Jen, - thanks for coming out of the woodwork for me. I love you!
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
I haven’t written an entry for my blog in 7 months. I’m not sure how deeply the dust has settled and I’m afraid to log on and look. It’s not like anyone’s left nasty comments on posts from five years past; I had circumvented trolls long ago by limiting comment capabilities to two weeks.
So why start writing again now?
Well? Someone asked me nicely. (I always respond well to flattery.)
I’ve known Krystal for almost as long as I’ve been blogging, and we played in the same blogosphere playground for a while, visiting each other’s lives, or, the lives we chose to show to the reading public, celebrating and grieving with each other depending on the subject matter. So, when she asked me to submit a post, any subject matter, any length, “Hey, how about a poem for old time’s sake?”
My site, rhymes included, was mostly about the upbringing of my own daughter, Sprite; however, as Sprite’s voice grew louder and more opinionated, my desire to act as her voice ebbed. My imagination was no longer necessary; she usurped her own throne from me, asking nicely, of course. She does like to read through my stories once in a while, and get an insider’s outsider’s (it actually makes sense if you think about it) view of her mind when she was too young to verbalize it herself, plus it’s vindicating for me to see how I read her so accurately back then. Anyone who knows her now can match who and how she is to anything I’ve written.
I’m proud of that.
My story telling has now morphed into thirty second Facebook status reads. The 140 character limit on Twitter never appealed to me, but the audience on Facebook consists of family and friends, people I want to tell my stories to anyway, so I’m at peace with where my once sort of popular blog has settled.
But that’s not what I want to write about.
I want to write about death. Sorry, if there was a way to rephrase that, I would, but the word death, such a soft sounding word, is blunt in its irony.
Sprite, at six years old, (six and a half if you’re asking her directly) has experienced loss three times now.
The first time, it was our beagle, Blue. Of the two dogs we had at the time, Blue was the one who loved Sprite wholly from the minute we brought our infant home. Last October, we found out, literally with no time to process it, that she was losing the battle to an aggressive tumor. Sprite and I walked in to the vet’s office, thinking she was dealing with old dog issues, and walked out two hours later, with just her collar. I was almost inconsolable, and so worried with how Sprite would respond to the loss, being that she would tell everyone and anyone how Blue was her best friend.
She barely reacted other than to question how she wouldn’t have two dogs anymore.
Oh, she claimed to be sad about it, and days later, expressed her desire for a new puppy since our other dog Harry barely tolerated her, (they’ve been working on their relationship ever since, he’s now somewhat accepting of her affections, until she pisses him off..) but I had seen more tears and sorrow over the loss of a treat due to bad behavior, so I wasn’t sure how she was really processing it.
A month later, she would break into tears spontaneously, crying out, “I don’t want to get old! I don’t want to die!” (I do remember having these exact fears myself when I was her age. Hell, I still do.) My husband and I did our best to soothe her, while, inevitably admitting, yes, we all will die eventually. Why lie and tell her she is special, she will never succumb to the laws of mortality that overrule everyone else’s wishes? I want to ease her fears, not give her a false rainbow.
After a few weeks of these outbursts, she simply stopped mentioning it.
In March of this year, we lost a dear family friend, my adopted grandmother, Ellie. Ellie had been a wonderful presence in Sprite’s life since John and I announced our pregnancy. In fact, Ellie crocheted her baby blanket, Sprite’s prized possession and closest naptime ally. As Ellie’s illness progressed quickly, Sprite grew afraid of visiting, even at her young age, she knew Ellie wasn’t feeling well. When I got the news early that morning of her passing, I had to tell her. She bowed her head in sadness, but then brightened up by saying, “She’ll get to see Blue!”
Not long after we lost Ellie, Ellie’s husband, Sonny, or Papa Sonny, was diagnosed with Cancer. His own health began fading fast. We weren’t surprised, he himself would say that every day he lived without Ellie was too long for him, but still, to lose anyone, no matter how expected, is still painful.
He passed away last Thursday. I found out at Sprite’s bedtime, when we were recounting her first day in first grade. Breaking the news to her, she exclaimed sadness, and hugged me tightly as I cried. When I pulled back, she asked if I was sad. Confirming this, I asked her the same question.
“I’m sad because he died, but I know he’s happy. He’s with Mama Ellie now. That’s what he wanted, right?”
She sounded so mature about it, she actually made me feel better. How can a six year old be so mature about death?
The funeral is this Friday. She’s repeatedly asked to come to the funeral. I’m so torn on this.
On one hand, she’s shown a lot of maturity, and even empathy; she used an offer of holding my tissues for me as a bargaining tool to gain admittance to this closed (at least to minors) event, saying she would sit quietly, and remember him for how he was, and how he will always be in her memory.
On the other hand, no other children will be coming. Not even those children who are of his actual bloodline. Only the adults will be in attendance. Naturally, she’s invited to the gathering (or Shiva) afterwards, where all the kids will be in attendance, but she’s not happy with that answer.
She wants to be there to see him off. But is she too young?
Personally, I think so. There’s just something so final about a funeral, something even a Disney cartoon can’t fix, and I would rather expose her to the closeness of family at Shiva, when we gather to remember his values, his virtues, even the stories he probably wouldn’t want repeated, and of course, the laughter that comes with celebrating someone we love. I was seven when my paternal grandmother passed away. My maternal grandmother watched me that day of the funeral. Two years later, I wasn’t at my maternal grandmother’s funeral, my parents still thought me too young.
The first funeral I went to was at the tender age of thirteen, when my great grandfather died. I handled it fine. When my maternal grandfather died the summer of my sixteenth year, I did NOT handle that well. So, I could make the argument that age is not a factor in dealing with death, maturity is. So, score one for Sprite’s side of the debate.
Unfortunately, the scorekeeper in this battle of age versus maturity is time.