By the middle of dinner, Hannah Rae said something about missing daddy, which is not uncommon and I told her I miss him too and she still had to eat her dinner. I wasn't trying to be insensitive. You see, Hannah Rae is slower than a sloth when it comes to eating dinner and we talk about Joshua all the time so she wasn't going to trick me into taking a walk down sad lane to avoid eating (I'm on to her). I just wanted her to eat.
Once Joshua comes into the conversation, it naturally evolves into questions about Heaven and why can't their dad be here with us etc. I have learned to answer these questions to the best of my ability with as much truth as possible while remaining vague at the same time. Tonight, I was faced with the more mature questions and did not realize our dinner conversation would take this turn so quickly.
Hannah Rae began talking about how she wished her daddy could come down from Heaven for breakfast and then go right back up. As if she knows that's where he is and that's where he is supposed to be, but she would like just one free pass and would return him and she chose breakfast. I love the way her little mind works and just smiled at her. I reminded her daddy is always with her, she just can't see him. He's always in her heart and that she can talk to him whenever she wants and Jesus will relay all of her messages. Then George said he couldn't wait to get to Heaven so he could see his daddy. I quickly replied with, "let's not get ready too soon OK buddy? Mommy would miss you." We then decided that we are going to let Jesus know we all want to go to heaven at the same time so nobody is "missed." I'm sure Jesus would appreciate our handling that decision for him :)
Somehow I don't really remember how, it was established that you had to die to go to Heaven. Once that was clear, the wheels were turning and asking more questions. Ones I never answered before and hoped and prayed another child at school or adult wouldn't tell them first. I was used to the "why did daddy have to go to Heaven" and "why can't our daddy be here with us" questions. These are answered with an honest, "I don't know" or sometimes a, "it was his time to go to Heaven and Jesus wanted him earlier than we would have liked." Tonight George asked me the harder question to answer. He asked, "how did he die?" I just stared at him in shock that he verbalized what I wondered if they ever thought about. I wanted to be the one to tell them and I was grateful in that moment that it was me they asked so I could answer it the way I felt right. I thought to myself, "here it goes."
I told them he died in a car accident. I let it out. What felt like a secret was out. George's little face was so sad and he asked, "what do you mean?" I told him that he was a little baby when it happened and that daddy went straight to Heaven after his car hit another car. I could tell they were worried if he was hurt or felt pain so I assured them he didn't feel anything and Jesus took him right away to Heaven. George and Hannah Rae both asked "how do you know he wasn't in pain?" I told them that people got to the car right away and said daddy had already gone to Heaven. They asked me if I saw him when it happened and I said "no." I have a feeling they are under the impression that his physical body floated up to Heaven and it was gone by the time people reached the car.
I finally told my kids how their dad died. However, I didn't feel like I could tell them that they were also in the back seat of the car. That would be too much, for me and for them. What I just told them was heavy information for a 4 and 6 year old to handle and I could tell they were still processing it. One step at a time. Kids are so resilient though and have this amazing capacity to focus on the good in life. Hannah Rae liked the idea of her daddy immediately going to Heaven and not feeling any pain. This sweet girl stood up and enacted her daddy being an angel and flying up into the sky.
The crazy thing is, I felt a sense of relief. My feeling of relief might seem odd, but it felt good to share the information that I had kept sealed tight from my kids. Like another layer of an onion being peeled away, I felt closer to letting go of what feels like a secret from them that they will eventually have completely peeled away in time. They are young and should only be expected to handle what is appropriate, but I also want to tell the truth, at the right time. They were able to ask the question unprompted so for me, it was the right time to answer. They asked if I "saw him," but not if they did or where they were. That will indeed be our next hurdle and I pray that again, I am the one they ask so I can be there with them for the answer. Praying, I can continue to build trust with these two little blessings I have and my kids can always have the faith of a child.