Friday, October 4, 2013

“I want Ciacia back!”

“I want Ciacia back!”
“I want Ciacia back.  I want her to come back.  Now.”
Then it clicked in my head.  My tearful six year old was talking about my aunt, my dad’s sister who went by Ciacia.  She had passed away the previous spring after a very long battle with cancer.
“Honey, she can’t come back.  She is in heaven and has to stay there.”
“But I want her back.  She was the nicest, bestest person ever, and I need her to be here right now.”
That’s when I turned into a fish.  I mean, my mouth kept opening and closing, but no words would come out.  I had no idea what to say.  I was completely blindsided.  If this had happened months ago, closer to the death, I would have been more prepared because I would have expected it.  But not that day.  Not on a sunny October afternoon as we walked home from the bus stop.  I looked at my daughter’s genuinely sad eyes and my own welled up, too.
“I know.  I want her back, too.  We all do.  But she has to stay where she is.”
Came across this on our trip to Ukraine.
That's her name and it was a neat reminder
that she is still with us in spirit.
Then I admitted what I do when I am missing her.  Actually, I do it on an almost regular basis and have always been a little scared to admit it because it seems pretty crazy.
“When I miss Ciacia, I talk to things that remind me of her, things we got from her.  She gave us the dryer, you know, and that always reminds me of how much she loved our family.”
So my little girl went into the laundry room, closed the door behind her, and had a private conversation with the dryer.
I know this sounds very odd.  And picturing it, picturing us talking to our dryer, is almost giggle inducing.  But if you knew my aunt you would understand how hard it is to let go of her.

When my grandmother died, my older daughter was pretty shaken.  Even though she was just a preschooler, she and my grandma had a special bond.  She visited Great Marge often, playing simple games with her or just dancing around her room to make her smile.  My grandma had dementia and couldn’t remember most people, but she remembered Margie or The Margaret Baby (my daughter was named Sofia-Margaret after my grandma who liked to forget the Sofia part).  After Great Marge died, my daughter started keeping a picture of her in special places (now it is on the bookshelf next to her prized hockey trophy) and carrying a handkerchief Great Marge had given her.  She says these things help her remember Great Marge and how much she loved her.

She never forgets to visit Great Marge's memorial.  That's the handkerchief in her hand.
It is really hard to help children through loss when we ourselves are wrecks inside.  With my girls, all I can do is be honest with them.  The people aren’t coming back and it hurts and it sucks.  Together, we try to focus on the memories and the lasting legacies.  How are their spirits continuing on?  What projects did they set in motion?  What lessons did they teach us which we can now put into action?  We try to remember how much they loved us and how much we loved them.  We try to honor them by living good lives.  And we hug each other and cry sometimes.  And sometimes we talk to the dryer.

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