My mother and father are both one of two kids in their family, and my Dad’s sister lives in Denmark, so I didn’t grow up around a lot of cousins.
My grandfather had two brothers and my grandmother was the oldest of seven and I always had great aunts and uncles in my life. The closest geographically were my grandfathers brothers, Uncle Paul and Aunt Judy in Peterborough, and Uncle Gilling and Aunt Lib in Almonte, Ontario. We lost Uncle Paul in 1998, and Aunt Judy too soon after. My grandmother died 10 years ago. Aunt Lib died in 2008.
Last week we lost Uncle Gilling.
He was 90. He had been sick, in the hospital. It was a shock but not a surprise if that makes any sense. We heard early Monday morning before I dropped the kid off at preschool that it wasn’t looking good, and he passed away before I went to pick her up.
She knew Uncle Gilling. We had visited him a few times, including a couple of weeks ago in the hospital. She had actually told me that she wanted to go back and visit him in the hospital again. He had taken in a cat that ended up having kittens and he let her play with the kittens, which was great since we can’t have a cat.
I have told her in the past that people have died. She asked what happened to my grandmother, I was honest and said she had died. We went to the memorial for Jack on the Hill and she asked me where Jack was and I told her he had died – but she’s never asked follow up questions. It’s never been someone that she was aware of before they died.
When I picked her up I told her. I asked if she remembered visiting Uncle Gilling in the hospital and if she remembered that he was sick, and when she said yes, I told her that he had died.
She continued on with whatever she had been wanting to tell me.
A little later, in the car and driving home, she asked me why. That was more of a struggle. I told her that it’s the way life works – we’re born, we live a life and we die. It’s the way it’s always been.
She hasn’t asked me again, but I know it will come. My grandfather is 93 years old. I am thrilled that they have been able to share enough time together that she will remember him as she grows up and he is gone, but I live in fear of how I am going to react when we do lose him. How will I be able to explain how sad I am to her? How will I explain why something that is part of nature is still so hard to accept?