She cornered me in the hallway, wide-eyed. May I talk to you?
Of course, I said.
We leaned up against the wall as she smiled to her children behind her.
I’m going to talk to Miss Crystal—you all go play in the room. Meet ya there in a few.
My mind spun as I remembered our conversation the week before. The one where I prepared for her to talk to her children about her son dying.
Oh no. What went wrong? What should I have said differently?
I smiled, reassuringly (to her and my scattered mind). What happened?
She began relaying the conversation she had with her 3 boys.
Well, I spoke to the two oldest first. I wanted them to have time to process the information without worrying about their little brother and how he was feeling. I wanted them to be able to support each other. I wanted them to be able to ask anything.
Okay. And did it work?
It did. Sam cried, but you know, he’s pretty emotional. And Zach stayed tough, but as the oldest, I’m not surprised. My husband talked to him 1:1 after and he was able to cry. They asked how long, and I told them I didn’t know. They want to go camping, so we are planning a camping trip this weekend.
That sounds good. They want to make the most of the time they have—just like you and your husband.
What about Matty?
We told him, and he nodded. He asked if it would hurt and we reassured him that we would make sure he had whatever medicine he needed to be as comfortable as possible when his body started to get sicker.
Okay—that’s normal. He’s little, and pain is something he wants to avoid. It’s good you were able to let him know your goal is to keep him comfortable.
But then…her voice cracked and she got teary.
I went to his room to pray with him and tuck him in and he was packing.
No… when I asked him what he was packing for, he said heaven. And then he asked me if God would let him take his teddy bear to heaven.
My eyes filled with tears as I nodded understanding.
How did you respond?
Well, I didn’t know what to say. CAN HE? I mean does God let teddy bears into heaven—I told him we would ask you.
Well, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.
I love how careful you’re being with your words. You want to get them just-right. But your words are just right because they’re yours.
My understanding of heaven is that it is a place where there are no more tears. No more sadness. No more pain.
He is four—and he is preparing like a four-year-old with the information you bravely gave him. The only thing he can attribute going to heaven to be like is to prepare for an overnight trip. He is packing the things he thinks he will need—the things that help him feel safe and comfortable. You can answer logistically about the teddy bear not having a soul and not being needed in heaven. BUT, I think it’s also okay to say he can pack it—Jesus has prepared all the things he needs and wants that bring him joy—we can have confidence in that for him. But he won’t understand that until he gets there.
But he won’t have me, she said as she began to sob.
I hugged her for a long time.
It’s hard to imagine a place where you won’t be together and he will be okay. You’ve cared for him so well. I remember when we talked with the doctors, and I was so shocked in your beautiful faith. As you made the most impossible decisions, do you remember what you said to Dr. Wicks?
No. She choked.
You said, We’ve always said our children were on loan to us from God. He loves them more than we do.
You were able to make the impossible decision to stop treatment that was not curative knowing the God of the universe can heal this side of heaven or the next. You trusted Him with that. Your son is going to be okay. I know it doesn’t seem like it.
You’re preparing too—the only way you know how to love your child is hands-on. But God will show you how to do the next step.
And God will take care of you.
We stood awkwardly in the middle of the clinic crying and hugging.
She took a deep breath. So, teddy bears can live in heaven.
I think so, I said smiling as she walked towards her boys.