Mitch was around 5 years old when we had a death in the family. We were living on the farm where death is a bit more normal in our daily lives than for city families. Cows die; calves die more often, barn cats get sick and die all the time. And Mitch loves animals.
How do you explain Heaven to a deaf 5-year-old with no concept of death, or to any child really. Certain concepts seem more difficult to get across to deaf children; they are not exposed daily as hearing kids. They don’t overhear other conversations while busy playing nearby as the rest of the family is talking.
Deaf children are really isolated unless signed directly to or near others who are signing.
This little pony we had gotten from some friends was not doing well and had to be put down. There were some crying kids on the farm that day and our youngest was crying the most.
He knew something was going to happen as I tried to pull him away. But he got a glimpse of the dead pony laying in the field.
Imagine, I told Mitch, this little pony is now running through the grass in Heaven. He is chasing birds and butterflies through the fields and they keep landing on his nose playing with him. He is so happy now.
Trying to paint a picture for Mitch so he can visualize “Heaven” as a happy place for this pony was not easy. Even though he has never seen this sign before; let alone what it could possible mean, he didn’t ask. No need keeping it from him at this point.
Just the sign for “butterfly” is beautiful enough. Put your hands flat in front of you, palms up, then cross you hands one over the other and interlock your thumbs. Now move your fingers to make your “butterfly” flutter; get animated. You just signed “Butterfly”. How beautiful is that?
Being deaf, Mitch has a great sense of imagination and visualization. We know that already about him.
Of course we have no idea how that will unfold in his future, and become his future.
Getting his mind off the ordeal by drawing Mitch into the story of the playful butterfly was helping, I think. He is still sobbing but he is now shaking his head “yes” to let me know he understands, as big tears roll down his cheeks.
We had some big hugs and then he ran off and found something else to do.