If you are reading this, there is a more than likely chance that you have experienced loss in your lifetime to some degree or another. Whether it was a beloved childhood pet, an elderly grandparent, a friend or your spouse, death is a part of life and we all face loss at some point. This year is no different. In February, I lost my beloved husband in an accident at 32 years old. It was unexpected and sudden. Not too long after, our four year old, Margot, started to put together that most adults she knew may not have lost their spouse, but at least had a dog at some point that also died. The question phase pre-schoolers go through is a hard one all parents can relate too. It is especially hard when the answers to their questions will not be revealed in this life. They have the exact same questions we all do when it feels like someone was taken too soon.
Margot began to go around asking people if they had a dog when they were little. She would get them to talk and open up about their childhood pet and then hit them with, “Did it die?” This would throw a lot of people off, but It was an honest question. Heaven is just as illusive to a child as it is to us. She wanted to know who else was up there with her daddy. She wanted to know if everyone, from her teachers to a stranger in the checkout line at Target, also had a connection to Heaven and quickly found that the relatively short lifespan of pets was an almost surefire way to establish this connection. I’ve learned when talking with children about grown up things it is important to be direct and honest with them, but only tell them what they need to know. They have to process everything too.
Taylor lost his grandfather in the spring of 2002 during his freshmen year of high school. Around the same time, his family began leasing a neighboring ranch from an older couple named Willie and Hazel. Willie became a huge influence in Taylor’s life and someone I consider myself very blessed to have had the opportunity to know. The best way I can describe Willie is salt of the earth. He loved Taylor like his own son, and made sure to tell him often. Taylor and I always looked forward to visits with Willie and the girls adored him. Hazel passed away two months before Margot was born. When Margot was only 4 weeks old, Taylor and his dad were burning sacaton at Willie’s ranch. I brought Margot out for the day and my newborn and I rode around with Willie in his pickup monitoring the controlled burn. This will always be one of my favorite memories of life on the ranch.
“For god so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16
Willie passed away this July at 87 years old. I took the girls to visit with him the day before we left to spend time with my parents this summer. We talked on the phone several times while we were gone and he always made sure to leave no doubt how much he loved you. That is just one example of something I learned from Willie that I will try to emulate in my other relationships. I was nervous about sitting my four year old down for a second time this year to tell her what I feared her tender heart couldn’t take. I made sure to be clear and tell her very matter of fact that our friend died. Margot took some time to digest this information and after some tears, seemed glad that somebody she knew, that she would remember, that she loved was in Heaven with her daddy. She was comforted to know they were together and she knew where to mentally place him.
After losing her husband, Taylor’s grandmother remarried the man our girls knew as “Papa David.” Taylor’s grandfather (Bob), David and Willie were all the “him” people refer to when they say, “they don’t make them like him anymore.” A couple weeks ago I sat Margot down once again. I said that I needed to tell her some sad news and that Papa David died. She looked me straight in the eyes and said with the innocence and conviction of a four year old, “That is not sad. That just means he is with God now and is watching over us.” I let her know she was absolutely right, but that didn’t mean we wouldn’t still be sad. Even Jesus wept. Losing someone will always be sad for those they leave behind, but what happens to a believer when they die is the furthest thing from sad. We can be forever grateful that God loved the world so much to send Jesus to atone for our sins. We can be forever thankful that His love for us has taken any true sadness out of death. As we enter a holiday season that probably looks nothing like any of us planned, remember to be thankful because we are all a part of God’s plan. We don’t need to dwell on the sadness of cancelled dinners or family visits. Tell the people you love how much you love them and give thanks that God loves every single one of us even more.
Copyright © 2021 M. Marley, LLC