Loving Water or Where is Uncle Pete
A story for children who have been bereaved.
I suggest parent/carer reads the story first to see if it will suit their child.
Mum usually walked Samuel and his brother Jack home from school with his little sister Lily in her stroller. Sam was in year three and Jack was in year five. Today was different. Dad had parked the car outside the school and Lily was in her car seat in the back. His brother Jack got in the front seat next to Dad. Sam was going to complain that it was his turn, but he took one look at Dad’s serious-looking face and strapped himself in beside Lily without saying anything. Lily wasn’t chatting away as she usually did. Samuel felt he’d better keep quiet too until they got home. Home was only five minutes away and it was a rare treat to be to be collected by car. But it didn’t feel like a treat today and Sam was glad to get home to Mum who was standing waiting for them by the front door looking worried. None of them had spoken in the car and Sam thought there must be some bad news. Maybe Mum and Dad were going to get a divorce – some of their friends’ mums and dads had done that – but there hadn’t been any big arguments and this morning at breakfast Mum and dad had been laughing and joking and Mum had given Dad a big hug and a kiss before he left for work – Sam was sure they wouldn’t divorce.
Mum said quietly ‘Go and get changed out of your school clothes and I’ll come up in a minute.’ They went upstairs and did as they were told, without the usual pushing and shoving. They both sat on Jack’s bed and waited for Mum to come up. Sam had a funny feeling in his tummy and was glad when he saw Mum’s face at the bedroom door, although she looked very pale and red eyed as if she’d been crying. She came and sat down in between them on the bed and put her arms round them. ‘You know Uncle Pete loves to drive his sports car?’ The boys nodded, ‘I’m afraid he’s had an accident!’
Sam loved his Uncle Pete. He was Dad’s younger brother and always made them laugh and chased them round the garden – when he wasn’t working on his beloved car. One year he had even taken them on Eurostar to Disneyland in Paris.
‘Will he be OK? Can I see him in hospital?’ Sam asked.
Jack said ‘Is he badly hurt?’
A tear ran slowly down Mum’s cheek, ‘I’m afraid he was killed in the accident’.
Sam burst into tears. Jack swallowed hard and tried not to cry. He hugged mum. He so wanted to make her feel better, but he didn’t know what to say and he was feeling a bit sick. Mum hugged both of them and Jack started sniffing a bit. Mum took some tissues out of her pocket and everyone had a blow. ‘It’s all right Jack, it’s OK to cry when we’ve lost someone we love and it’s OK to feel angry too. Uncle Pete would understand.’ The tears flowed down Jack’s face and his body shook. Sam hadn’t seen him cry like that since he fell off his new bike on his birthday and twisted his ankle.
Dad came slowly and heavily up the stairs – ‘Mum’s told you about Pete then?’
Sam flung himself at Dad, ‘It’s not fair, he’s my best Uncle. Why did he have to die?’ Dad blinked hard, but the tears escaped and he buried himself in the family hug. Mum took her hand from around Jack and gently stroked Dad’s hair the way she stroked Sam and Jack’s when they weren’t well. ‘You see’ said Mum
‘It’s OK for grownup boys to cry too.’ Dad smiled through his tears and you could see how much he loved Mum.
‘Come on, I’ll put the kettle on and make some baked beans on toast. That’s quick and easy.’
They all went downstairs to the kitchen and Mum picked up Lily, who had been playing with her dolls as though nothing had happened, and put her in her highchair. But when Mum put Sam’s plate of beans in front of him, he got off his chair and ran upstairs to his bedroom shouting ‘I don’t want any horrible old beans.’
He cried and cried into his pillow until he ran out of tears. ‘Why did Uncle Pete have to die?’
Every night Sam said ‘God bless Mum and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa and Jack and Lily and everyone in the whole world’. He never asked God to bless Uncle Pete!
And now Uncle Pete had gone and he’d never asked God to look after him – it was all Sam’s fault, he shouldn’t have left him out.
‘No it isn’t,’ He heard a reply in his head ‘it was just his time. Trust me he’s OK.’
‘How can he be OK if he’s dead? Where’s he gone? Is he up in the sky? Is he looking down on us? Who are you?’
‘Be very still for a minute and you’ll know who I am.’
Sam lay very still, then he knew, even though it was May ‘You’re Father Christmas!’
The voice laughed softly. Although it was a very deep old laugh, it had the simple delight Lily’s laugh had when he pulled faces at her.
‘I’ve been called many different names, but sometimes children think I’m Father Christmas. Father Christmas wasn’t always called Father Christmas. He used to be called Saint Nicholas and I knew him very well.’
‘I knew you were real. Jack said you were just pretending and that Mum and Dad filled our stockings, I knew it was really you.’ Sam’s eyes were feeling heavy and tired.
He remembered the great presents Uncle Pete used to give them. There would be no more of those.
Mum opened the door slightly and looked at Sam lying on the bed. ‘Poor love, he’s cried himself to sleep.’ She went over and gave him a kiss. Sam opened his eyes ‘I’m not asleep, I’ve been asking Father Christmas where Uncle Pete has gone.’ Mum smiled and was quiet for a moment. ‘I’ll go and get Dad and Jack and we’ll talk about it.
‘I’ll go and get Dad and Jack and we’ll talk about it.
Mum came back with Dad and Jack. ‘It’s a good time to talk, Lily is having a rest.’
Mum looked at Dad, ‘Sam wants to know where Uncle Pete has gone?’
‘I want to know too,’ said Jack, ‘I expect he’s just gone out like switching off a light –
He was a very bright light!’
Mum looked at him ‘Some people’s hearts have stopped and then they’ve been resuscitated –
‘What does ‘resustated’ mean?’
‘It means the doctors have used medicine or pressure on their chests or something and made their heart start beating again. Anyway, some of those people when they woke up remembered being in a long tunnel with a light at the end and a few remembered having gone into the bright light.’
‘That’s called a ‘near death’ experience’ said Dad ‘because they nearly died, most of the stories are very much the same.’
Mum said ‘Some people think that the people we love, and who have loved us, are watching over us.’
Dad said ‘Uncle Pete always had a sense of adventure, I don’t think he’d waste time looking back at us. I think he’d be curious about what lies ahead, just like we are. I wouldn’t want him to feel that our love was keeping him from exploring the future.
Go for it Pete.’ He said very quietly.
Sam felt a bit better. It was beginning to sound as if there might be more to this dying business than going out like a light. Maybe it was more like switching on a light! He climbed on to Mum’s lap. His head started to get very heavy on Mum’s arm. Mum lifted him up gently and carried him upstairs. He didn’t notice when she pulled off his socks and shoes, then pulled his jeans off and his jumper over his head. Mum gently laid him on his bed and covered him with his superman duvet, then she went quietly back downstairs and Jack had the special treat of having his parents all to himself. Dad read to him from his favourite Harry Potter book. He snuggled up to Dad on the settee to show him how he was sorry about Uncle Pete – it must be awful not to have your little brother any more. He made up his mind to buy Dad his favourite chocolate bar with next week’s pocket money and try not to tease Sam so much for being such a bad catcher!
Meanwhile Sam had woken up again. But he wasn’t in his bedroom any more he was lying on the beach. He couldn’t remember the journey. Dad must have put him in the car when he was still asleep and driven down to Brighton as a treat. But it didn’t look like Brighton!
There were no buildings or boats and it wasn’t the stony beach that hurt your feet but soft velvety warm sand which felt like Grandma when you snuggled up to her. The sea was gentle and warm too, Sam could feel it lapping his toes. It felt like warm chocolate without the stickiness, and now he could see lots of people swimming and children paddling in the water. Sam got up and paddled in the water too, pushing his toes into the soft sand. He looked round for Jack and the family but they must have gone off for a walk and left him asleep, there was no sign of them. It was a lovely cloudless day, but he couldn’t see the sun. It must have been somewhere because the whole sky glowed with a bright light. Samuel jumped over a little wave and instead of coming straight down it was as if he could float just a bit. It reminded him of the way astronauts looked when they were on the moon. Maybe that’s where he was, but how had he got there? – ‘I’m glad I’m not on Jupiter.’ He thought. Dad had told him that the gravity on Jupiter was much greater than on Earth because it was much bigger. ‘It’s much more fun here,’ and he jumped really high and he was sure he floated for a bit!
Sam saw a group of people coming towards him with trays of fizzy drinks in long glasses. He took one and sipped it to see if he liked the taste. It tasted sort of like fizzy honey with a bit of chocolate and he drank some more. Mum had once let him have a sip of Champagne at a family wedding, but this was different. It had the sparkle but it was sweeter. It hadn’t got the bitter aftertaste of the champagne and the sparkles were much nicer and made you feel as if you were a sort of firework that might go off into a shower of light. He felt filled with loving feelings and thought of how much he loved his family and his friends at school and, come to think of it, he just loved everyone. He remembered his class teacher who shouted at the children.
He suddenly realized that she really loved the children and that she was really sad when they were noisy and how proud she was when her class did well. He decided he’d really work hard for her when he got back to school. He remembered a boy in his class called Tim who had a funny leg and how he laughed at him when he fell over. He felt sad, as if he was Tim, and promised himself that he would be Tim’s friend and not laugh at him any more. Sam remembered another boy, Malcolm, who was sometimes horrid to Sam when he missed a catch, but Malcolm was a kind boy too, who helped his Mum a lot because he didn’t have a Dad. Sam felt so lucky to have his Dad. Instead of getting upset and trying to trip Malcolm up, he would invite him over to play football with his Dad and Jack next weekend. The drink made Sam feel sort of grownup and he reached out for another sip when he was stopped by a voice saying ‘No, it’s not your time!’
‘What did he mean?’ thought Sam ‘the others were drinking it. It wasn’t too early for them!’
Then he realized that they were different from him. They looked like space people from Mars or somewhere, he could see straight through them! They were filled with light and kind of glowed. He wondered if he should be frightened. They seemed to be kind and were offering what he somehow knew was ‘Loving Water’ to other people who had just arrived and were looking a bit scared. Some of the people with the water had broken away from the group and had gone to meet the new arrivals as though they were old friends – putting their arms round them and comforting them. Then they offered the water to them which sort of switched on their light like the others. Then they gave a little jump – or rather a big leap – of happiness and sort of floated over and joined the others. Sam looked at his tummy to see if his tummy was shining like the others, but it was still the same tummy in the same old pants. Suddenly he heard a baby crying. He bent down. There was a little bundle at his feet. He picked up what he now saw was a baby and started to rock it in his arms like he’d seen Mum do when Lily was small. He sang it a little nursery rhyme. But the baby kept on crying until one of the light people came over and took the baby gently from Sam. She, or He, Sam wasn’t sure which, gave some of the water to the baby in a baby’s bottle. The baby drank greedily and suddenly jumped out of her arms and turned into a little child who ran over and joined a group of other children who were playing in the waves. All the children were shining like the grownups and kept on growing until they were grownups as well. Sam saw another group of children and went shyly over to join them, but they didn’t see him and just went on paddling in the warm velvety sea. As he got closer they seemed to move away from him and he could never quite catch up. Then they grew taller and joined the grownups like the others. Sam’s attention was interrupted by some sand that seemed to be flying up, as though a small animal was digging a burrow the wrong way up. Suddenly an angry face popped through. It looked funny when everyone else looked so happy. It was followed by a pair of shoulders and then arms pushed through and then ‘pop’ and out came a bedraggled figure closely followed by a young girl who was crying with great heavy sobs. They ran over to the shining ones and reached out for the water, but the shining ones shook their heads sadly. The diggers flopped down looking confused and unhappy. ‘I expect it’s not their time yet, like me. But how do you know when it’s your time and why didn’t I come through the sand?’ He went over to the girl who was crying bitterly. She didn’t seem to notice him but just looked sadly at a cup in her hand that had nothing in it. It was strange because when Sam looked at it, it seemed to fill up but when the girl looked at it, it was empty again. In the end she got up and joined a queue of people with the angry man who was also holding an empty cup too. Every so often one of the Shining Ones would go over and pour some of the water into one of the people’s cups at the front of the queue, they would drink thirstily and go over to be welcomed by the others and become one of the Shining Ones. ‘Should I join the queue?’ Thought Sam, ‘No, I’m not sad or angry like them!’ He wandered off across the soft, warm sand.
Sam felt happy now he knew the diggers would be all right when it was their turn. He wondered how long they would have to wait, the queue was quite long.
Then he saw another digger, this one wasn’t angry or sad, just very, very slow. Samuel tried to help him. He was really worried because the digger was so weak.
Sam was so glad to see a Shining One come over to offer him a drink. ‘Thank goodness he doesn’t have to queue’ thought Sam. Some of the others put a pillow under his head and made a hollow in the sand so he could stretch out and rest. Then
they gave him some more sips of Water and then, as Sam watched, he sat up, stretched, and got to his feet very slowly. He seemed to smile at Sam, then walked more strongly to join the group of Shining Ones. Sam realized that there were lots of other people like this man, sleeping on the sand.
At first Sam had thought that they were sunbathers – although of course there was no sun – until he saw the Shining Ones walk over to them and wake them up one by one and give them sips of loving water. Then they would get up, strong and happy and full of light and walk over to be hugged by the Shining Ones. There were others like Sam who seemed to have arrived just as mysteriously. Some of them would get up, look around, and then disappear as quickly as they came, but many stayed and joined the Shining Ones.
‘I wish someone would explain all this to me,’ thought Sam. He heard a voice calling his name – ‘At last it’s my turn!’ He turned around to see a familiar face. It was Uncle Pete! Sam ran to hug him, but he’d forgotten about the lack of gravity and missed him! Jack would have laughed. ‘I’m a rotten catcher’ thought Sam to himself.
Sam had so many questions – ‘How did you get here? Did you come in a spaceship? have you drunk any of the Loving Water?’ Sam knew that Uncle Pete could fly a plane, maybe he could fly a spaceship too. ‘But mum and Dad said you were dead? I’m so glad you’re alive. Everyone’s going to be so surprised when you walk through the door! When can we go home? Have you had any of the Loving Water?’ Suddenly Sam was worried that Uncle Pete might disappear.
Uncle Pete smiled ‘Sorry Sam I can’t come back with you. But tell everyone that I’m fine and that I send my love, especially to that big brother of mine, and give Lily a big hug from me.’
‘You have drunk the water!’ ‘But I don’t understand, who are all these people and where are we? Who are those people lying in the sand?’
‘The people lying in the sand have been very ill and have come here to get better.’
‘And why do they keep telling me and the people in the queue that ‘It’s not time yet’ and why aren’t we allowed to drink the lovely water?’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll give you some to take home. Some of the ones in the queue have tried to come here before they’re ready and have to wait their turn. I don’t know how you got here, it’s very unusual – I hope you’re not feeling ill or anything?’
‘I’m fine, I went to sleep and just woke up here! I’m glad I’m here because I’ve found you. What about the people who keep disappearing?’
‘Ah, you woke up here. That explains it! The people who keep disappearing are
those who have come here too soon and have been sent back again to their families and friends. It’s a bit like coming to a party for breakfast instead of tea. You just have to go home again and come back at teatime!’
‘I’ve never done that,’ Sam laughed ‘I’d feel so silly. I’d have to ask Mum to come and get me.’
Sam noticed that some people kept looking back over their shoulders and refused the Loving Water. ‘What about them?’
‘Those are people who still have things to do at home. Maybe they haven’t learned enough or loved enough. They may have left someone behind and don’t want to leave them. When they take a sip of the loving water they’ll learn that they can catch up here in a special school for grownups. They’ll also find out that their loved ones will join them very soon, because one day here is like ten years at home.’ Samuel nodded wisely. He’d seen a program on TV about space and time and it had said that the further and faster you travelled away from earth, the less earth time it took. When you got back you would be younger than you were when you left. They must be a very, very long way from earth and it must be a very small planet because there was so little gravity. That must be why all the Shining Ones didn’t look old like grandma or grandpa. Suddenly one of them sort of lit up and went off like a firework, although there was no bang. ‘Lily would like that,’ thought Sam ‘she doesn’t like bangers.’
As if in answer to his unspoken question, Uncle Pete said ‘That’s one of the lucky Ones who is ready to move up to the next place. It’s a bit like moving up to the next school. There’s lots more to learn and find out and a great Head Teacher!’
‘Is there Loving Water there?’
‘You don’t need it there!’
‘That’s a shame, I’ll try and remember to take some with me if it’s my turn. ‘Who are all those people swimming?’
‘They’re a bit like you. They just come for short visits to swim and enjoy the peace and quiet. When they go home they feel better and all their problems seem much smaller. Come on’ said Uncle Pete ‘Let’s go for a swim too.’ He quickly stripped off to reveal his swimming shorts and Sam just kept his pants on. They lay back in the warm, velvety water. Sam poked his tongue out as he felt a splash on his face. A voice in his head said ‘NO’, but not before he’d tasted the wonderful sparkling sweetness with just a hint of salt. No wonder the visitors loved swimming in it.
Uncle Pete swam further out, inviting Sam to ride on his back. Samuel felt a few drops of rain fall from the sky, but there were no clouds! Sam put his tongue out to taste them – they were salty, like tears. Ah that’s where the saltiness came from!
Uncle Pete interrupted his thoughts. ‘We need all the tears to fill the sea, so we always have a supply of Shining Water. Not a single tear goes to waste, so no-one should feel they shouldn’t cry. Every tear changes into sweet, sparkling water that becomes Shining Water that brings love to everyone that comes here – that’s if it’s their turn, of course!’
‘I shall never forget this day’ said Sam. ‘Or have I been here much longer? Will I have to go into year two instead of year three when I get back because I’ll be younger than everyone else in my class?’ Uncle Pete laughed.
Sam was feeling tired now and suddenly slipped off Uncle Pete’s back into the water. He felt himself sinking. An inquisitive dolphin came up and nudged him, then slipped under him so that Sam was riding on his back. The Dolphin swam down and there were hundreds of brightly coloured fishes swimming with them just like the aquarium in Brighton. Then they were swimming through tall wavy grasses all green and blue and red, swaying in the water. He couldn’t see Uncle Pete but he felt quite safe. Just then the Dolphin rolled over and Sam fell off his back on to the soft, red, sea floor. He opened his eyes and for a moment he looked into Uncle Pere’s blue- green eyes just like the colour of the sea.
‘Time to wake up for breakfast’ said Mum ‘it’s a good thing it’s Saturday, I’ve never known you sleep for so long!’ The blue-green eyes were
The blue-green eyes were Mum’s. Samuel was lying on the red rug next to his bed. ‘Up you come. You must have fallen out of bed!’ He smiled up at mum and pulled himself up. The sun was shining through his bedroom window. ‘He hadn’t seen the sun for days, or was it hours?’ He wasn’t sure. He pulled on his clothes and went downstairs with Mum. The rest of the family were round the kitchen table. Dad looked up ‘you’ve had a long sleep!’
Mum put out his bowl and poured some fruit yoghourt into it, she gave Jack and Lily some too and then topped them up with crispy cornflakes. I haven’t been asleep. I’ve been to see where Uncle Pete has moved to. He sends his love, especially to Dad, and a big hug for Lily’ – Lily looked pleased to have had a special hug for herself. ‘You don’t go out like a light’ Sam looked at Jack ‘you go to a lovely seaside place where they have delicious sparkly, Loving Water, but you’re not allowed to have it unless you’re going to stay. Uncle Pete said I could take some back with me.’
That night when Mum was kissing him goodnight, Sam told her more about the planet he’d visited.
‘I’m not sure it was a planet’ said mum. Sam explained about being able to float in the air ‘just like it would be on the moon.’
‘You’re a lucky boy to have visited there and seen Uncle Pete. Thank you for bringing back a special message for Dad. You’ve made him feel less sad.’ Sam never forgot the Shining Ones from outer space. He tried hard to be kind and learn things so that when it was his turn he wouldn’t look back over his shoulder at the earth he’d left behind. He would be allowed to drink the Loving Water and would see Uncle Pete again and lots of others. Until then he’d stop annoying Jack. As it turned out it was much easier than he thought because Jack was trying to be nicer to him. Jack had realized how lucky he was to have a younger brother to do
things with. They became best friends like Dad and Pete. As Sam worked hard at helping others who needed his help, he felt a warm glow inside.
Uncle Pete was right, he had brought back some Loving Water and he was sharing it!