Even two years after the fact (and almost 4 years since my Dad's death) I'm occasionally blindsided by a rogue wave of crushing grief.
Tonight I'm helping my Mom babysit my nieces, aka The Dynamic Duo. They're 4 and 6-years-old and open to new experience and information in the way that only young children can be.
Out of the blue the 4-year-old turned to me and said, "How did Pop-pop get to the angels?"
"He got sick and then he went to sleep and didn't wake up," I replied as the tiny pilot who steers me through these moments sprang into action.
"But how do you get to the angels? Where are they?" the 6-year-old pressed.
"I don't know. It's complicated."
"You disappear?" asked the 4-year-old.
"M's Uncle Cookie died yesterday. Maybe he'll be friends with Pop-pop."
And after holding it together through job interviews, follow-up NICU visits, memorial services, baby showers, and so many other challenging events and conversations, the pilot was finally outmaneuvered by the storm.
I left before they could see me crying for R, Dad--for poor Uncle Cookie, struck down by leukemia in his early 30's. Uncle Cookie who called R's death a tragedy when he knew his own days were numbered.
Why do my beautiful, innocent nieces even have to think about the mechanics of reaching heaven? Why can't their sad excuse for an aunt believe that heaven exists?