Before this fall, neither of my children had ever even been to a funeral or really experienced death at all. My grandmother passed away a few years ago but since my children were very young and hadn’t seen her in a while, I decided I would not take them to the funeral. The most death my children had experienced was when their grandparents’ dogs died. That was emotional enough for my children.
Earlier this year, my 10-year-old son Joey was diagnosed with LCH, a rare cancer-like disease. He was treated at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with a hip bone graph and steroids. His outlook is very good. However, during the process, we met families from all over the United States at Children’s and through an online support group. We became very close, emotionally, to a family from Las Vegas. My son and I were able to meet the mother of a 4-year-old girl who was fighting for her life. Baby Jae was beautiful and strong. I would read her updates daily and find so much hope. My children and I would talk about her around the dinner table and pray for her. When driving under a train, my children would wish that Jae would get better. We have always closed our eyes, touched the roof of the car and made a wish when driving under a train.
Jae’s fight became a daily conversation in our home. My kids would make cards for her and ask about her all the time. Suddenly, Jae worsened and her fight ended in late October. Although we had never met Jae personally, we felt like we knew her for her entire life. We had seen hundreds of photos of her, listened to her story as we had lunch with her mom, messaged with her mother and followed Facebook posts about her daily. It was devastating to get the news. We could not go to the funeral because it is in Vegas. However, balloons are being released in honor of Jae at the funeral later today. My children are going to do the same thing in our hometown. This our way of recognizing our loss and letting the family know we are with them in spirit.
Also in October, my daughter’s friend lost her father. Emily’s dad passed away in his sleep. It’s assumed that he had a heart attack. Emily’s younger brother and my son Joey had played here and there over the years. Emily’s mom and I had been co Girl Scout leaders, exercise buddies, in carpools together and I definitely consider her a friend. Andi and Emily are in clubs together and have been in school together since kindergarten. They are now eighth graders. I had been out of town the weekend he passed. Andi called me on my cell as I was boarding my plane to come home and gave me the news. I broke down for a moment as my heart ached for the family, pulled it together and got on the plane. It’s all I could think of the entire flight. Once home I found out how much this had affected my daughter emotionally. Her friend lost her father suddenly. It made Andi think of mortality, her own parents and how Emily and her two siblings would grow up without their dad there every day.
This was my daughter’s first funeral. Andi asked me lots of questions leading up to the funeral. She wanted to know what exactly happens, who is there, if you see the deceased, etc. She wanted to go to show support for her friend but was also scared. I explained as much as I could. We hugged the mother and Emily and told them how sorry we were. We made sure they both knew we are here for them. We both shed tears and I took Andi back to school. Later that day Andi and I discussed the funeral. She said it wasn’t exactly what she expected although she didn’t know what to expect. She said in a way it seemed surreal and she just wanted to take the family’s pain away.
Last week another father in our community passed away. I have had conversations with all of the family members but am not close to them. However, my son Joey is in class with their youngest daughter and considers her a friend. I told him on Sunday that Marcy had lost her father. He sat there in shock. He didn’t know what to say or how to feel. After a few minutes he hugged me real tight and told me he loved me. He’s asked me if I know how Marcy is doing but we haven’t discussed it much more than that. I can tell it is bothering him.
Andi asked me the other day why so much tragedy has happened in our community lately also reminding me of a teenage boy who was hit by a car this summer and, although is doing incredible, has a long road ahead of him. And of course her own brother’s diagnosis this spring was scary for her and all of us.
I really couldn’t answer the question. Why does tragedy seem to hit a community all at once? I should state that I live in a small town with a very tight knit community. We all take care of each other however we can, whether that be driving each other’s kids, meals, watching kids and just being there for one another. So why does it hit all at once? How do we explain that question to our children? How do we help them not worry that they may lose a parent at any second? How do we help these families dealing with these losses? This article might help some.
Other than keeping an open line of communication with our kids, hugging them a lot and repeatedly telling them we love them, I really don’t know the answers. I would love to hear your opinions though.
Note: I did change the names of the children who lost their fathers.