Death. It doesn’t discriminate. Sometimes it comes with warning and sometimes it is a surprise. There are never the right words to heal the broken heart and it is certainly hard to understand this concept of “foreverness,” especially for a child.
I experienced death at young age when I lost my father and recently my babysitter’s mother passed away. It sucks, plain and simple. But that’s life, right? And it is how we deal with these life changing situations which can make or break you. Whether it is in the moment when you are riding the emotional roller coaster or years later when you are faced with providing an explanation to a small child, it is never easy.
My babysitter’s loss and a conversation I had with my four-year-old son prompted me to write this letter to my dad.
In a few days it will be 14 years since you left us. Your death was such a hard time in my life and although l have moved on there are moments when I miss you so bad it hurts. I used to keep a journal and write to you often. I wrote about high school graduation, crazy college days, when the love of my life proposed, and about my wedding day. I am a mom now so my letters to you are few. I spend most of my time writing to my kids so that I won’t forget all the precious things they say and do.
Recently, the topic of death, heaven, and the fact that Marco and Anastasia will never get to meet you has surfaced. I knew this day would come and I thought I would be prepared. It turns out that death is not an easy topic for a four year old, go figure!
I talk about you often. I tell them how funny you were, that you gave the best hugs, all the crazy games you made up and songs you sang. I tell Marco he shares your name and that his loving but crazy emotional personality is a lot like you. And just like any inquisitive four year old he asks a lot of difficult questions.
The other day we were watching Good Morning America. They were featuring segments about how a television series will continue when one of the main characters has passed away in real life. Probably a little too mature for a four year old to be watching but honestly I didn’t think he was paying attention. Well he was and proceeded to ask me, “Mom, what does it mean to stop breathing?” I explained as best I could (it helped the night before we were talking about all of our organs and what they do for our bodies) and he seemed to get it. Wow, that was hard, I thought to myself. But he wasn’t done with the questions. Then he asked me, “Mom, do you sometimes miss your dad because he is in heaven?” This was the harder question.
I answered honestly and said yes. Of course he asked, “Why?” This is where things got tricky. I told him I miss talking to you, and hugging you. I miss the fact that you never got to meet my two beautiful children. We exchanged a few more thoughts and then moved on. He seemed to take it all in but was that too much to tell a four year old? Then I went in the kitchen to compose myself.
When I came back to the living room Marco looked really sad so I asked him if he was ok. He started to cry. I realized then, this will never be easy to talk about.
He told me that he did not want you to be in heaven, he wanted you to come to our house to play with him. I comforted him and told him I wish you could too. What else could I say? He noticed I had been crying. I explained that it was ok to cry when you miss someone or when you are sad.
Parenting is not easy and there is no “how-to-guide” when tackling the hard topics. I love the innocence and purity my children possess. My hope is to keep it this way for a long time even when dealing with these issues.
Daddy, I miss you every day. I know you are looking over us but I wish you were here to experience these wonderful children who call me mommy. They are such a joy and a blessing.