Since Greg died in the early morning while the girls were asleep, I had a choice to make. Should I wake them to say goodbye or just let them sleep and tell them when they woke? Part of me wanted to just let them sleep because all I wanted to do was to curl up in a ball and cry and cry and cry. But deep down I knew that was not the right answer. We had done our best to be truthful and include them as much as we could when Greg was sick. I knew I had to wake them so that they were able to have closure in their own way, as much or as little as they understood at the time.
When Greg was healthy, he went into work around lunchtime and every day the girls would hug him goodbye and make sure to put a bunch of kisses in his pocket to last him throughout the day until he got home. On Greg’s last night, as the girls were saying goodnight, he gave both of them a crystal butterfly box full of his kisses that would last them their entire lives. We still take kisses from their boxes every night before bed. I do too. I figure there are probably a few in there for me as well.
That evening, Greg had taken an obvious turn for the worse and we knew his time was very close. I told the girls that Daddy might not have much more time and that he would be dying soon. We had talked about it a lot before this but because he hadn’t been ‘actively dying’ I could always tell them he still had time. As I was tucking Squirmy into bed, she asked me, “Is Daddy going to die tonight?” I told her yes, he might. She nodded and cuddled up in bed.
I woke Squirmy and Squeaky at about 5:30 in the morning and told them Daddy had died. They both clung to me and Squirmy started crying with me. I took them upstairs to see Greg. He had the white teddy bear tucked under his arm that the girls picked out for him when he was away from home at hospice.
We had a little ceremony to say goodbye to Greg before the funeral home people came to take him away. The girls both continued to cling to me but they saw him. The thought of them being scared of him hadn’t crossed my mind until we went into the bedroom to see him. But they had also seen Greg with his eyes and mouth open while he slept so they were used to it. A few times, Squirmy buried her head in my lap. Squeaky held me tight but her eyes jumped around to watch facial expressions, taking cues from everyone around her. The Hospice Chaplain said a few prayers, the girls and I quietly sang the Barney, I Love You song and we played the Talking Heads song, This Must be the Place (Naive Melody).
I don’t remember if either of them touched Greg but I don’t expect a 2 and 4 year old to have the same kind of experience that I did. They are both so young. I’m just glad that they were there. They were (and continue to be) a huge support to me even if they didn’t know it and they were there to be a part of something very important. While they both exhibit a surprising understanding of what happened for kids their age, it’s still quite hard for them to grasp the concept. When the funeral home people took Greg away, the girls said goodbye to him one last time and watched as his body was wheeled out the door. Then they went back to playing with their cousins.
And that’s when I went back upstairs, curled up in a ball and cried and cried and cried.