May 9, 2012

Comforting your child at his grandfather's funeral

One of the hardest things for a parent to do is to explain death to a child, and especially if it is his favorite person, his grandfather who is on his deathbed. Your child has seen his grandfather take ill and go to hospital in an ambulance, and the house is quiet and there is a morbid atmosphere as the family starts to arrive. Your five year old son asks you what is wrong. You are at a loss for words. From this article you will learn how to comfort and respond to your son.

• Take him into his room where his toys are and he is familiar with his surroundings. Put him on your lap and tell him his grandfather has just died. He will probably tinker with one of his toys, not saying anything. Ask him if remembers the time one of his fish died in the bowl and you gave him a funeral where he said a prayer for the fish and then flushed it in the toilet. He might smile at the memory and come back to the question of death.

• If he asks you what you mean that Grandpa has died, tell him that his grandfather had passed into another world. Grandpa won’t be with the family forever and it was time for him to go.

• This is an important talk, so don’t rush it. If he takes his time responding, hear what he has to say. He might ask if his grandfather is going to be alone. Explain that his grandfather will be dressed in his best clothes and will go to the funeral parlor where the family and Grandpa’s friends will come to pay their last respects and say goodbye.

• Ask him if he has any questions. Hold him to you and let him digest the information. If he asks you where Grandpa is going to go, tell him the truth and say that Grandpa is going to be in his coffin and that the body will be buried. Add that Grandpa is with Jesus now and would not want him to cry for his grandfather. Reassure him that you will still be there and that you and his father are not going to leave him.

• If he cries, encourage him to let it out. Tell him that it is good for him and tell him again to ask if he has any questions. Tell him he must not worry because Grandpa is still alive in spirit and will always be near him.

• Let up on the questions and tell him to come with you; that you are going to give him a nice glass of hot chocolate and then you will play with your toys and go to bed. Spend time with him in his room and ask him if he wants you to read a story. Stay with him until he is ready to fall asleep. Put on the night light so he does not become afraid of the dark.

Pros and cons of being a celebrity

As a writer who wrote the novel Confessions of a Gambler, the downside is that people think you are the gambler. Everything you write in novels and in articles or talk about in interviews, the reader thinks it is you. Well, I am a gambler in the risks that I take. Quitting my job as a paralegal in the seventies and believing that I can support two kids in Toronto just writing is a huge gamble. I go for the stock market instead of savings bonds. I trust in the characters I choose for a book and know that they will come through for me. I buy a house and don't worry too much how I pay for it. But people will take things out of context.

Coming back to the main question, the big advantage I see in being a celebrity is that you have privileges not afforded to others. You get a seat in the line at the traffic department to get your driver's license. Yes, celebrities have to stand in line too for certain things. You also feel good when people acknowledge your work. As a writer who lives in Cape Town, small in comparison to New York, I am well known and live in my community. A community feels safe, you know the people and they know you.

The disadvantages of being a celebrity is that you always have to be well dressed or you will read in a magazine that you wore baggy pants and an old sweater taking your kids out, or you were spotted picking your nose when you thought no one was looking, and you are constantly under the microscope. You can be famous for almost anything today. Look at Kim Kardashian. What has she done that she should count herself as a celebrity? Her claim to fame is that her father knew OJ Simpson, she has a big posterior, and voila, a celebrity is born. Celebrities are dime a dozen today. There are no stars left like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard; a true star. Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen have got it right. I've been a Dylan and Waits fan since the sixties.