I have wondered how my children would be affected by the loss of our family friend, Sweeney, this past Spring to melanoma. He was in his mid-thirties, fun and vibrant. They did not see him as we typically understand sick to look--elderly, feeble or in a hospital bed.
Other than the loss of our cat (within a month of Sweeney's passing) they had no prior experience with the loss of someone they knew. We spoke openly with them about the severity of his illness. We prayed for a miracle. We cried when he passed away--even as we rejoiced that he was healed and whole in heaven with Jesus. All things considered, they handled it very well.
Within a few days of Sweeney's passing, we also lost our friend and personal accountant--another young man--to cancer. The children did not know Shane, but they knew that Mommy & Daddy went to two funerals in two days because of cancer. They had surprisingly few questions--and God truly seemed to squelch fears I assumed they might have about someone else they knew getting sick.
A couple of weeks ago we attended yet another funeral. This time it was for a colleague of my husband's who had cancer. Because this man was not at all a part of my children's lives I said very little, just that they would be with a sitter while we went to a funeral.
"Did he die of cancer?" K asked.
"Yes, he did," I replied.
"That's always what happens," P said.
It stung my heart.
I am quite sure I did not know the word cancer until I was at least twice their age.
Shortly after that we participated in a ceremonial tribute signing of a structural beam for an area cancer center that it currently being built. The children signed in memory of Sweeney and in honor of our family friend, Ms. Jean. Today, I drove them by the facility so they could see the beam in place before the next stage of construction covers it up.
"Why are they building another hospital anyway?" R asked.
"It is a cancer center," I told him, " People who have cancer will go there for treatment."
"That is so sad," P said.
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"People get cancer. It is just so sad. They get cancer and die."
Again my heart twinged.
"It is very sad. Cancer makes people very sick. That's why they need good doctors and medicine. They don't all die, babe. Look at Ms. Jean. She got better...and Nana. Nana has had cancer 3 times and she is almost 92."
Very matter-of-factly P said, "That's called a miracle, Mom. When people get cancer and God makes them all better it is a miracle."
It all seems so heavy--this type of afternoon conversation with Kindergartners. I am so glad they let me into their world to talk about how they are processing things. Time with my children--absent the intrusions of electronic distractions-- and the conversations that unfold are the richest parts of my motherhood experience.