Dad, I Didn't Get To say Goodbye


Grandma died the night of my 14th wedding anniversary. With the news of her departure a night of nostalgic reminiscing took on new meaning. As is obvious by this post and the prior one I have been thinking about it all and have decided to continue to chronicle my thoughts, feelings and ideas here.

Chicago has always played a big role in my life. It is where my grandmother and many other families were born and raised. I have teased most of the family about our great inability to find a decent pizza or steak in the Windy City so I thought that the song above kind of fit the tone. And of course I have to include Sweet Home Chicago if for no other reason than it lightens my mood and makes me smile.

This morning I told the children about grandma and received the expected responses from them. My daughter kind of shrugged her shoulders. The dark haired beauty is 5.5 and death is still a bit foreign to her. She understands that grandma is gone, but the weight and the import of the moment aren't the same for her. When she heard she smiled, hugged and kissed me.

Two comments for future reference. 1) Again this is partially indicative of her age. She doesn't completely understand. 2) She understands that I am upset and set out to console me. This made me both happy and scared. She understands me far too well. I am going to have to remember this as she continues to ply her charms upon me to get what she wants.

But I digress, somewhat intentionally. Her older brother is in many ways a clone of me. Still waters run deep. When we are happy we are ecstatic and when we are truly sad we are...sad.

Upon hearing the news he burst into tears and shouted that he didn't get to say goodbye. And that was heart breaking in itself. He understands what it means to die. He knows that it means that the spirit has left the body and there is no more communication face-to-face.

I didn't tell him that she is in a better place or that he is going to get to see her one day. I rarely say things like that even though I may believe them to be true, or at least think that it is possible. I didn't because I want him to think about some of these things and come up with answers that work for him.

Spiritual matters are very personal. It has always been important to me that my children receive a Jewish upbringing and education. And I want them to live their lives that way, but at the same time I want them to ask questions of themselves. I want them to figure out what they think and what they believe.

My job is to mentor, teach, guide and whenever necessary direct. And believe me there are things that I make clear are black and white. I may give them room for their own thought, but there is only so much play in that rope. Most of this is just training in how to pick a part a situation and find the truth of the matter.

So when the big guy asks me why she died without having a chance to say goodbye I tell him the truth, that could happen at any time to any of us. I also work on reassuring him that his immediate family is filled with healthy people who are highly unlikely to die. Thus far I think that it has worked.

But still, he is nervous about his great grandfather as well as his grandparents. Not to mention his question of myself as to whether I think I might die soon. I tell him that soon is a very broad term and that I can be specific. I run through the ages of my grandparents and remind him that we have excellent genes. It is not uncommon for us to live into our nineties.

And then I talk about science and medical advancements and how we have access to things that the great grandparents don't. He nods his head and I see that the logic of the argument is working. He get's it, he is calming down, but I know that he'll go to school with a stew of emotions boiling beneath the surface.

I have about 2.5 hours until I see him again. We'll see what other questions he has or does not have. In the interim I am off to my parent's home. There is work to be done and I am taking on as much as I can. It is an interesting role I find myself in; Father/son/grandson/brother.

Time to wear to my many hats- see you later,


Dr. Lisa said...

Deepest condolences. So sorry!

Otter Thomas said...

Sorry for your loss.

BigLittleWolf said...

This is a beautiful and telling post - for so many reasons. Not the least of which is the tradition of questioning that you are passing along. It is a more challenging one in my opinion, but very rich, and serves our children well.

I love the way you present your many roles and relationships, and the way you walked your son through the stew of emotions into the logic of likelihoods.

As for your loss, I understand. We carry our loved ones in our hearts and our stories, and pass along the treasure of their lives to the next generation, as we speak of them and remember.

Jack Steiner said...

Deepest condolences. So sorry!

Thank you.


Many thanks.


I am a big believer in helping our children acquire skills that they will use to become productive members of society.

So I try and take advantage of every opportunity.

And from a selfish perspective this is a place in which I can write and gain more insight into my real thoughts and feelings.

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