One of our fish died yesterday.
That, in and of itself, is not really an uncommon occurence in our household. The circumstances surrounding this particular demise, however, were unique because Dylan was the one to first discover the fatality.
I was in my bedroom when he approached me solemnly and said, "Mom, I think it's time to bury this fish because I think it's dead. Come here, let me show you."
As my heart sank, I took his hand and led him into the living room, where I discovered that there was, indeed, one very dead fish nose down in the bottom of our aquarium. We've naturally lost several fish throughout the years, but it still saddens me, every time, to see their lifeless little bodies there in the water. Removing them is a business delegated solely to Daddy, so after a brief moment of silence, I said to Dylan, "I'm so sorry, sweetie. Let's turn the lights of the tank off to give him some privacy until Daddy can take him out. Then we'll be able to bury him in the garden."
Dylan looked sadly into the aquarium for just a bit longer, then said to me, "Mom? When something dies, does that mean it gets to live forever in heaven?"
"Yes, baby, that's right!" I answered excitedly, hoping to alleviate some of his dismay. "That's the wonderful thing about heaven! We know that even when we die, we get to live forever and ever with everybody we love, and with Jesus and Mary and all the saints!" I've spoken with my kids many times in the past about heaven, and the promise of eternal life, and how it will be more perfect and beautiful than anything we can imagine here on earth; that we will never feel sad or lonely or scared or hurt; that we will be together with everybody we loved in this life; and that God loves us so much that he sent us his only Son so that one day we will all be together in His glorious kingdom.
Still, Dylan seemed a little worried. "But mom!" he persisted. "What if I forget my Lightning McQueen car when I go to heaven? Do you think God or Jesus will be able to come back down here to get it for me?"
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry.
I held my little boy and said to him, "Honey, I bet that by the time it's time for you to go to Heaven, so much time will have passed that you won't even like Lightning McQueen anymore."
"Oh, no, Mommy, I'll always love Lightning McQueen!"
"Well, then...," I said, at a complete loss for words. "I'm sure it just wouldn't be heaven without him."