We recently lost my grandmother. An 85 year old spitfire, she was the Energizer Bunny. A force. A character. She went out with what I call 'the Trifecta'...she was able to say 'see you later' to each one of us, she had planned everything (including the lipstick and nail color she was to be 'displayed' in...one may wonder how I became such a 'control freak', and to that I present this as 'Exhibit A') and she left this Earth in her sleep.
As I was fortunate enough to have shared 39 years with her, my children were also fortunate enough to know her, and know her well enough to truly experience the loss. Once I got the news and went through that which we all do when we lose someone dear, I quickly began to be concerned with how to tell my girls. My Gram was a very visible part of our family existence. From birthday parties, to holidays,...even drop in visits for lunch when she could fit us into her amazingly busy schedule :)...she was always there. So the presentation of this information was important.
One of my best friends had said to make it a 'learning experience', which was my objective. It was just finding the 'right' time. My Gram passed on a Thursday. I decided I would tell the girls after school on Friday. I would walk and pick them up, and discuss things on the walk home, under a crisp fall sky. Certainly not sitting them down, making some Cecil B DeMille, maudlin production out of it.
The weather didn't cooperate with the 'walk' idea, so I drove to get them. Once we were in the car, I said I needed to tell them something, and it was sad news. Number One Daughter had already asked a question about "GiGi", as we were back and forth from the hospital earlier in the week, so she quickly asked if it was about that. I quietly told them that GiGi had passed away.
Both girls cried. The youngest was more of a siren wail, whereas the oldest was more of a silent sob. Then of course I cried. I jumped from the driver's seat and sat between the girls and just hugged them. Then I told them this:
When we are born, and all through our lives, we're not only biology. What truly makes us who we are is the spirit within us. That spirit is born of our experiences...the people we meet and love, heartaches, joys, happies and sads, places we go and things we learn...and that energy is real. How can it not be, right? So much like flowers and trees, when our simple biology can't keep us on this planet anymore, that not-so-simple energy has to go somewhere. We believe that the spirits of all the people we love...all that awesome energy...goes somewhere where we will be together again.
The girls seemed to grasp this well. Although we do bring them to church, I don't necessarily believe there is one 'right answer' where a higher power is concerned. I've gauged this from my own upbringing, from a family that went to church pretty much every Sunday, and I don't cast dispersions on anyone's beliefs. The most elemental thing is that I do firmly believe that there is a power greater than us. My girls definitely understood this, which was all I could hope for.
After some smiles and tears (my Gram passed 2 weeks before her 86th birthday, which my oldest remembered), my oldest asked if she could come to the funeral. In her painstakingly specific instructions, my Gram EXPLICITLY said 'no great-grandchildren at the services'. So I shared this with Number One. She got upset, until I said, "Listen. You knew GiGi. If I let you go to the services, after she SPECIFICALLY said not to, she would haunt me for the rest of my life, finding me in quiet places and yelling (as said in near perfect "Gram" voice), "I can't BELIEVE you let those kids come to my services...after I TOLD your father I didn't want them at something sad to remember me by. Have you lost your mind!?!?". A sense of humor definitely comes in handy, and fortunately in my household, we seem to have that in spades.
You might have had to know my Gram to be able to appreciate this fully. But regardless, her worth passes beyond that which can be tangibly comprehended or measured. She will forever be remembered with love. And her spirit will always be near. As my youngest said, "whenever I look in the sky, I will say 'hi' to GiGi", to which my oldest replied as the 'all knowing older sister', "besides...she's always in your heart. You can carry her with you".
I know I do.