I know you’re all wondering why I’ve fallen off the face of the earth. You’re probably thinking I was scuba diving in Belize or digging wells with Matt Damon in Ethiopia or perhaps you think Mister surprised me with a trip to Greece.
I wish any of those scenarios were true. Sadly, Mister’s brother, John, fell ill and passed away suddenly. Our little family packed up late one night and left the following morning for a cross-country trip to Chicago lasting two weeks and a day.
At times, parenting very young children is exhausting. When they’re awake, they’re needs take precedence over everything else. It can be so frustrating! I find myself saying, “Can’t I finish one load of laundry? Do you really need a snack right this minute? A band-aid for Bear will have to wait.”
What I wouldn’t give to complete one simple task without a million interruptions. However, during this heartbreaking trip, I welcomed the children’s distractions. I’m not sure how Mister and I would have survived the wake and service without tending to Bunder and Kiki’s potty breaks, diaper changes, snacks, meals, naps, and entertainment. I think my heart would have crushed from the weight of the finality of the occasion.
I still can’t believe I’ll never hear John’s voice telling one of his stories in typical Irish fashion or have the chance to ask about the five books that he’s read this week. Mister and I aren’t sure what to do with the bag of empty wine bottles saved in the garage for John’s famous, homemade wine. It all seems so surreal, so final, so sad.
My prayers are with John’s wife and children. I can’t imagine how they must feel – especially now. All others seemingly return to normal, daily life, and yet every minute of every day they face a huge gaping hole in their world. Normal as they know it ceases to exist.
How do I explain all of this to a two and a half-year-old? How do I help him understand his uncle has departed? Do I lie and say, “Uncle John is sleeping.” Do I not say anything at all and let Bunder construct his own understanding? What do I say? What would you do?
When our family approached John’s casket for the FINAL time, I held Bunder in my arms. Mister wrapped his arm around me. My eyes overflowed with tears. I gazed at the large bouquet of flowers in Bears’ orange and blue with the ribbon that read “Loving Brother”, the bouquet on his casket “Loving Husband, Loving Father, Loving Papa” and the book placed next to him, the New York Times Bestseller, Heaven is For Real, with a sticky note that read, “John’s last read.”
Bunder said, “Shh. Uncle John is sleeping. We can’t wake him.”
I believe children deserve the truth (no matter how young), so I corrected him and said, “No. Uncle John isn’t sleeping. We’re saying good-bye to him. Uncle John is going to heaven.”
Bunder in all his innocence and youth accepted my words as absolute truth and without pausing said, “Bye-bye Uncle John. See you later.”