It's been one of those days. I don't know why this day more than others, but it probably has something to do with your sister Sophia's rat, Emma, dying this week.
Death is on your mind.
And so tonight when I stepped out of my office and into the dining room where you were drawing a picture, I wasn't prepared when out of the blue you said, "But it's not fair that I never got to see her."
Out of context of course, I didn't know what you were talking about. "What, Sawyer? What are you talking about?"
"Grace," you said. "It's not fair that I never got to meet Grace, and I never got to see her alive, and I didn't get to meet her. I miss my sister."
Your other sister, Sophia, who was sitting across the room got up and came to your side and gave you a hug.
"Why did she die? I don't understand. How did she die?"
The questions starting coming in rapid succession.
And when I sucked in my breath, asked if you wanted to sit next to me and talk about it, you quickly said, "Yes. Yes."
And so we sat side by side for almost 30 minutes as you asked all kinds of unanswerable questions and tried to then answer them for us when you were not satisfied with my answers. Most of the time I just kept giving you those hopeless, utterly frustrating responses, "I just don't know."
There were pauses between our sentences.
"Were you sick recently?"
"Have I been sick lately? Well, I didn't feel well last month."
"Maybe that's why Grace died. Maybe because you were sick when she was inside of you and so she just died."
"Oh, was I sick when Grace was inside of me?"
"Well, I was sick actually when she was inside of me, yes. I had a terrible flu. But then I was sick when you were inside of me, and I was sick when Sophia was inside of me. Lots of people get sick with babies in their tummies."
"Did she not want to see me?"
"No, Sawyer, no. That's not it at all. She would have loved to see you."
"I just miss her. I just miss her alot."
"Me too. Me too."
And so it went. And then I took out her album, and we continued sitting side by side, and we looked at the few pictures of her that we have. Mostly she is wrapped up in blankets, mostly she is hiding up against my chest, mostly the pictures too are inadequate in describing who she was."
Mostly, the whole entire thing is so inadequate that trying to talk to my seven-year-old son about it seems to fall impossibly short.
Two nights ago, you started crying in bed while Papa was trying to read to you. You couldn't stop crying and finally, finally told Papa you couldn't tell him why you were crying, but you would write it on a sheet of paper.
"I want to se ema" is what the sentence said.
Emma was Sophia's rat who died three days ago. Sawyer was already asleep in bed when we discovered her. She was not in very good shape when we found her. And so Terry carefully wrapped her up in a paper towel and placed her inside of a baggie.
"Should we keep her in case Sawyer wants to have a burial?" Terry asked me.
"Sure," I said half-convincingly because who really wants to store a dead rat in their freezer?
And you cried some more and finally asked Papa, "Can I see her again?"
"Yes," Papa said, "You can see a part of her-because she's wrapped up-and then we can bury her and say goodbye." And that seemed to satisfy you a little bit as you drifted off to sleep.
"I didn't get to tell Grace I love her, mama. I didn't get to say goodbye."
"No Sawyer you didn't. But a piece of her is with you. She would have loved to have been your big sister."
And I would have loved to have been her mother on this earth, in this life, in this world.
Yes, Sawyer, yes I miss her too. A lot. But I am grateful beyond what I can possibly express that you are here to share your grief with me. I will listen to you. I will be here for you. And I will grieve with you. And together we will never forget your sister who would have loved to watch you grow up, who would have loved to go to your soccer games and cheer you on just like we all do. She would have loved to be here too. I'm certain of that.