Faith of a Child
by John C. Westervelt
On the first day of Asbury Weekday Preschool in late August, I greeted sixteen three-year-olds. Some children cried for their mothers. Some mothers silently cried for their children. Separation is hard.
On the other hand, Summer walked directly into the classroom with a smile on a face framed by long, dark-brown hair with bangs. I could see from her last name that she was the granddaughter of Kerry and Sue Freeman, my friends for forty-five years.
I knew that the Freeman’s daughter Kelly had married Scott Luttenberg and that they had six children, with Summer being the youngest. All of Summer’s family attend Sunday school every week, so she was familiar with the classrooms.
As a preschool volunteer, I experience the joy of being with the same sixteen children from August to May. Mothers and children outgrow the pain of separation. I could have expected Summer to be self-assured from the beginning, having grown up with a sister and four brothers.
At opening circle time, the children stand and pledge allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible. Then they sing, “The B – I – B – L – E that’s the book for me...” Next, Miss Jan or Miss Sue asks the children to bow their heads for prayer. The teacher prays in the language of a three-year-old as she talks to Jesus. Finally the teacher explains the activity centers at each of four roundtables.
My friend Sue Freeman had a rough autumn fighting cancer. The dark days of December were especially difficult for Sue. During December, Summer would color a picture with bright markers and write SUMMER across the bottom. I would ask, “Do you want to send this picture to your grandmother?”
“What do you call her?”
So I would write GRANDMOMMY across the top of the picture.
On the first Wednesday of January, Sue died. I wondered what I could say to Summer when she came to class the next day. The next morning arrived, and Summer entered the classroom with a smile as she joined her friends for play, so I said nothing.
Later in the morning, Summer came to the table where I was helping and said in a soft voice, “Grandpa John, Grandmommy is in heaven.” If only I had the faith of this child, my grieving would be less painful.
Summer’s belief in heaven continued on Saturday morning as she entered Asbury’s sanctuary for a memorial service for Sue. With a sweet countenance, Summer walked down the aisle holding her mother’s left hand and grasping in her own left hand the front leg of a stuffed bear. While Summer believes in heaven, it didn’t hurt to have an Asbury Care Bear to cuddle while her Uncle Kevin, her brother Stephen, and Reverend Bill Mason talked about Grandmommy.
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