Hailey is 11 and she doesn't understand why her grandmother is so sick. She doesn't understand why she may die when the rest of us are just not ready to lose her. Her grandmother is in her 50s and no one is ready to say goodbye. But, her grandmother is sick and while we pray that it is still far away, one day her grandmother will die. Hailey's mom said, "if we don't understand it as adults, how the hell am I supposed to make her understand it." Well, the answer is that you can't. Death sucks and no matter how many people tell you that it's God's plan and that at least she won't hurt anymore... it still sucks. So, here is my answer to Hailey. I don't know why people leave us before we are ready, but it feels like this:
When someone you love dies, you feel like your heart is ripped out of you. There is a gaping hole left behind and it feels empty and numb but excruciatingly painful at the same time. You will wrap yourself in memories that will bring some comfort, but that hole will be there forever. And people will tell you that the pain will go away with time, but it doesn't. Instead, you find comfort in places you never would have noticed before.
One day you will be out somewhere and you will see a flower in the perfect shade of yellow that your grandmother would have loved. You'll see that flower and you'll think of her and at first it will hurt, but then you'll get a feeling like maybe that flower doesn't just remind you of her. Maybe she sent it to you, and suddenly you realize that maybe she isn't as far away as you thought.
Then another day you'll sit outside and the sky will be clear and blue, and there won't be a cloud anywhere. The weather will be so warm that your whole body relaxes and a gentle breeze will rustle through the trees. At that moment, you will think of her and you won't even really know why. And again you will realize it's because in that perfect and peaceful moment, she is there.
Some day you will have a really bad day. School will be hard or you'll fight with a friend and you'll just feel miserable. And maybe on this day when you are feeling so low you will wish that she was there to talk to or hug. But in that moment, you'll hear a song that she used to love or a stranger will say something to you that sounds exactly like something she used to say and you'll hear her in their words. She'll speak to you in ways you wouldn't expect to hear and you'll know that she is with you.
When you are much older, you will have your own babies. And it will hurt that she isn't there to meet them. You will wish that your babies would have known this woman who meant so much to you. But when your baby first looks at you, you will see your grandmother in the twinkle of your newborn's eye. You will see her in your baby's first crooked smile and you will see that she is a part of your baby, even though they didn't meet.
And later, much later you will have your own struggles. You will have to battle something you don't think you can face. You will want to give up and quit, and you will look yourself in the mirror thinking that life shouldn't have to be this hard. And when you look into your eyes staring back..... you will see her. You will see her face, strength, heart and love in yours and you will know that she never really left you at all, because she is inside of you. The very best parts of you came from her and you'll have that forever.
None of that will make losing her any easier. It isn't meant to. Losing someone you love is hard and no explanation of life and death is going to make you feel any better when it happens. All you can do is see that having her in your life has turned you into an extraordinary person and you'll feel her still when you least expect it. The hole that is left when she is gone will remain there forever, but day by day you'll take a little more comfort in the little things that are working to fill it.