On Simple Words for Big Concepts

September 3, 2007


My father in law has battled stage 4 lung cancer since a surprising diagnosis in April of this year. A few days ago, after several painful days in the hospital and his blessing, the family started hospice for him and was told it would only be a matter of days before we lost him.

It was now time to have that discussion with The Swimmy for the first time in her little life. I was a little unclear about how to fill in some of the details, but thanks to two friends named Wendy I got some good advice and Husband and I sat down to talk with her about her Grandpa Gene.

She was sad, and I think seeing her Daddy cry was a little surprising to her, but I believe it went okay. She asked good questions and we answered them truthfully.

In the hours that followed, she had some more questions – some I anticipated, some I didn’t. It’s charming to me that even through our sadness and other mixed emotions that we can still find kid-logic-induced humor in the midst of this. As I was tucking her in, this is how it went,

“Mommy, how does Grandpa Gene get buried? I mean, how does he get in the ground?”

“Well, some men who work at the cemetery will dig a hole to help.”

“But won’t he get dirty?”

“No, sweetie, he won’t. He will be in a special box made of wood called a coffin so he won’t get dirt on him.”

“Well, but what about his clothes? How will he get them?”

“He doesn’t need his clothes any more. So it’s okay.”

”You mean he’ll be naked?!”

”No, he’ll have clothes on. But he won’t need any other ones.”

“Oh. But won’t he get sweaty?”

“No, Boo Boo, he won’t. When you die you don’t need your body any more – and it doesn’t work any longer. So your body stays here and the special part inside of you and the little piece of G-d go up to be with G-d and watch over everyone you love.”

“Just like Earline?”


“So they’ll be together?”


“That’s good for them. But I’ll still miss them.”

“Me, too.”

Every day she asks if Grandpa Gene is gone and I tell her not yet, but he’s resting comfortably. She seems okay with that. I’m sure there will be more questions, but in the meantime we wait.

Grandpa Gene & Swimmy

G-d bless her Grandpa Gene.

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5 Responses to “On Simple Words for Big Concepts”

  1. Sara Says:

    Gah — too much cancer. Take care; thinking of you, especially the Swimmy.

  2. Kathryn in NZ Says:

    Thoughts be with you all

  3. Jen Says:

    Aw …. I am very saddened to read this.
    I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers…

  4. Aunt Mary Says:

    xoxo — big hugs tomorrow, when our family gets into town.

  5. Bill Says:

    “Sorry to hear” is so inadequate, but you know how I feel.
    My thoughts are with you and your famiily.
    Take care.