We told Bea about heaven. In the simplest of definitions, with loving language and expository words used sparingly if at all.
The Mama had finally made it home from Oregon, but I was still here with my sister taking care of what had to be cared for. There I was, watching my family on FaceTime in front of our fireplace adorned with stockings and lit Christmas moon lights.
"What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down..."
Bryce babbled and ran back and forth across the camera's field of vision, calling for Nonna, and Nonna answered back softly. Beatrice stood in front of the couch while the Mama kneeled next to her. Bea held the little figurine of two mice that she fell in love with when we were up visiting my parents in June, Nana and Papa as all the grandkids knew them.
"Beatrice," the Mama said, "we want to tell you that Nana isn't sick anymore, that she's with Papa in a better place."
"Yes," I said.
The Mama continued. "Nana and Papa are now together in heaven where they will be forever."
"Nana and Papa are together," Bea echoed. "In heaven."
"Yes, sweetie. They love you very much and will always be with you."
As I said those words, I ached to believe them, as if my very presence in that moment depended on everything I learned as a child in the Nazarene Church -- the many pictures of smiling Christs, arms always draped lovingly around children of all colors and nations, set in a meadows on warm spring days.
"They will always be with you, Bea."
I watched as Bea's mind swirled and ticked, trying to understand what it all meant. She held the mouse figurine tightly and smiled. I took that as my answer.
For two people who've always questioned the edicts and redeeming value of conservative Christianity, the Mama and me were quite comfortable telling Bea about the coloring book version of heaven.
Because we believe we'll be together someday in a better place. Because we already are -- the Mama, me, the B-hive and our family and friends.
Heaven is being with those you love. To hell with everything else. Heaven is now; heaven is forever.
We love you, Mom and Dad. Now and forever. Merry Christmas.