Last Monday I went to a reception for a friend of the Frog Princess. It was a place I never thought I’d be. Paying my respects after the passing of a happy and healthy 3 and a half year-old. But there I was.
He was fairly new to the school but I recall his voice ringing out with “hi frog princess mami!” from the playground while I picked up one day. I said hello and noticed his beautiful blonde hair as I turned to greet my girl and usher her to the car.
A mother’s greatest fear come true. I didn’t know the mom but I certainly connected with her though I cannot possibly understand what she is going through. I was happy to hug her and pass on some sliver of strength. I was so reminded of the book Rare Bird.
I was nervous about talking to the girl and didn’t know how to break it to her. Thankfully, I remembered I’d reviewed My Yellow Balloon and pulled the book out, cuddled up on the couch and set to read.
As I closed the book, the Frog Princess said “Mami, that book reminds me of my abuela”. As you guys know, we have sent balloons up to Mami since her passing as a way to keep her present in the girl’s mind. I was instantly moved by her connection.
I took a deep breath and said “I have something to tell you. One of your classmates went to heaven”. I’m pretty sure my voice broke. She looked at me and asked if he’d gotten there via an airplane. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I told her that I wasn’t sure how he made it up there. She asked “Is he alive in heaven?” to which I said “yes, but he’s not alive here anymore.”. She thought about it and said okay. She was quiet for a bit. Then she mentioned that her teacher had said a long time ago that some kids can go to heaven. This was comforting to her that she’d heard this before. I spoke through tears and explained to her that my heart was breaking for his Mami who missed him very much. A little more talking and we moved on to something else for the night. But she remained..contemplative.
As we prepared to head to our quarters for the night, she stopped in the kitchen, looked back and said “I’m sad that somebody I know went to heaven.”.
What could I say? “I know, baby. Me too.”
With that we closed out one of the hardest conversations I’ve had to have with my girl. I was so wound up trying to figure out how to do it. I wanted to not tell her, if I’m completely honest with you. But I think I did the right thing. And by doing so, I feel like maybe I honored his memory a bit by keeping him in our thoughts and prayers.
Have you ever had to share a loss with your child? What did you say?