Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When a Hero Dies: talking to kids about death

We are blessed to have many amazing people in our lives.  Not a day goes by without a wonderful reminder of how truly fortunate we are.  And then there are the days when the reminder isn't wonderful - it's tragic.  That was the case on Saturday.

We had a fun and busy day filled with doula education, a soccer game, a downtown festival, lunch at a great local pizza shop and a fantastic birthday party.  After a day like that the kiddos were tired.  Eli (yup that's Bobeezer's real name) passed out in the car and needed only a brief cuddle from me to go right back to sleep.  As Leon (yup that's Lou's real name) finished a snack I took a quick peek at my email as I was waiting for a response from someone.  I saw an email from the wife of a dear friend and excitedly opened it without reading the subject line.  My heart began to pound in my chest and my stomach felt like it sank clear to the floor.  Our dear friend, and Leon's hero (our family's hero), had passed away.

How could this be?  My first thought was that I had misread the email - not the case.  My second thought was that someone was playing a not-at-all-funny practical joke.  Again, this was not the case.  Our hero was really gone and his beautiful new bride, clearly the love of his life, had graciously written to let us know.

I struggled to compose myself as I kissed my dear boy goodnight and made sure that kiss lasted extra long.  I knew what was coming.  In addition to my own grief, I would have to find a way to explain to my 4-year-old that his hero was dead.

We do everything we can to protect our children, but there was no way to protect him from this.  The best I could do was try to find a way to explain this to him in a simple way that did not scare him, but conveyed that we would not be seeing our hero again in this physical world.  A dear friend sent me two links:

I miss you - Speaking about death to children
Helping Your Child Deal With Death

They were helpful and reiterated things I had already heard like not telling the child that the deceased person is sleeping, which might make them fearful of falling asleep and not focusing on an illness, which might scare them next time they or someone they love is sick.  So after a lot of tears, lots of talking, and lots of reading my husband and I felt as prepared as possible to talk to our son, but we had no idea what to expect.

On Sunday, we put Eli down for his nap and sat Leon down to break the news.  I knew that I would have limited control over my emotions and was just hoping that I'd have enough restraint so that I didn't scare him.  I cried, which I think is healthy for him to see, but was composed enough to get through the conversation.  It went something like this:

Mom: Hey, Buddy.  Mom and Dad love you very much and we have something to talk to you about.
Leon: What?
Mom: Harold, our garbage man (even though he is no longer our garbage man), died.
Leon: When did he die?
Mom: Two days ago.
Leon: How did he die?
Mom: His body stopped working and the doctors couldn't fix him.
Leon: Did he go to the hospital?
Mom: Probably.
Leon: Oh.  How old was he?
Mom: I'm not sure, but I think he was less than 40 (I wasn't sure of his exact age.  Turns out he was 37).  His body stopped working earlier than most.
Leon: Can we count to 40?
Mom: Sure.  (And we did)
Leon: That's not a lot of numbers.
Mom: No, Baby, it's not.  His body stopped working much too early.  Harold would want you to know how special you are to him. (Insert Dad tears.  I've only seen my husband cry two other times - once at our wedding and once when our first son was born.)
Leon: I still feel his love in my head.? (This was both a statement and a question.)
Mom: And you always will.  His body stopped working, but his soul will always be with us.  He was a great friend to us and we should always remember him and keep him in our hearts.
Leon: I will.

We all will.  We made the trip to Maryland for his funeral service.  It was beautiful, sad, inspirational, exhausting, comforting, and final.  He can rest and his loved ones can try to heal.  It was so moving to hear about all the people he touched in his short life.  They mentioned Harold's special relationship with Leon during the service and that made Leon smile as he shyly snuggled closer to me.  We had the pleasure of meeting Harold's mother, his twin sister, his other sister and many friends and cousins.  We were able to hug his beautiful wife.

They handed out a program/obituary with a large picture of Harold.

Leon: Can I keep this?
Mom: Yeah.  Would you like that?
Leon: Yes.  It will help me remember him.
*Mom hug and hair tousle.*
Leon: Mom, I think he's smiling at me.
Mom: Yes, he is.

I'm sure of it.  His smile was infectious.

I know that Leon does not and can not completely understand, but I feel like he knows enough.  I hope this was the hardest step and that as the questions come I will be prepared to deal with them.

I linked up at The Mob Society where you can read other inspiring posts about the amazing world of boys.

Small Things with Love

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

You Little Booger

There are so many blogs out there dedicated to photographing children.  There are great ideas all over Pinterest for how to capture those precious and fleeting moments and how to take priceless posed shots.  So today I was testing out our new point and shoot armed with a few tips and tricks and I did manage to capture a few cute shots.

But by far my favorite shot from the day is this one.

Does he look mad?  He was.  Because I wouldn't take a picture of his booger.  His booger.  Seriously.  We must have debated the merits of booger photos for a solid 7 minutes as he kept sticking his booger laden finger in all of the pictures I tried to take of my adorable children.  I should have taken a picture of the booger and had it enlarged and framed for his 16th birthday.

Monday, April 9, 2012

She's Sew Crazy

I may be going mad.  We have a large area rug (6x9 or so) that sits on top of our carpet in our living room.  It's a fairly thin rug and is CONSTANTLY wrinkled.  Wrinkled is probably an understatement.  Our living room has turned into a basketball court with the rug as the main playing area, which means that every time I straighten the rug it almost instantly reverts back to its previous disheveled state. It drives me NUTS!  I do not keep the neatest house.  I have great intentions, but don't always execute well and at any given time there is some toy to be stepped over (notice I didn't say picked up, lol) or a pile of mail to be sorted.  So, this rug thing just makes my home appear even more out of sorts and it is visible from our front entry.  It was time to either solve the problem or relocate the offender.

I made a lame attempt at using "industrial strength" velcro, but the adhesive on the back was severely lacking in the strength department and came loose during the first half of a family basketball game (UNC Asheville vs. Syracuse in case you're curious.  Read more about our bulldog love here).  I was fed up and about to move the rug to another room when I decided to try sewing it.  I straightened the rug and made sure I was happy with the placement, grabbed a darning needle and some heavy weight thread and sewed that court rug in place.  I sewed it in two places on one of the two sides not held down with furniture.  It has been a week now and the rug has not moved.  If it needs to be moved I'll simply cut the thread and then sew it again.  It only took about 5 minutes to sew both spots and it was 5 minutes well spent.  Maybe I can sew toys and mail in their places too!

Update:  Here are a few photos I just didn't have time to take when I posted this.

You can see it pulling a little, but it's hardly noticeable unless I point it out.

I'm sure it will rip at some point after an impressive dunk or alley-oop.  And here's a shot of our court.

The lighting is a bit dingy because it's way passed my bedtime but you get the idea.

Monday, April 2, 2012


I had a few things I planned to post over the past few days, but I've just not been feeling it.  My family is struggling with an issue that seems to be consuming me.  It's on my mind constantly, affecting my sleep, my relationships. It is a situation that feels hopeless, endless and lonely.  I know I need to breathe and and think positive, but right now I'm struggling.

I don't wish to go into detail, but know that our immediate family is healthy.  Good thoughts are welcome and appreciated.