"Where's Granddaddy?" Lillie asked me when we were at my grandparents' house yesterday morning. For the first time, I didn't know how to answer that question. I fought back tears for fear of having to answer more questions. You see, my grandfather died early Saturday morning, and it had been less than 24 hours since the girls had seen him. Naturally, they would wonder where he was since he was always at the house when we went to visit. His clothes were on the bed, and my grandmother was there. So why wasn't he?
I do not know how to answer that question. When I talked to my mom this morning, she said it's an easy question to answer. "Just say he's in Heaven." And yes, that seems simple enough. It's what I believe. Alas, I have no idea what to say after that. Will they ask me what Heaven is? How do I answer that? Sadly--scarily really--will it matter so much what I say to them? At 2.5 years old, will they remember the way Mommy answered such a profound question that they don't even realize is profound?
I have decided to not take them to the funeral. My great-grandmother died when I was three years old, and my memory is her lying in her casket at the funeral. If I put my mind to it, I can vaguely remember her alive--kissing and hugging me and giving me candy. But when someone talks about her, that vision of her not quite looking like Mama is what stays with me. I don't want my girls to remember Granddaddy like that. I prefer memories of him stacking blocks with them, sharing his gigantic cup of water, or helping them open birthday presents. I know that my grandmother will find this selfish, that I want to protect my children from something as natural as death, but I do.
Since Tim woke me up to tell me Granddaddy had died, I've been thinking about him. Memories are floating in the back of my mind, and I find myself torn that I'm not sadder than I am. I'm obviously sad, more than sad. He was my grandfather, and I loved him so much. I'll miss him everyday, but I just don't find myself devastated. He was never one who liked being taken care of; he preferred to take care of others. He hated hospitals. He hated being sick. I know that he is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, and he will watch over us all.
Maybe that's what I tell the girls. They might not comprehend it all, but I think that if I can explain it's okay to be sad and it's okay to miss him. Ultimately, though, having good happy memories is what you should treasure always.