I want my handbook

He was crying. We didn't know why at first. His limbs appeared intact. No blood to be seen. No bruises. But the tears were still there.

He sobbed and tried to talk. Finally he eeked out, "But I don't want to go to heaven without my belly!"

And then it made sense. Logan's been rather consumed with the topic of death lately. It's a weighty subject for any age, but at three-years old it's obviously overwhelming. Late this summer we introduced the concept of death to him as means to prepare him for the evitable passing of three lives in his little universe.

There is my uncle, who Logan has spent a considerable amount of time with these last three years, wasn't expected to make it to Halloween, let alone the holiday season. His brain cancer continues to progress and we inch closer and closer to the day he drifts into a coma. Some mornings it's hard to wake him, which we've been told is an indication that the coma looms closer - the coma he'll not wake up from.

Our dog has more things wrong with her than right. We've had the 'big' talk a few time about when to schedule that last vet visit. For now she's got a stay until after Christmas at least, yet her health continues to detoriate and we know it's just a matter of time before we can't put it off any longer.

And then my mother-in-law faces another winter, a time of year that is always a gamble for her. Will she survive another or not? One can't say. She's in the advanced stages of both Altzimers and congestive heart failure. We thought her death was imminent this September when my husband was urged to rush up her way to see her one last time. She managed to survive that bout of pneumonia.

With all that surrounding us, we decided to prepare Logan over the summer. We talked to him in age appropriate ways rooted in our own faith-based beliefs about what it meant to die. We told him his uncle, dog and grandmother were all old and very sick. We told him that they may not be here with us much longer. We said they'd go live with God and we'd only see them in our memories and photo albums. We told him it was also ok to be sad when they died, of course.

We've not talked about it in quite a while. But Logan has a memory like a steel trap. He forgets nothing. He observes everything and he catalogs away things you don't even realize he's noticed.

Ever since Thanksgiving he's been talking a lot about death. His fears of dying - of not having his body with him, of not having his family and friends with him. He talks about fear of our dying and leaving him alone. He talks about his fear of losing everyone he loves.

I assume it's in part due to stories he's read lately that mention the 'd' word: his book on the first Thanksgiving mentions many pilgrims dying that first winter for example. I also assume it has something to do with seeing his grandmother over the holiday. I'm guessing he's associating her oxygen tank and residence in a nursing home with the talks we've had on my uncle who also lives in a nursing home now and spends his life half-paralyzed in a wheel chair.

Whatever it is, it's on his mind and it makes me feel so helpless. We try to be honest with him in an age appropriate way. We try to comfort and reassure him. We do what we can to ease his worry. But I never feel like I'm able to do enough. I never feel like I'm not floundering without a real clue. It's one of those times, as a parent, I wish I had a handbook. I wish I had someone to come over and just tell me the right thing to do.

I mentioned his concerns to this preschool teacher today. I wanted her to have a heads-up in case he mentions it in school or starts acting differently when one of those three lives ends. So far he's not brought it up but she's on the look out now. She's suggested we talk to the school administration about appropriate books. They're already looking through their library stash for us. It's all we can do and yet it doesn't seem enough.

The hardest part about being Mother is wanting to shield your child from all the pain of life and yet, not being able to. Something tells me that Logan's grief will hurt me more than any loss we experience.


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a difficult and tender dilemma...How to prepare your child for these coming sad events, without scaring too much...I don't envy you and it sounds like you are doing this in the best way you can...I guess one never really knows the best way because each child is unique in his or heer needs and understanding....Bless You and your family at this very difficult time...

Thanks for the lovely comment on my blog, today.

Carmi said...

My heart breaks when I read this.

We lost our cat earlier this year, and faced similar challenges with our brood.

We've also been wrestling with significant illnesses in the grandparent set. All told, we've had to rewrite our own manual in real-time to balance our wish to inform with our wish to protect. It's been hard.

Being a writer, I've tried to use my pen to beneficial effect. I published a column on it way back in April, and had a bunch of postings on my blog in and around that timeframe.

We learned that kids can be remarkably strong when they need to be. It reaffirmed why having them was such an incredibly good idea.

Zee said...

Oh, Sandy. (((hugs)))

This post broke my heart.

I had something similar happen to me with my son, (I'm not sure my daughter really grasps it) but he happened to grow out of it, the overwhelming factor at least. He used to think about it a lot, too.

There were so many days I wished that it be written somewhere exactly how to teach our kids about death. Sadly, this is one experience we must all go thru and face, and in experiencing it is understood. They must go thru it -the important thing is that they have our support when the moment arrives.

Since my Grandma's death this year, and seeing how it affected me, my kids gained a better understanding of death and loss... and so did I.

Karen said...

You are an EXCELLENT parent. I dare say that most of us would run and hide from such issues. Very touching post.

Here via Michele's....

Paste said...

I think that you will find that children are much more resiliant that we sometimes think that they are. That was a well written and interesting post, and by the way I'm sure I wouldn't enter such a competition (your comment - my blog LOL).

The Cryer said...

Wow. What a tough situation. I feel for you. Like Carmi said, kids are resiliant. Sounds like you are doing a fabulous job though. Bravo.

On a happier note, your blog template is GORGEOUS. Love the colors and the mood. Happy holidays... here from Michele's.