I've always released balloons for Denise on her birthday (which is coming up quick). Sal has always been a part of it, and Carla was present, but not a participant last year. With another balloon release on the horizon, I wondered if they would ask questions this time, since they are older (and Sal is very inquisitive).
Sal and I have had discussions in passing about Heaven (which he actually thinks is someone named Kevin's house in the clouds), but being that we aren't religious at all, I kind of just stopped at ,"Heaven is a place we like to think that good people go when they die." He seems okay with that, and actually named some of our deceased relatives and told me they're at Kevin's.
I have talked about Denise here and there over the years. We have a few " D" ornaments for our Christmas tree, and there's a few keepsake pieces of jewelry in my jewelry box with her initials that he's asked about.
He knows his mom and dad had a baby before him, and that the baby wasn't healthy enough to stay alive and come home. He knows we let balloons go on her birthday in hopes that they reach her in Heaven and let her know we love her always. But that's it. He's never seen any tangible evidence of this said "big sister".
Until last night.
I keep baby books for my kids. They're up in our linen closet, stored just a bit higher than my fingers can reach. Last night Sal asked to see his baby book as we scrolled through my Instagram feed reminiscing on all the good times we've caught on camera...I could just barely get my fingers on the book, and as I pulled it out, all of my albums fell down at our feet. Sal helped me pick them up and put them back away, and asked me about each book as he handed them to me (yes, before the era of iPhones, we actually took pictures, developed them and arranged them in albums...I've got scrapbooks upon scrapbooks of mama 'fore she was mama). He came across one with a Z in the little square frame on front and opened it.
He saw little footprints and asked if they were Gino's.
" No, honey. Those are Denise's footprints."
"Mama, they're so small!"
"Mama, what's this? (Pointing at her ultrasound pictures)...is this Denise in your belly?"
"Yes, that is a picture of her in my belly."
"When she was alive,mama?"
"Yes, when she was alive."
"But then she died because she was sick, right mama?"
"Yes, baby. She was sick"
" But not me, right mama? I'm healthy. That's why I'm alive."
"Good. Cause I don't want to go to Kevin's without you."
***conversation over because I couldn't contain my laughter at his mention of Kevin, yet again ***
So yeah, we're getting through life after loss, and I suppose this is what it looks like while explaining it to a four year old, seven years later.
I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, or if there really even is a right way to teach kids about life and loss. I'm just letting my kids lead and I will follow. While there are many people who would try to protect their kids from the ugliness of life, I feel like age appropriate discussions will keep conversation going as they get older and have more questions--at least that's my hope!
And on this Mother's Day, where I feel more than lucky to have my three healthy babies here on earth, I miss the one that made me a mother first.