When I was a teenager, my Mom made me a blanket. It was half really special, and half really embarrassing. (#mommysawkwardphase) It was one part patchwork quilt, and one part childhood memories. She printed pictures from my childhood on fabric and sewed them on to the quilt. She passed away several years ago, but the blanket has stayed, and eventually it found a place in my older son, William’s room. At bedtime, he has a ritual of asking questions, and one night the blanket came into question.
“Mom, who’s this?” he asked, pointing to a square. “That’s Mommy’s Mommy”, I said. “Your Grandma Linda.” I’ve mentioned her in passing before, but always wondered how I would explain this hugely important person in my life who would never be a physically part of his. The question I’d been anticipating and dreading forever came next. “Well, where does she live?”
William is full of questions. Some are inane, and we gloss over them after answering them for the 37th time. But some are filled with a deep curiosity and attempt to understand the world beyond his four walls. As he asked more questions about my mom, I was faced with the question I’d always known would come up
How do you explain death to a child?
Will is young- he is almost 4, so while he is a really bright boy, there are still limits to what he can truly comprehend. We explained to him that Grandma was really sick, and sometimes, someone gets so sick the doctors can’t fix it. Now, she lives in heaven. That satisfied the curiosity of the moment, but leaves the question- who was this Grandma Linda person anyway?!
Parenting without your parents is tough. There are times I gloss over my Mom’s death- it’s been nearly ten years now. But there are times that it feels like just yesterday. The things that take you back to a moment in time can make that moment feel so fresh. I’ve learned that grief is a process, but it ebbs and flows. Sometimes it’s almost stale, and other times it’s horribly new.
Keeping Memories Alive
In answering William’s questions, sharing these memories brings a new feeling to the loss of my Mom. As he gets a little older and wants to learn more about these things, I am able to share pieces of my history and pieces of her. We have special things we do together- William loves to cook- and when we do, I talk about how my Mom and I used to cook together. We cook her recipes, and I tell him stories about his Grandma.
She was also an avid knitter and sewer, and made so many clothes for her grandchildren, which we have continued to pass down. The other day, Will pulled a winter hat out, put it on his head and proclaimed, “This is the hat that Grandma Linda made for me!” It was a special moment- bittersweet. While he won’t ever meet her, she is still woven into the fabric of his life and his childhood in a million tiny ways.