I’m struggling not to violate the cardinal rule of blogging: “Don’t let it become too negative.” (I’m trying to do the same with my parenting in general; more on that tomorrow....) It’s not like I get a kick out of life’s dark stretches. I don’t. Nor do I derive any sadistic pleasure watching my kids walk through them.
It’s just that so far in 2008, my girls have lost their More Papa, their Papa and their cat. (Please don’t mention the cat to them—they still haven’t spoken of his absence and we haven’t brought it up.) Shuffled into this was a holiday featuring the violent death of God. Watching my kids process the first death of their life at the end of January was touching and even a tearful sort of beautiful. I didn’t like that they had to go through it. At the same time, it was important, deep, inspiring.
But watching them lose their grandpa has been simply bleak.
It’s as if two deaths in as many months has left them feeling like this is routine. They felt the stress and sensed something was wrong; it showed in their hyperactive and hyperfussy behavior all last week as they spent evenings with other loved ones while we were at the hospital. But there was a grim resignation this time, something even more painful to see than the more visible grief that showed up when they lost More Papa.
The twins both took the news of Rachelle’s dad’s death in silence. Brielle didn’t even manage to cry until half a day after she’d heard, when she listened to Mommy sing “Goodbye for Now,” the same song she’d sung at More Papa’s funeral. And then, at last, Brielle fell to pieces. I was relieved.
We barely got to that point though. The evening had all the ingredients of human brokenness. We had designed it as a quiet time for the family to gather in our home and remember Don.
By 8 p.m., we had not yet begun to do this.
I had been waging a man-against-machine battle up to the last minute, trying to get the 161 photos I’d scanned of Don to play on the TV, oblivious to any human beings in the room. Don’s sisters were getting along like sisters, which at this point meant a disagreement sharp enough that one was out on the porch calming herself down before she said something regrettable. Rachelle’s recently widowed grandma had come up the mountain to share in the time, but had run out of steam by then and was begging for rides back home, convinced that she too had lost her husband that very day. In the midst of this was Rachelle’s mom, shell-shocked after the loss of the two most important men in her life, just trying to hold it together.
And in the wailing department were my three daughters, whose enthusiastic screams would have put Bible-era professional mourners to shame. So vociferous were our lovely progeny that we carried the twins off to bed in the middle of dinner. This meant leaving them out of a process I fear they really needed. It was this process that finally wrung the tears from Brielle’s eyes, the moment that her resignation gave way to real feelings.
We all need those moments. Maybe even fussy three-year-olds? Why couldn't they stay sane enough to have theirs?
Melía prayed the night before last, “Thank you for this nice day. Thank you for this wonderful day. Thank you that Jesus die and rose adain. Thank you that Papa die and rose adain. Amown.” It was sweet. It was funeral homily quotation material. But is it OK that either one of those tragic deaths should roll so routinely off the lips of a child? Is this a welcome sign that Melía is trusting in the hope of the resurrection, accurately applying Jesus’ story to that of her grandfather? Or this all too glib for a loss that is much closer to home than the one two thousand years ago? Should I be encouraged or concerned?
I am sad that my daughters have to deal with so much death right now, resentful even that Easter had to fall when it did. More than than, I'm angry that this most recent death came much sooner than necessary. I am indignant that hospital visiting rules and the twins’ own fussiness has made it so they haven’t gotten to say good-bye the way I think they needed to. I am worried that theses losses will lead to I don’t know what in their psycho-spiritual future. I am scared of how we adults may fail them as we handle our own grief.
And despite all that has been breaking in our babies’ hearts of late, I’m trying to keep my eye on what remains whole. I’m making an effort to keep things real yet positive with regard to the family we’ve lost and all of us who are left. After last Tuesday, we got out of town and spent a couple days in
So yeah, we’re working not to let this all get too negative. But it is work. Sometimes, it is hard work.