We have been open with our children about Sweeney's disease. As a family we have prayed for a year and a half. During this time, the Sweeneys have continued to be in our lives. The children knew when he was in the hospital and that if God chose not to heal him, he would be going to Heaven.
This weekend involved a bit of 'juggling' the children so that we could be at the hospital. Each time I would return one of them (usually K) would ask, "Is Sweeney in Heaven yet?"
Yesterday afternoon I picked them up from school and through more tears than I had hoped to shed shared the good news.
"Sweeney is finally in Heaven with Jesus."
My sensitive, but matter-of-fact P looked at me and said, "Then why are you crying?"
R didn't say much, but seemed to take the news in stride.
K rejoiced with a trademark giggle and "Yea!"
Last night at bedtime R had a lot of questions.
"Does he have his new body yet or does he have to wait until tomorrow?"
"Can Sweeney see us right now like God can?"
This morning we had our first emotionally difficult moment. P went into his closet and pulled out a purple t-shirt that we wore in last year's Relay for Life.
"I don't think I am going to wear this shirt anymore, Mama. I want to just keep it in my room to remind me of Sweeney."
I told them that I thought that was a good idea and we went in his room to pick out a spot. His first attempt was to proudly spread it on the floor in the center of his room. We talked about other special spots that might work and settled on dressing a big stuffed dog in the t-shirt. I then placed the dog on his bed.
P immediately picked it up and carried it around through the rest of our morning routine. He cuddled it close. When it came time for us to leave for school he insisted on keeping it with us in the car. He wasn't crying, just very attentive and affectionate. He hugged it, talked to it and treated it tenderly.
Once we arrived at school P would not get out of the car without the t-shirt-clad dog. I knew a large stuffed animal would not fly with the school administration. I tried to talk him into wearing the shirt and he refused. "I want to be able to hug it." We agreed that he could take the shirt off the dog and keep it in his cubby.
As I drove out of the school I wept. Love is powerful. Loss is an unfortunate companion. My children are learning that at such a young age. This is not a chapter of parenthood that you dream about longingly as a prospective mother.
When I picked him up today he was wearing the shirt (albeit backwards--"so the part with Sweeney's name will be on the front.") When we got home he took it off without any fanfare. He was perky and never mentioned it again.