Jack's Great Aunt Wilma died today. She was a spunky gal, one of his family who was always willing to jump in and one who made me feel welcome from the first time we met. When, at a family softball game, I crashed racing around third and somehow scraped a nice chunk of skin off one foot, Wilma took me home and poured whiskey on the incredibly painful wound, wrapped it up in bandages and sent me back off to the dusty diamond. I hobbled across the street to my permanent seat on the bleachers.
Explaining death to children is not easy. They struggled to understand this concept when my grandmother died two years ago; Bonnie was 97 and for Mary and Kate, her body lived a very long time and was tired, and that was enough to make sense. But now, with the wisdom that two years of living affords, they want more details, more explanations and more answers.
Wilma had been sick for some time and at almost 80, her body was not able to fight back the way that young bodies can. We punched the air, fighting off germs and bugs, and then talked about getting older and living wonderful long lives, but losing some of the ability to punch back with gusto. Kate needed more, and being two minutes younger than Mary, was convinced that she would live two minutes longer.
"You die when you don't breathe. You have to breathe to live", explained Kate.
"MOM! I forgot to breathe!" shrieked Mary.
Further discussion needed, difficult to explain when it's so hard to understand.