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Monday, October 28, 2013

Death & Dying: Our Children Deserve to be Better Prepared

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I pulled into the driveway and there he was standing in the window with the dog by his side.  They were waiting patiently for some word about the events of the night. I had left the house around midnight and now the sun was preparing to show itself. More hours had passed than I realized. Why didn't I think about this before now? How should I tell him?  What words should I use?  Oh God!  There is no time to ponder anything.  He sees me.  He has been waiting for hours.  I hope he wasn't afraid.  Why didn't I use the drive home to figure this out?  Mommy will be here in a minute, maybe she will know what to say.  I waited for her to pull in behind me and we got out together.  We were in shock. She was still trembling. I was numb and the tears that would flood my world in the coming days and weeks and months had not yet made an appearance.  The front door opened and he stepped out into the twilight and asked, "Where is Papa?"  Neither of us spoke as we walked towards him. "Go in house and put Moses away before he gets loose,"  I instructed.  "Ok, but where's Papa?  Did he have to stay?  Who's with him?  My son had already experienced more hardship than most but this kind of loss was still unknown to him. For a moment, I felt like a complete failure.  I could not protect him.  "Moses doesn't want to go out," he said.  I rolled my eyes and commanded the dog to go lay down somewhere but he was already laying down. "What's wrong," my son asked. My mother sat on the couch and asked my boy to come sit in her lap.  "Isaiah, Papa went to be with Jesus".  It was clear that he was not grasping the message that she was trying to convey so she tried again.  "What I mean is that Papa is needed in Heaven so that is where he went.  Do you understand," she asked.  Isaiah turned to me and asked, "Will he come back when he is finished doing what God needs him to do?"  "No, Isaiah.  Papa died at the hospital tonight."  I will never forget my child's reaction.  I could see the brutal reality of that night roll through his being.  I can still hear his sobbing. He was 12 years-old and until that day he had never sobbed.   Mommy sobbed. Isaiah sobbed.  No one spoke for almost an hour.

I have often wondered how that night might have played out differently and if it would have made a difference in the way my child processed his grief had I been better prepared.  As parents, we want to protect our children from harsh realities. Death is inevitable and unpredictable and real.  It is absolutely beyond our control. We cannot protect them from it. We can do a better job of preparing them for it. The experts agree that talking about the possibility before a tragedy occurs is best. To learn more about this important topic, tune into Senior Agenda this week.