Lily and Emmy knew their grandpa, Ed’s dad, was very sick. During the summer, they went with me to take him to his infusion. He was trying a new treatment that was supposed to use his immune system to help fight lung cancer. The grandpa that shuffled slowly down the hallway using a walker was not the grandpa they had known just a few months ago; the grandpa that played with them and made them laugh.
One day at the end of September, I had to wait until both of them came home. I had gotten the call while I was on the treadmill at the gym. Ed told me to go ahead and talk to them. He would see them later that day. My children come home from school at different times. Emmy goes to the elementary school and Lily goes to middle school, and with their school day and extracurricular activities, they never walk in the door at the same time. I waited until they were both home, sat with them, and told them something extremely difficult. Their beloved grandfather had died that afternoon. The tears flowed as I tightly hugged both of them before we headed to the hospital to meet Ed and his sister.
Telling your children that someone they love has died is never easy. Years ago, when Ed’s mom and then my mom passed away, they were so young. Lily was five, and she asked me so many questions about death. She was so curious about what it all meant. It was hard for me to talk about it without crying, but I did. I wanted to be open about death and about grief. Emmy was practically a baby and doesn’t remember her grandmas, so Ed and I fill in the details by telling stories about both of them.
Lily and Emmy are both old enough now that they will remember their grandpa. They understand death a little bit better now. But that didn’t keep my heart from aching when there was an empty chair at Lily birthday party last week.