Where is Daddy?

Warning: This post may be difficult for some readers, and it’s long.  The audience I’m writing for are widow mothers of preschool (~3 yr. old) children.  The subject is how to tell them their daddy is gone forever because the information on how to do this is incredibly scarce.  How do you not scar a little person with a vivid imagination and just learning real communication?  The Livestrong organization verified that I accidentally told her the right thing the right way.

Who knew vacation bible school could be so difficult?  The preschoolers I was with were great kids, so no problem there.  Although I’d swear one of them mainlined sugar.  The problem was leaving vbs everyday with Sarah.

Last Monday, she went nuts when we went to leave the nursery.  I assumed she had such a good time that she didn’t want to leave.  I couldn’t even strap her into her carseat, so I let her back out of the car.  Poor Paul Axtell got all the way on the ground to make her smile and help him up.  She’s such a helper, he knew it would work and it did.

Tuesday, they brought the nursery kids into the auditorium to sing and dance with the big kids at the end of the program.  Sarah, my singer/dancer, had a blast.  But, when the crowd thinned, she saw the door behind the props and made a beeline for it.  I was watching her to see what she was up to, but someone else didn’t know that and stopped her before she got to the door.  I quickly ran over to her and let her explore the stage right there and they brought out the puppet so she could say goodnight to it.  But, she was still crying and trying not to walk as we left the building.  Then, wow, the girl took it to a whole new level and would not let me get to the sidewalk past her.  Sarah never fights me physically, but she was angrily pushing my legs and grabbing my shirt to put me back by the building.  I was stunned.  Everyone watching was wide-eyed because Sarah is always so sweet, but she was inconsolable and no one could touch her.  Then, it dawned on me and I was crushed.  She thought I was leaving Jim behind.  I got on my knees and said, “Are you looking for Daddy?”  That’s when she finally looked at me.  I told her to hold my hand and take me where she needed to go.  I asked them to keep the building open just a few more minutes for Sarah.  She took me back to the door on the stage.  So, we went in, I turned on the lights and opened the door to the hallway so she could see Daddy was not back there.  She looked confused, but was somewhat satisfied.  You see, Jim’s memorial was in the auditorium and his pictures were shown on the same screen and many of the same people were there.  She became upset again when we got outside.  A sweet little boy gave her his baseball, and that’s how I finally got her calm and in the car.

Wednesday, I grabbed her from the nursery early and practically ran to the car with her.  No problem that day.

Thursday, there was not too much of a problem getting to the car.  But, when I started the car, Sarah said, “Missing Dad.”  I snapped my head around and said,”What?”  She repeated herself, and I repeated her, and she smiled really big.  I said, “You think Daddy is still in the church?”  She nodded “yes.”  I said, “No, honey.  He’s not here.” She stopped smiling.  “If Daddy was at the church I would have brought him home a long time ago.  I would never leave your Daddy alone this long.”  So I sighed, and told her I was going to take her to Daddy.  Then, as we drove over to the cemetery I asked, “Who do you think Daddy is with?”  She said, “New doctor.”  I explained, again, how Daddy was really sick and the doctors could not fix him.  His body stopped working and his soul went to heaven to be with the God and Jesus we were just singing about.  As we got to the cemetery, she didn’t want out of the car.  So, I told her to watch me and what I put my hands on.  I touched the headstone and the dirt, and came back to the car.  When I sat down next to her in the backseat, I told her, “A body is just what you can touch from your head to your toes.  We had to bury your Daddy’s body in a pretty box under the brown dirt I patted.  My soul is what loves you.  Your soul is what loves me and still loves your Daddy.  Daddy’s soul will always love us.”  Then, she said, “Get flowers?” and pointed outside.  So, I got her out of the car.  She picked a yellow daisy, and pointed at the one for me to pick.  We walked over and put them under a small rock by the headstone.  She patted the headstone.  As she started to kick at the dirt, I explained that Daddy’s body is buried very deep and that he can’t come back.  She stopped kicking at the dirt, looked at me and questioned, “Can’t come back?”  I said, “That’s right he can’t come back or else he would have by now.”  I had tears rolling down my cheeks throughout all of this.  Then I asked, “Do you want to say “night, night Daddy”?”  She said, “Night, night Daddy.”  Then, she said, “Storm is coming!” which is her way of getting you to hurry.  So, hand in hand, she and I ran to the car.

Friday morning, I asked if she wanted to say “hi” to Daddy as we drove past to feed the dog and do some things in the house.  At first she said “no,” but then she suddenly wanted to go to the “quiet park.”  There, she patted his memorial, looked at me and verified, “Not come back?”  I said, “That’s right.  He can’t come back.”  And I gave her a kiss.  She then, saw some flowers that had turned over at other graves and wanted to fix them.  As we did that, she stopped and looked up the slope.  She raised her little hands palms up and said, “Awww.  All people not come back?”  I nodded my head and said, “That’s right.  They can’t come back either.”  We then gave Jim two more wildflowers.

At our house, I grabbed the book of pictures I had made for Sarah, of she and Jim together.  She had not wanted to look at this book in the past, but I thought maybe she’d want it now.  I was right.  She lit up and poured over the pictures this time.  I think she may have been mad at Jim for not coming back home.  I was able to distract her the last day of vbs by telling her we were going to Austin that night, and got her really revved up about that. 

What an incredibly exhausting week.  Sarah seems relieved to know where Jim is, but she seems to be really questioning his coming back.  Overall though, I think Sarah feels gentler and happier.

  1. Betty McNallen
    June 25, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you for the warning…but I am sitting here with eyes brimming with tears.
    We tend to make light about what kids say and do, but I am in Sarah’s camp: death doesn’t make sense to me either. She is lucky to have such a sensitive mother who can really listen to her and hear her needs beyond her ability to express them in words. Time will help and only time will help.

    • June 28, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      Yeah, I thought a warning would be kind. Now she wants to “dig Daddy out” because she saw the hole that was dug in front of Jim for Jack Anderson. I love that she’s trying to figure out a way to get him back, but I hate it too because I have to say “no” to all of her ideas until whenever she really understands. Although, she is now telling me, “can’t get back,” instead of asking. Thank you for the compliment. I’m trying so hard to understand her.

  2. Sue Cowan
    June 25, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    You are a wonderful, companionate, and sensitive mom. Bless little Sarah’s heart. The way you handled her questions was perfect. You have a way of talk to her in a way that she can understand. This won’t be the last time this comes up, but you will handle it well. I haven’t stopped praying. For you and Sarah.

    • June 28, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      Thank you, Sue. It feels good when I know you are still praying for us. Man, I need it…

  3. jon goodwin
    June 26, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Beckie you are an amazing woman and a wonderful mother. You are handling things to the best of your ability and doing an outstanding job. You have always held a space in my heart and I have always loved for who you are.. keep doing what your doing because your inspiring me. my girlfriend and I just lost our baby a week ago and it’s been real hard. but reading your post makes it better for me, it keeps me in perspective and not just blaming god or anything. so thank you for sharing your thoughts and know that it’s actually helping people

    • June 28, 2012 at 8:35 pm

      Oh, Jon. I’m so sorry. I was instantly in tears for you and Michelle. I hope your girls are ok about your loss. Although I’ve tried, I can’t imagine what you are going through. Thank you for the compliment, but you are quite a strong guy too. You’ve been through a lot in your life, and fought like a tiger for Hailey. You can get through this struggle too, but I am so glad I can help you in any way. It’s the reason why I lay it all out there like I do. I can’t believe I could inspire you because I always think of you and Hailey when Sarah asks me these odd questions since I know Hailey did it to you too. All of you have my love and hugs.

  4. Amy
    June 26, 2012 at 10:12 am

    You handled that so beautifully, Beckie. I think God has really blessed you with how you’re able to handle this situation with Sarah, especially when it’s such a difficult time for you as well. I don’t respond to your posts often enough, but just want you to know that I read every single one that you link to Facebook. You are a strong and wise woman and I pray for you and Sarah often.

    • June 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks Amy. It’s nice to know you are reading them. It feels like a hug. I’m olny getting stronger because I have been in, and am still going through, the forge. Honestly, I always feel a little better at the comic relief you provide on Facebook. Thank you for your prayers.

  5. Joni Topper
    June 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Wow. Words escape me having just read this. I am so thankful for you in Sarah’s life and her in yours. I always say that vacation Bible school is the hardest, funnest week of the year but this takes it to a new level. One the reasons VBS is so important to me is that I know there are children there who do NOT have the support system that you provide for Sarah and they desperately need some compassion both from us “earthlings” and from God. What a blessing to all of them to have had you last week as well as Sarah. God is so good about leading a precious yielded heart. Thank you for having one He can use! While you may have gotten a glimpse of how you were able to comfort sweet Sarah last week, you will probably never even know this side of heaven how many others you touched as well. Love you dearly!

    • June 28, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      I can only hope I am helping others. It’s really the only thing I can do right now. That and Sarah are the only things keeping me moving forward. Thank you and love you too!

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