Certain possibilities in our lives loom over us. Some of the more difficult ones haunt us. As grandparents raising grandchildren, we worry about a plethora of what ifs.
A few weeks ago, one concern became reality. Victoria’s father died. Some people might ask why this matters. After all, he didn’t play a significant part in her life. It’s true his contact with her consisted of occasional five-minute phone calls and gifts on special days. Yet, he was more present for her than her mother has been in the past three years. She didn’t have to worry about what he was up to or whether he would get in trouble with the law. He was the more stable parent.
Victoria faced this news in her typical way, she cried a moment then became hyperactive. Victoria is the queen of distraction, and she used those talents well to hide her confusion and grief. We got the news on Sunday afternoon. Once the hyperactivity started, I asked her what she wanted to do. I expected a request to talk to her Mommy, and I would have taken her to the detention center right then to make it happen. She didn’t ask for that. I asked if she wanted to talk to her father’s sister who called me. No, she didn’t want to do that. She doesn’t know his family well, and until the call came in, I never knew this particular sister existed. I asked if she wanted to go see his side of the family? No.
She asked to go to Target and Starbucks. That’s what we did.
The next day she went to school. She wanted to go. I called the guidance counselor and let her know the situation. I set up an appointment with our family counselor. Victoria didn’t want to talk about it, but she did tell a few friends. One friend refused to believe her.
Over the week, Victoria didn’t say much. I told the family I would bring her to the funeral if she wanted to go, but she wasn’t sure. I wasn’t going to push. Funerals are hard, and, at twelve, I didn’t want to force her to attend. She decided to go, so the day before the funeral I dragged a reluctant girl out to buy clothing appropriate for a funeral. Victoria doesn’t like dresses and our church is full of blue-jean-clad kids wearing tennis shoes. I stood firm on this one. She had to dress appropriately. She looked lovely, by the way.
Victoria, as his closest next of kin, led the procession into the sanctuary with me by her side. Behind us strung a long line of family members that she barely knew and who knew her father better than she did. One sister couldn’t make it down the aisle without help due to her grief. Victoria’s father’s casket lay open in the front of the altar. She had chosen not to view him prior to the service, so I think she didn’t anticipate the casket still being open when she came down the aisle. As these first few moments unfolded, I worried about her decision to attend. She sat between me and the aunt who I had never met and the tears poured out of her.
She cried through most of the service, but I believe it was good for her. Almost every one who spoke told her how much her father loved and talked about her. She needed to know that.
Life goes on. Now that I know more of her relatives, we’re going to try to help her know this side of her family. The situation in which I met her oldest aunt was not of my choosing, but I’m glad we’ve met her. She’s a spiritual woman who told us a few weeks before his death, Victoria’s father gave his life to Christ. He spent the last weeks listening to gospel music and reading the Bible. Did he know his time was short? I’ll never know. I’m just glad he made this decision and saw Victoria a few days before he died. He gave her a jewelry box he’d made for her birthday–the only gift he ever gave her that was a part of him.
A long list of what ifs haunt those of us raising our children’s children. We hope and pray we’ll never stand by our grandchild as they say goodbye to one of their parents. We know deep down in our souls that the likelihood of this happening is high. For those of you worrying about this concern, I’ll tell you what I learned. You can’t prepare for it so don’t try. Trust in God and focus on today’s challenges. Leave tomorrow for tomorrow.