I don't know if I have mentioned but I plan to print this blog as a book for Michael when we are done with chemo. And since chemo has been pretty routine lately, I have decided to share some Michael stories with all of you that I find humorous or meaningful that I would like to be remembered. Here is one of those stories.
Michael seems to have a lot of questions lately about what happens when we die - and he has only had more since we lost Chance. Not in a scary way but just in the curious way of a five year old. And I am trying to decide if it is an "age" thing or an "I have a bump in my head and spend a lot of time at the hospital" thing. I know I am probably worrying about nothing but Michael first asked about dying on July 22, 2007 so it is kind of a sensitive subject for me.
"How in the world can she remember the date?" you may ask yourself. Well, let me tell you the story.
Michael was 6 months old when my mother passed away. She and I were very close and the thing that made me the saddest about her passing was that Michael would never have a chance to know her and vise-versa. When Michael was born, my mother knew her time with us may be short so she always wore Vanilla Fields perfume when she was around Michael so that whenever he smelled vanilla, he would subconsciously remember her (she had read that somewhere).
In my own way, I have tried to keep her alive for Michael by showing him pictures and telling him stories about her. To explain where she was now, I simply told him that she had been very sick for a long time, had gone to the hospital, and they couldn't make her better so she had gone to Heaven. (Can you see where this is going?)
Well, the very first night we were in the hospital in Rochester (July 22, 2007) it was just Michael and I in his hospital room. Everyone else had gone to the hotel so he and I were settling down for the night. Out of the blue he innocently asked me "Mommy, why do people in the hospital go to Heaven? Why can't they just go home?"
He had voiced my worst fears out loud and I remember feeling my heart sink. And I knew what his sharp little mind was thinking - he had been sick for a long time, he was now in the hospital and...
To be honest, I can't remember what I told him but whatever it was, it satisfied him because he laid down quietly and went to sleep. I, on the other hand, sat by his bed in the dark and cried for hours.
I am happy to report that Michael now understands that the kind of sick my mother was and the kind of sick that he is are VERY different and that he will always be coming HOME from the hospital. Since that night, he has asked about cemeteries and what happens when people die - just normal curiosity. But lately he seems to be asking with more frequency.
My Dad has kept my mother's remains with him - in a box, on the dresser in the bedroom they shared. Someday, when the time comes, they will go to the cemetery together. That's the way he wants it. Whenever I visit Dad, I make a point of going into the bedroom and paying my respects to Mom.
A couple of weeks ago, as I was saying hello and telling her how much I missed her, Michael wandered into the room. He asked me what I was doing and I explained to him that the blue box contained the remains of my mother and I was visiting with her. He said "oh" and went back to the living room to play with his toys or try to make friends with the cat or eat Dad's cookies or something.
A couple of weeks later, I was watching a news program and a gentleman was talking about his late wife and showed the box with her remains. Michael looked up from the picture he was drawing and said "Look Mama. That is just like your mother."
"Yes. It is," I answered.
And with that, Michael went back to drawing. Then, without looking up he asked the question I had been both waiting for and dreading. "How did they get your mother in that little box?"
I have always been honest and straightforward with my children and my mind raced on how to explain cremation to a 5 year old without totaling freaking him out. I took a deep breath. Looked him straight in the eye and said "I don't know Buddy."
He thought about that for a moment and said "Oh. Well. Pop-pop is old so when he dies we'll find out how they get them in that little box."
I guess I should be comforted by the casual way with which Michael asks his questions. On the other hand - Dad's afraid that Michael always gets what he wants and Michael wants to know how they are going to fit him in that little box...
Please keep Michael in your thoughts and prayers, JoAnne.