I didn't know what to expect, but I didn't expect this.
Both of my girls were close to Grannie. They often drew her pictures unprompted, spoke of her when we talked about the beach, and after they knew she was sick, asked about her repeatedly to see if she was getting better.
The funeral was open casket, so Craig and I talked extensively with them about what they would see and what we believe happens when our life on earth comes to an end. As I said in a previous post, Abby touched Grannie as she lay in the casket, asked questions, and then seem to be content with Grannie being with Jesus.
Hannah peered into the casket, but didn't want to get too close. On the surface, she seemed to be processing only little bits of everything that was happening and on a very concrete level (which is to be expected since she is only four). She was the comic relief of the funeral, asking in her loud Hannah voice if Grannie was going to be okay in that box as the pallbearers carried her out the the hearse. At the cemetery, she concerned herself with the pretty flowers left on tombstones and other family members, doling out hugs and a few quick smiles.
That night, I heard her crying to Abby in bed about how she missed Grannie. It was a bit of relief to hear her cry because it signaled to me that she was understanding and recognizing the loss. I didn't realize it was merely the tip of the iceberg.
Since we have been home, she has been much more emotional than normal. It's not that she has been sullen or sad, but rather desperate to have things done her way. She must be in control of every situation and when things do not go as planned, she becomes angry and inconsolable. Some of this is typical four year old behavior but it seemed to me that the increase in explosions could only correlate with Grannie's death. Her little heart can hold only so much sorrow, only so much confusion, only so much absorption of her family's grief. The overflow must escape somehow. Her age inhibits her ability to articulate freely about what truly troubles her, so instead, she wails about having to eat strawberries for breakfast.
Yesterday, however, she found true release.
It started with the Polly Pockets. We dressed them up, preparing them for the ball. They were ready. All that we needed now was the music. I happened to have my iPhone in the room and we chose a playlist. We danced and sang along to J.J. Heller's Your Hands. The next song came on -- Selah's You Raise Me Up, which also happened to be on Grannie's tribute DVD. I was about to turn it off, since we were supposed to be headed downstairs. At the sound of the first notes, Hannah's face lit up with recognition and then fell a few short seconds later as she realized what it was from. This is Grannie's song, she said.
The dam broke. She wailed. Tears streamed down her face and all the feelings and questions that had been trapped in her heart spewed forth from her lips.
I would tell her that Grannie was alive in Heaven.
I don't want her to be in Heaven. I want her to be here with me.
Oh, me, too, Hannah. I feel the same way. But in Heaven, she doesn't have to be sick anymore. She doesn't even have wrinkles.
I liked her wrinkles, Mommy. Is she looking down on us right now?
I hope so, baby. Mommy doesn't know a lot about Heaven, but I'm reading a book about it. Can I tell you about Heaven as I learn about it?
Okay, Mommy. I miss her so much.
I miss her, too. It's okay to cry as much as you need to, Hannah.
Just like you cried at the funeral.
Just like that -- anytime, anywhere.
For over an hour, we had this conversation. I didn't have the heart to try to distract her, for fear that if I tried to plug up her heart, it would only lead to more destructive behaviors. So, I let her cry as we cleaned up her room, picked up Abby from school, as we ate snack.
Later, she asked to hear the song again. I turned on my iPod and she sat on the counter, listening, silently crying until I took it back from her. I gave her a hug and she went off to play with her friend.
She's still teetering on the edge, but through the song, she has a way to access those feelings, to cope with them, and bring them to light.
As much as it took my breath away to hear her sob, as much as it broke my heart that my little girl has to understand death at such a young age, I feel blessed to walk through this with her, as imperfect and ill-equipped as I am to deal with it all.
Just as the song says,
You raise me up...to more than I can be.
To hear the whole song, go to http://vodpod.com/watch/55985-selah-you-raise-me-up (Selah version)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_l_A6-7td0 (Josh Groban version when he sang on Ellen)