Since I couldn't sleep, I thought I'd grab the laptop and chat to whomever would want to listen.
This last week as been quite the trip. We've laughed, cried, prayed, hoped, comforted, hugged, explained, anticipated, held, soothed, questioned, remembered, and accepted. Not necessarily in that order.
It has been interesting to watch my four-year-old grieve the death of her great-grandmother. I've never really seen Allison cry unless she was hurt, mad, or tired. To catch her sobbing at two completely random times was unusual, and I was really amazed at her perception of the events. Today she was milling around the house and I heard her say, "Granny was always so nice to me." I interjected myself into her one-sided conversation so that I could affirm her words and make sure she was ok. She had a precious smile on her face, and it was apparent she was simply processing memories and verbalizing her thoughts regarding those memories. It is good to see that happening.
My dad actually transported grandma's body from here in Lima to his hometown of Greenup, IL. When it was clear that mom and dad would need to drive separately, Evan quickly offered to ride with Papa to take Granny home. Although I didn't mention it to him, it seems to me he was comfortable with this process. For an 11-year-old to want to ride with a deceased person for 300 miles is somewhat unusual, it would seem. He did vent one frustration: "Mom, it seems that I just want to call her an "it" cause it's really not her. SHE is in Heaven." I assured him that her body is still a part of her, and that he didn't need to refer to her as "it." Interesting. I think it was therapeutic for him to make that final ride with her.
Ryan experienced his most touching moment at the hospital during one of the last times that we gathered around Granny for prayer. Greg had brought the kids up for a "goodbye," as she was failing and unresponsive. As dad was praying, he began to mention how grandma had prayed over his sick body many times when he was a boy and God had definitely touched him. My dad had some pretty serious illnesses within the first few months/years of his life, and Grandma's prayers played a key role in his recovery. Dad broke down during this prayer for his momma, and it was if Ryan suddenly connected the dots in this mother/son relationship. He was touched. It was a special moment.
The Sunday of Grandma's passing, we waited until the kids woke up for church before breaking the news to them. Because she had been so low that week, it wasn't a complete shock; however, ten days previous to her death, she seemed a picture of health. So, we didn't really plan on any of this. After Greg went into the kids' rooms to tell them, things proceeded a bit normally and they began to dress for church. I stayed in bed a little longer, due to a late night at the hospital and then all of the communications during the night just after her death. Pretty soon, Kaitlynn crawled into bed with me. She was sobbing. She said that lots of times when she would be staying at Mama and Papa's house, everyone else would get busy. She would sneak into Granny's apartment and Granny would spend time with her. She would definitely miss those special moments, and the finality of an empty apartment was hard to take.
We have never tried to shelter our kids from nursing homes, hospitals, or funerals. We want them to understand that tragedy, aging, and death are a very real part of life. We know that their acceptance of those realities will impact how they live their lives. But...they haven't ever been as up close and personal with it as in the last week. So it was a time of questions and answers, to be sure. It's important to be real with the answers, and we have done our best with that.
It will be interesting to see how long they are impacted by grief. The differences in their ages and personalities will play a role in that, and I expect that their experiences will vary. I'm glad they have the memories. They don't have to wonder what Granny was like. They knew her. She was very real to them. That's a treasure.