Mattie and Jack
Is there anything sadder than your own child feeling sad? I don’t think so. When I lost my twin son in-utero, and his identical twin was born healthy, one of the reasons I cried was thinking about how sad it was for me, but how much more sad it was going to be for my son when he grew up and realized that his twin brother wasn’t here with him.
Now that Brett is nine years old and definitely realizes to some extent what is missing from his life, he IS sad. But he is also a very upbeat, active kid who doesn’t spend a lot of time wallowing in that sadness. For this I am thankful. We talk about his twin, Jack, and we acknowledge his absence and in so many ways is seems okay, but I was a bit taken aback the other night when my almost four-year-old daughter was asking about Jack.
I shouldn’t really be that surprised because when Jack died, our older son, Alex, was four years old and was very much interested in birth and death. It was Alex, in fact, who foretold of Jack’s death from a dream he had had -which is another interesting story altogether. So when Jack died, Alex had a million questions and we tried to answer them to the best of our ability, wanting him to understand with his sweet, naive four-year-old intelligence.
Now that our daughter is the same age that Alex was when Jack died, she, too, is curious and is having to try and grasp that surreal concept that she has a brother who doesn’t live in our house with us, and never will, but who loves her just as much as her other brothers do.
To help explain about “where” Jack is, I got out the book my mom gave us written by Maria Shriver called “What is Heaven” and we read it together the other night … actually I choked it out between tears and sniffles. In the middle of the book, Mattie turned to me and said, “Mom, do you miss Jack? I do.” And it made me realize that four-year-olds are pretty darn smart. She knows that it would be so cool to have another brother (and what little sister wouldn’t want another big brother to dote on her and play with her?!) and that he is missed every day, no matter what day it is. On a deeper level, she just knows … she is his sister and she truly does miss him, even though he died five years before she was born.
Thinking about her comment, it makes me happy that Alex, Brett and now Mattie, all feel comfortable talking about Jack and sharing their thoughts about him. I would hate to think that his name is taboo or not welcome in conversation. Really, it is us who keep his spirit alive and we do that by talking and sharing and crying, even still. This is part of the evolution of our grief. It seems there really isn’t a “textbook” definition of how our grief journey has gone, but the path we are traveling seems smooth and my hope is that it continues that way, even if it means having to see my child sad once in a while.