It's never easy telling someone that a loved one has died. Trying to find the right words. Not breaking down yourself as you say them. Staying strong and comforting those who have been hit the hardest by the loss.
Now add in the fact that the person you're faced with is a child. And the person they lost is their great-grandparent.
As I write this, I've come to the realization that my two children have already witnessed more death and loss than I did when I was twice their age. I suppose it's to be expected. Up until two ye ars ago they had both sets of grandparents, three sets of great-grandparents and a great-grandmother. As of last night, they have lost two of those great-grandfathers.
My husband called me to let me know. He was five minutes too late to say good-bye. Since he was staying to spend time with his family, it was up to me to let the kids know. Unsure of how they were going to take it, I dragged them out of the pool and sat them down.
"You guys know how we told you Grandpa-Next-Door (their name for him) was sick? Daddy just called..."
"And he died?" my son asked. I nodded. The kids looked at each other, made some sniffling noises and asked if they could go back in the pool. The reality didn't hit them.
Honestly, this has been their reaction to most death. A couple months will go by and they'll mention the person, or pet, and how much they miss them. But, they don't cry. Not really.
This isn't to say they never cry. If they see someone hurt or upset, they get upset. That's something they understand. Death, they don't. They don't grasp the permanence of it. For them, being brought up Christian and learning about Heaven and how we all end up there eventually, death isn't the end. It's not much different than someone moving away.
It makes me think: Is sadness to death something we're born knowing or do we pick it up, mimicking the sadness we see in the adults around us? At what point does the permanence of death finally register? Is it a gift or curse to be so certain about life-after-death that crying seems silly?
I don't know if I'll ever find the answers. All I can do is watch and observe, waiting to see if a day ever comes when they question their faith. Part of me hopes they never do. Tears are never for the dead, they're for the living grieving something they've lost. If there's nothing lost, just moved on for a bit, there's no reason for crying, is there?
I keep trying to tell myself that, but it doesn't work. My tears still come.
Before she dived under the water, my daughter asked, "Are we still sad, Mommy?"
Yes, Baby. We're still sad. We're going to be sad a long time.