How do you help a child who has lost a beloved parent or grandparent? In our own grief do we sometimes dismiss that of our children? This week I wrote about dealing with the loss of loved ones by creating forget-me-nots, memorials to help keep our loved ones present in our lives. I thought of my sister, Nancy, and her son, Ty. He was just twelve when his grandpa died and he really suffered from the loss. Nancy created a shadow box for his bedroom wall that helped him remember his grandpa and heal. Here is their story, told by Nancy.
My dad moved from Oklahoma to California in a covered wagon. He rode horses, worked with cattle, and wore a cowboy hat. To all of my four sons he was the real deal but to my youngest son he was a hero.
Bobby Gene and Charles Leslie Shults
Because my husband and I bought a furniture store when my youngest son was only 18 months old, my parents practically raised him. He loved his grandpa. Grandpa read lots of books, let you play in the mud by the garden, let you help feed the horses and drive the little tractor.
Grandpa with Ty and Gracy on the farm
My dad recognized my youngest son’s love for guns early on. Dad loved to tinker in his shop so he decided one day he would see if he could cut a pistol out of some scrap plywood he had. I remember that day. My little boy came running up to me so excited, “Mom! Look what Grandpa made me!” In his hands were two of the cutest wooden pistols I had ever seen. My little boy was so very happy.
Dad could not get away with just making one set he had to make multiple sets. He even made rifles. My little boy wore them everywhere with pride. He would tuck them into the waist band of any kind of pants he had on. Pajamas, shorts, sweat pants, jeans, underwear, nothing was excluded. He wore them to town, to church, and made a bargain with his preschool teacher that if she never saw them they could come to school, and they did everyday. At night he slept with them. This went on until my son was about 10.
Ty and his grandpa
This same child spent about three or four nights a week at my parents home. There was a special bond there, just a little different from my other kids. One day my husband, Troy, said that our son should not stay out there so much. I told him it was alright. My parents were getting older and I did not know how much time they would have together.
Best decision I ever made.
My dad was diagnosed with lymphoma and died three weeks later. At the funeral my oldest boys placed a baseball in the casket because my dad never missed their games. My youngest son placed one of his treasured wooden guns.
Our youngest son was only twelve. It was very hard on him. He missed his grandpa and their relationship very much. A few months after the funeral my son and I had been out shopping, we were just pulling into the garage and something came up about Grandpa. My son began to cry. He told me how much he missed him and that he still had his wooden guns hid under his bed along with the last Louie L’amour book dad was reading and a handkerchief my dad always carried. I told him that he should not hide them and that we could make a shadow box to put them in and hang them up on his wall so he could feel close to his grandpa.
Shadowbox Memorial featuring Grandpa’s homemade guns, a handkerchief, and a favorite book
My son graduates from high school this year. We tease him a lot about the cowboy he always wanted to be. He still watches John Wayne westerns, just like he did with his grandpa and he still has that shadow box hanging on his bedroom wall. I know my dad would be proud of him. My son acts a lot like him, his temperament, patience and the way he teases. I will forever be thankful for the wooden guns and the sweet memories that come with them when I see them hanging on the wall.