Up until last month the hardest parenting tasks I have had to deal with were potty training and breastfeeding, but explaining death to a 4 year old is on a whole new level. I joked that potty training was the Lord Voldemort of parenting, but death is exactly as you would picture it; The Grim Reaper that puts a shadow over your child’s innocent and naive, little life.
Last month my husband and his family said goodbye to an absolutely amazing, selfless woman, his grandmother; Margaret. She was and still is the glue that holds the family together and my heart breaks when I think we will never hear her sweet voice or play cards with her again. She welcomed me into her large family over 8 years ago as if I were her granddaughter my entire life. Sass loved visiting her great grandma; Grammy Miller and associated cookies and flowers with her house whenever we talked about visiting. Baked goods and flowers were pretty much Margaret’s mantra.
The night Margaret passed away, I laid with sass in her bed and explained to her that Grammy Miller had died and was her angel now. She looked at me very confused through teary eyes and asked if we could go see her tomorrow. In the past we had taken flowers to my grandfather’s grave, and most recently I had taken the bouquet from my sister’s wedding so it gave me an opportunity to connect the dots for her. I had no idea how much empathy and compassion my sassy, little lady had in her tiny body but I soon learned.
She proceeded to ask me if Grammy would be buried and if we could take her flowers, then very quietly asked me if I missed my grandpa. Through tears and a cracking voice I told her I missed him very, very much and that we could take flowers to Grammy Miller whenever she missed her. Over the next few days she continued to ask questions and seemed genuinely concerned that Grammy Miller would get dirt on her face and in her hair if she were buried in the ground. Throughout the wake and funeral, our brave little girl marched up and back from the casket a couple dozen times. She told her great grandmother how much she loved her and how pretty she looked over and over again. In all of the heartache, it was the light my husband needed. I was so proud of her.
Flash forward a few weeks and our sweet girl asked me if we could go have a tea party with Grammy Miller. Up until now, she had not mentioned much more of death and didn’t bring up her great grandma since the funeral. I explained again that Grammy had died and was now her angel. Sass continued in a snarky, little attitude that she knew and wanted to go have a tea party at her big rock with her name on it. I couldn’t help but chuckle and wrap my arms around her. Just like I promised that we could go see Grammy Miller any time she missed her; we got ice cream and went and sat with Grammy Miller for a tea party in the 90 degree heat that afternoon. If it were 20 below zero, I think my heart would have still melted that afternoon at how sweet and grown up she is becoming.