Last night, as I knelt by her bed, I said, “Honey, Aunt Nae’s mommy is in heaven. She is not going to see her any time soon.”
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t ready for what followed. Her bottom lip stuck out and her eyes welled up. I explained that Aunt Nae’s mommy is not sad; her body is perfect now, not broken like it was before. She is with her husband and friends, she can see and dance and sing; she is happy.
“But how come the person who goes to heaven isn’t sad, but the other people, the people who are missing them, are sad?” She said. It was a great question. That I couldn’t answer.
“I’m going to die one day, right Mommy?” She asked, clear-eyed. I cringed and told her she would, hopefully many, many years from now. I take pride in being honest with my children, but there are times when I question that choice.
“When we get to heaven, will we see God?” She asked, wanting to know what he might look like.
“What do you think, honey?” I asked.
“I think He might be sort of a girl. And I think He has brown skin. And white or black clothes. And He is bigger than a giant. Does God ever sleep?” She asked.
“No. He never does,” I said.
“But then doesn’t He get tired?” She asked. She cried for her loved one who lost a mommy. She cried for questions with hard answers, or no answers at all.
I sang to her and rocked her and hid my own tears. It was among the first times she cried because she was sad and scared. And all I could do was hold her.
“How can I think of anything else, Mommy?” She asked. I sang “My favorite things” and asked her to think of some of her favorite things.
“Well, my favorite things are flowers and lots of snow hills…and YOU! My family!” She burst into tears. And, I’m not going to lie, so did I.
It is so heartbreaking, mothering a child. It’s beautiful, and sacred, maddening, hilarious and sad. All at the very same time.