Pop Pop passed away on Sunday morning this week after a long decline this year. He and Grammy made it to their favorite place on Earth, Silver Bay, NY, and have lived with us for the past month. This enabled us to help take care of Pop Pop, which was a whole family affair. Our two children (ages 5 and 2) helped get Pop Pop up in the morning and put him to bed at night, raising his bed and moving his wheelchair into place. They brought him water, his hat, clean napkins and tissues, and anything else they could think of that Pop Pop could possibly need. They helped lift his feet onto his wheelchair footrests when he couldn't lift them himself and assisted with pushing the chair wherever we went. Most importantly, these two enthusiastic caregivers provided endless entertainment for Pop Pop every single day. Singing, dancing, telling stories about their day at Wee Woozles (camp), helping build fires in the fireplace (Pop Pop loved a good fire), and generally being happy preschoolers.
Needless to say, losing Pop Pop was very, very hard for them. Our 5 1/2 year-old understood the permanence of death, so he was absolutely devastated. Our 2 1/2 year-old does not understand, of course, and so keeps asking when Pop Pop will come back from Heaven. A friend asked if my husband has been able to process his father's death at all, and the answer is, "Yes and no." We have to process it over and over again with the kids, answering each heartfelt question as simply and faithfully as we can. We are reading lots of books about death written for preschoolers, which was really hard at the beginning of the week, but gets easier as time passes.
Our son will say, out of the blue, "Mommy, I don't ever want you, or Daddy, or (Sister), or me to ever, ever die." How can I argue with that? Life is beautiful and sometimes I feel the same way about death. I just take his comments thoughtfully and talk with him about all the good, fun things we do and how much we enjoy God's amazing creation all around us.
It's been a hard week. This is a big change. Their little world was rocked off its axis when their Pop Pop died. Sticking to their familiar schedule and spending lots of time together is helping to stabilize them, and hopefully, by the end of the summer, their hearts will have healed enough to then go home and handle the death of our beloved golden retriever, Toby, who has lymphoma.
This summer is teaching us about loss, but also about love and the strength of family ties. I thank God for great friends and family, and for our wonderful spiritual leaders who are supporting us each step of the way. One called from Wales when he heard of our loss. Another is retired, but took the time to call my mother-in-law and extend his sympathies. Our chaplain here at Silver Bay has visited, helped make arrangements, and made a trip to a library to find us books about death to share with the children. Friends have sent cards, emails, and even hams. We certainly don't lack for support and love!