I opened up Johnny’s daily log book 2 days ago and read that he was sad at school and cried when he was in the bathroom with his EA and later when he dropped his snack on the floor at snack time. I asked him about being sad at school and he said “Momma….Momma….shhh!” and put his finger to his lips. I had never heard him do the shhh! sound before and I tried for so long to get him to do that to his baby sister when she is too loud. I decided not to push and look for another moment. It came when I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk with his Daddy when he comes home to get medicine for Grandpa. The expression on his face changed and I asked him if he is sad about Grandpa because I am. He said “yes” and hugged me and then carefully checked my eyes for tears.
It was now cuddle time and I thought it was a good moment to try and explain some stuff to him. It’s okay to be sad especially because Grandpa is very sick, has cancer and medicine cannot fix him. Johnny attends a Catholic school so I asked him about God, Jesus, heaven and the angels and he smiled and said yes to learning about this in school. I told him that very soon Grandpa will be leaving us to go to heaven and will be gone forever. He hugged me and put his fingers to my lips and said “shh!”
The next morning my father passed away in his sleep. He had been receiving paliative care at home. How do I hold my grief in check so that I could prepare Johnny to say good-bye to his Grandpa when he wakes up? I took a deep breath and with his Daddy’s help asked if he remembered how we talked about how sick Grandpa is? “Yes.” Well Grandpa is now asleep and is getting ready for his big trip to heaven. Jesus will hold his hand and the Angels will take of him. He nodded. Do you want to go and give Grandpa a hug and say good-bye to him? “Yes.”
Johnny ran into his Grandpa’s room and laid his head down on his chest and snuggled like he has done many times before. Now it was Grandpa’s turn to ruffle his hair and say “My little Johnny” but not this time. His Daddy tells him to give Grandpa a big hug because he is in a deep sleep and has died and is getting ready to go to heaven. When you come back from school Grandpa will not be here and will not come back. Do you understand Johnny? “Yes” Johnny wrapped his arms around Grandpa and really hugged him and then took Grandpa’s blanket and tucked it around his shoulders and said “bye” and left.
After breakfast and once Johnny had his uniform on he looked a little troubled before he left his room. We asked him what was wrong and he pointed towards his Grandpa’s room. We asked him if he wanted to see him one last time and he said “yes”. He gave Grandpa one more big hug and tucked the blanket again. I told him Grandpa loves him but this is the last time he’ll see him and he will be gone later forever. Do you understand? He said yes and then said “done.”
The doctor was coming through the door when Johnny was coming down the stairs and he looked a little sad and then looked back upstairs. I told him everything is okay and the doctor will take care of Grandpa and help him on his journey to heaven.
Johnny is okay but understands everything. I am letting him guide me on what he needs me to talk to him about. Any sad song or sad moment in a cartoon makes him get upset and want it “off”. “Mama…Shhh!” means its not the right time.
On a side note, as fate would have it the doctor has the exact same first name and middle name as Johnny’s sister and she is from the same city that Dad and I grew up in. Serendipity.