I couldn’t hold back the tears this evening while I stood over the kitchen stove preparing supper, feeling the weight of multiple burdens. Eli (5) and Elsie (2) were playing with play dough at the kitchen table. I tried to conceal the tears, but they are both very intuitive and within seconds Elsie was tugging on my leg saying, “I want to snuggle with you, mom.”
They were concerned, but I didn’t want to interrupt their fun innocent play with adult troubles. I wrestled with how to respond. We have prayed together as a family for the past two weeks for a young man named Marco Kauffman. Our family did not know him personally, but were moved by his story. He died today, leaving behind a young pregnant wife and a family and community who loved him dearly. I explained to the children that Marco died and that my tears were not for me, but Marco’s family and friends grieving this loss.
There are other burdens that have taken up residence in my heart, but I only shared this one with the children. Elsie wanted to pray for Marco again, so we did. Then she cupped my face in her hands and looked into my eyes and said, “I love you mommy.” Meanwhile, Eli set the play dough aside and drew a picture.
He brought the picture over to me and said, “Mommy, when I die, I want to take this picture to heaven with me to show God and Jesus.”
Of course that comment alone increased my tear-flow considerably. He said the people in the picture are God and Mary and then baby Jesus in the middle. There is a donkey and a star that guided them. The hearts represent God’s big love for us.
The compassion from our children made for beautiful and tender moments. Soon Eli returned to the play dough and started making these.
I thought they were “sandwiches” like he had made earlier in the day, but he lined them all up and said, “Mommy, I made some candles for you.” (Insert Mommy sobbing!) He knows that I light candles almost daily for remembrances, for reminders, for reflection, and just because I love light.
It is hard to explain to a child that you are crying because you are sad for others. All they knew was that mommy was crying. They both responded with beautiful sincere compassion and were completely at ease with my tears. I was reminded of the Scripture in Matthew 9:36 where Jesus was “moved with compassion.”
Soon after Eli brought the “candles” over, I regained composure and suggested we have a dance party to celebrate those things that we feel joyful about. I wanted them to know that even when we are sad, we can celebrate love and experience joy. I cranked up the music from my Pandora station and we danced until we fell over laughing.
That intentional act of praise filled our hearts with joy and poured back into our cups what had been emptied by sadness and worry.
While I treasure all the time I have with our children this was a rare and beautiful evening, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I pray that our children will always be moved with compassion and spontaneous dance parties.