It took two days for the dam to finally break. After 48 hours of purposefully busying myself with projects around the house and running errands, I was faced with an empty house and an inky powder keg.
A box of rubber stamps fell out of the hall closet, burst into a mess on the tile floor…and I burst into tears. I sat down on the floor in a heap to sort the animal stamps from the alphabet stamps. The upper case letters from the lower case. The ink pads from the colored pencils. All I wanted to do was grab an old towel from the closet so I could paint my nails — I needed to keep my brain occupied with another menial task so I could ignore the emotional storm brewing in my heart. Not forever, just for another day or two. But those pesky stamps changed everything.
In between sorting, organizing, deep sobs, and torrential tears, I began to come to terms with my grandmother’s cancer diagnosis. Our family just got the news two days ago — on my dad’s birthday no less. I’ve been through this before with my other grandmother, and it just about wrecked me. However, this time it’s different. Back in 2007, I wasn’t a mother. I didn’t have to navigate the waters of explaining illness and death to my children. Then, I just had to deal with my own grief…which proved much more difficult than I anticipated.
It would be different if my children were both too small to understand, but Asher is definitely old enough for an age-appropriate conversation. Keane lives in beautiful toddlerhood oblivion, of which I am currently jealous. Asher, though, has been asking tough questions about death, dying, and going to heaven for quite some time now — several weeks, actually. Perhaps God has been preparing his little heart.
The easy answer is to do the culturally-approved American thing: tell my almost-four-year-old nothing. Let him live in sweet ignorance and cross the big bridges when we get there. The more I’ve considered this option, the less comfortable I am with it. Sure, it will be easier in the short term. I wouldn’t have to answer a barrage of questions…wouldn’t have to explain difficult concepts…wouldn’t have to answer even more questions…wouldn’t have to open him up to harsh realities… (Did I mention not having to answer a gazillion questions?)
In doing nothing, I would be robbing him of a chance to build his faith. Robbing our family of a holy opportunity to fall at the feet of Jesus when things get difficult. The easy thing is to continue on — busying myself with nature journals, loads of laundry, and menu planning — but I have not been called to live an easy life. I am called to raise up my children in the way they should go, so that when they are old, they will not depart from it. I am called to do hard things for God’s glory, not my comfort.
I can turn on an episode of Paw Patrol and go reorganize my closet in an attempt not to think about it, or I can show my children how to pray in the face of uncertainty. Granted, there will be days when I rely on Ryder and his team of pups to save my sanity for 30 minutes (or an hour) at a time, but my aim must be steadied on Christ. In the midst of overwhelming emotions and big questions from little people, I can live out my faith in a tangible way. I can physically show my children what it looks like to rely on God and not myself.
I have no doubt we will experience hiccups along the way, but God is faithful. Yesterday morning, while preparing Asher’s waffle and chocolate milk, he caught me off guard with this seemingly out-of-the-blue statement: “Well, I know that not even death could bring Jesus down! When his body stopped moving and his lungs stopped breathing, death couldn’t stop him. And after three days, he rosed from the grave!” Less than twelve hours after hearing that dreaded diagnosis for my adventure-loving Grandma, my three-year-old reminded me that we serve a God who has already conquered sickness and death.