2 weekends ago, we were driving to the movie theater and Luke asked me a question that I was not ready for, but I thought might come at some point.
"Is daddy's body in the ground at the cemetery? Is he........like.......down there?"
We have never spoken about the specifics of Joe's actual body since he died. My children assumed that since daddy was in heaven, so was his body. I never told them otherwise. It is all very difficult and abstract for my young children. My general manner is to answer things as directly as possible but not offer additional information. They can't handle it. I can see by looking at their little faces that one question is enough for them, whatever question that might be. They take it in, and then they do something else, or change the subject completey. That is their way.
Luke usually typically asks me questions about Joe when he is on a high of some sort....when he's really happy and strong and feels like he can handle the answers. When I say "a high", I mean that he might be excited or hyper or really looking forward to something. This day his high was seeing Auntie Kim and Jesse and going to the movies.
When he asked me the question I said nothing. The first thing I thought of was Alyssa in the back seat with him. Though Luke may have learned or deduced what happens to a body when a person dies, Alyssa definitely had not. For the past two years I have talked to the kids, tried to explain to them about the difference between a body and soul, though never in terms of death and certainly never in terms of their father's death. This was all in preparation for when they would learn the truth about where their daddy's body is. But it's difficult for a child to understand, they are so literal, they want concrete proof of what a soul is. That's something I could not give them. It's hard to explain abstract ideas to a child, or at least it is for me.
We were driving and the music was on and it would have been easy for me to just not answer the question, and I definitely considered doing that. I felt like I didn't even know what to say, I felt completely stunned. Luke didn't ask again and I could tell his mind was just kind of racing from one thing to the next, he probably was already thinking of some other topic. I knew though, that I couldn't let this question slip by. I wanted to answer them truthfully so that they didn't make any of their own answers up in their little minds. After a few minutes I said, "What did you ask Luke?" and he repeated the question. "Yes", I said, "Daddy's body is in the ground at the cemetery".
"Can I talk to him?" Luke asked. "Hey, I can talk to him!"
I explained that yes, he could talk to him but he can also talk to him anywhere, anytime. I explained that daddy's body could not talk back, that the body in the ground is broken, and it does not work like the daddy that we knew.
"Can I go down there and see him?"
"No Luke, daddy's body is inside a box called a coffin. It's a beautiful wood box but you can't open it".
At that point I think the two of them pretended to talk to Joe for a little bit, being silly about what they would say to him. Alyssa pretty much took it all in stride. I think that at this point they might be able to actually understand that their daddy is in heaven AND in the ground. It's amazing really, it's a hurdle I have dreaded and never understood how I was going to explain to them without scaring them. And now the seed has at least been planted and there was no fear on their part and no additional difficult questions to confront at the time. They have not asked me about it since.
However, the bus passes by the cemetery where Joe is buried on their way home from school. Sometime recently Luke told me that he pointed to the cemetery on his ride home and told the kids that's where his daddy is. I cannot imagine what the kids thought about that information, but more than that, it rips my heart out that this is Luke's reality. It makes me intensely sad and angry that this is how things are. I have always felt angry in terms of myself visiting the cemetery. I get mad and resentful that I drop my kids off at school and go visit my husband at his grave. I often think how absurd it is, how if other parents knew what I did they probably wouldn't even know what to say about it. So it's like a secret, an angry, hateful, resentful, awful secret.
How did this happen?
After over two years I still ask myself how all of this could have transpired. My life, complete one moment, and completey upside down the next. A certain future one moment, a life full of promise and beautiful things. And in the next moment, a future of unknowns where nothing is certain. One moment I was married to a man that I was going to grow old with, we would take care of each other and watch our children grow. And in the next it was gone. Only me. Left.