I’m not sure there’s any conversation that is more difficult to have with your children than one about death. It’s hard enough for us adults to grasp the concept, let alone put it into words. I’m not sure it’s fair to expect the kids to get it.
Our girls have lost a couple great-grandmothers in their lifetimes, although neither woman was someone they saw on a regular basis. They all pay attention now when they hear on the news that some celebrity has died. So the notion isn’t completely foreign to them.
Tuesday night I got the shocking and terrible news that our former next-door neighbor, who moved away two years ago, died suddenly over the weekend. She was just 41 and had two kids. More about her in a bit.
I struggled this morning with how to tell the girls. I waited until after swim practice, just so it wasn’t a topic there. After we got home, I brought the girls together and told them I had some really sad news. I reminded them who P. was and then explained that she had died. There was a second of silence while they processed and then C. said, “Oooooh, creepy.” L. quickly asked if their dog, who was barely alive when they moved away two years ago, was still alive.
I understand that they don’t really get it, and despite being someone who lived next door for six years, P. had been out of our lives for two and was kind of an abstraction to them. But I was a little frustrated by their response. At the same time, I don’t know what the hell is an appropriate reaction by a 5 and 8 year old to news like this.
I realize some of my irritation came from the fact I was, and still am, emotional about the news. It’s been a hard day and my patience with just about everyone has been short.
I don’t know the details – I only learned about her death because in my weekly check of Facebook I came across a bunch of posts about her and eventually found the news – but do know that it was sudden and apparently unexpected. I think every parent’s greatest fear, after something happening to their children, is dying while your kids are still young. When it happens to another family, you can’t help but apply the what ifs to your own family. While our hearts are breaking for her husband and kids, we can’t help but think about our own spouses and children.
And it’s just terrible, terrible news. It’s a cliche to say that everyone becomes a saint when they die. But this lady was honestly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. We would laugh when she would get mad about something because it was really hard for her to be angry and express it to others. She would cover her mouth and whisper “Damn,” and act embarrassed about saying it. But it wasn’t a contrived act. You could tell she hated to be upset with people and didn’t want to even use the D-word. While reviewing the comments on her Facebook page, the word “sweet” was used over-and-over again.
I can’t think of a more apt way to describe her.