This is my four year-old nephew Ethan posing with his beloved cousin Caitlin. Yesterday we celebrated several family events with a day at the park. In a quiet moment Ethan and I had a conversation that went like this....
E: Auntie Neechelle, where is your husband?
M: Well E, my husband was your Uncle Phil and he died when you were just a baby. You might not remember him, but here is a picture of him. (I show a photo)
E: Was he sick?
M: (deep breath) Noooo....he was hit by a car. Remember how your mom tells you to look both ways when crossing the street? She does that because sometimes cars hit people and when that happens they might be hurt so badly that they die.
E: (thoughtfully) That is not good.
We sat for a minute after this last statement. He searched his memory banks for visions of Phil (who died the day before Ethan's first birthday) while I marveled at how much time has passed since Phil's death and how far we have all come...like it or not. Life marches on, children grow, milestones come and go, the sun rises and sets, and the seasons follow one after another. Grief follows suit by marching on, growing, coming and going, rising and setting and flowing from one season to the next as well.
You never "get over" losing someone you love, thank God. Instead the season changes and grief takes on a new face. Our losses lead to unexpected gains; tears cleanse, pain bears fruit, and somehow we learn to lift our faces to the sun once more.
Ethan's little voice reminded me today that Phil is a part of our family history. We will tell tales of his silly antics, his sly side remarks, his holiday dancing, his life, and yes his death, for the rest of our lives...I am so grateful for that.