When your just-turned 4 year old is incredibly sensitive – and incredibly attached to her dog, Bailey, and your own mom, Gigi – don’t watch home videos that include said dog and Gigi – when they were alive. ‘Nuff said.
It has been a touch of a nightmare since we watched the movies. Jane has been dreaming of Bailey and my mom each night. She is wholeheartedly convinced that both of them are romping in a field just past our back fence.
To Jane, they asked to leave Heaven to come home because they missed her so much. According to her, Bailey and Gigi are living the life – in her dreams they even have horses to play with. I hate to tell her that just past our back fence is nothing but the neighbor’s driveway. And the only thing it houses is a schnauzer named Timmy – no horses, no Bailey and no Gigi.
I have mulled it over, sought advice and decided that we can work on this ourselves, with lots of books, art projects and hugs. We have talked about it and I even showed her the paw printed canister that currently “houses” Bailey. It’s on the living room shelf and she asked to see his ashes. (Incidentally, that was not a good idea.)
Explaining loss/death to a 4 year old is ridiculous to attempt. Especially when it’s a 4 year old who has seen a good deal of loss in her little time on earth. And her memory is like an iron vault. It’s kind of creepy how much she remembers. She remembers clothing of my mom’s when she comes across it, and she was only 16 months old when my mom died.
Baby Jude’s adoption process and foster care time were not easy on her, either.
“You have a brother coming home. Oh wait, you might not. Ok, your brother can come home – 8 hours a week. It will only take a few weeks until your brother is home for good.”
A few weeks morphed into a few months. It was a lot for her little self to absorb. She remembers the foster home she and Jude were lucky enough to live in. I know it sounds bizarre, that she would have a familiarity with a place from her infancy, but she has it.
One winter afternoon, we were driving Baby Jude home for a visit and he was fussing. Jane said, “Don’t worry, Baby Jude, I lived at Mrs. Elises’ too. Now let’s go home because our Mom, Sarah, lives there.”
Her memory is not normal by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing gets by her and goodbyes are never easy. When Jane takes a shine to someone or something, she does it with her entire being. It’s why we subtly sneak out of birthday parties, wait til everyone else leaves the play date first to give her a moment, transition her from one classroom to another with a lot of pre-planning. My Janey Bug plays a tough game, but it’s all game. Deep down she has a heart of gold and a soul as old as the ages.
So, I did my best to reassure Jane that Gigi and Bailey still live in heaven and have a special place in her heart. We can have pictures of them anytime we want and even talk to them like we do the angels when we say bedtime prayers. I tell her that when they visit her in her dreams, it is their angel spirits checking in to remind her that they will love her forever, even if it’s from Heaven.
And I thought I did a pretty good job. That is until, in Sunday Mass, Jane says loudly, “Crap, Sarah. Why does God have Gigi and Bailey in His stupid house when I want them at home?”
Now that is a question I can’t even answer for myself. Much less for her. Because sometimes, maybe especially on days like Mother’s Day, we are allowed to just say “Crap!” I will work on her not saying it at Mass, however. Apologies to our fellow parishioners!
Grateful, Prayerful & Hopeful.
Read more about Baby Jude and Jane from the rest of Sarah’s blog, Hey Jude!.