially concerned regarding his attitude toward his own relatives.  We saw them often, and we wanted him to be comfortable when visiting with them.  We started showing him pictures of his great-grandparents as children, emphasizing that they were kids once,  just like him,  that they are loving people that love and care for him.  We explained that getting older is a part of life, and tried to reassure and comfort him as best as we could. 
We debated whether or not he would be able to handle a visit to my husband’s grandmother in a nursing home.  We felt the visit was important, so we spent some time prepping him beforehand, explaining that his great-grandma lived in a hospital and that getting visitors, especially her family,  was very important to her.  On the way to the nursing home, he was protesting, and screaming “NO! NO! Please! EVERYONE there is OLD”!!! “I DON’T WANT TO DO IT”!! 
After explaining to him exactly what we were doing--describing the meeting area, that it would just be our family, and other details about what the visit would be like,  I explained to him that sometimes we do things for others because it makes them feel good.  And sometimes, when we do things for others, it makes us feel good about ourselves.  It makes our hearts feel good.  I told him that if we got there and he really didn't feel like he could go in, that we wouldn't force him to do it.  
He settled down, and was quiet for the rest of the ride.  I was still nervous as we pulled into the parking lot.  I figured he would elect to stay in the car with one of us while the others went inside.  But he decided to give it a try.  I had no idea what to expect, but as soon as we walked into the meeting room, he smiled and walked right up to his great-grandma.  He knelt by her side and took her hand in his. They had a wonderful conversation about kindergarten, baseball and swim camp.  I held back tears witnessing the compassion my son was showing.
While getting him settled back into the car, I told him how proud I was of him for being so good with his great grandma.  He then told me,   “Now my heart is pure.  Now I can get through the gate”.

Now my heart is pure.  Now I can get through the gate.
I am pretty used to hearing these types of comments from him, and I always find it interesting what resonates and connects with him.  I can also usually pinpoint where he draws his inspiration-- from a previous conversation, or book, or movie.  This time I wasn’t sure where the connection came from, but I fully appreciated that a connection was made.  I kissed him and told him what a special little guy he is. 
Months later, I was watching ‘Neverending Story’,  a movie I had previously seen with him.  Watching the scene where Atreyu (“a warrior, though still a boy, and has a pure heart”) freely passed through the gates that guarded the Oracle,  brought me back to that day with my son and his great-grandma.  I smiled as I realized the connection he had made, and saw what I can guess he visualized that day, as I talked about making his heart feel good by visiting with his great-grandma. 
Now, he marvels over each year his great-grandmothers grow older.  “WOW, She is ninety!  That is almost 100”!!  He realizes how fortunate he is to have these people still in his life.
And I realize, once again, how fortunate I am to have him in mine . 


  1. Makes me smile and cry at the same time.

  2. We have so much to learn from our children . . .
    Thanks for sharing this.