“Mommy, Can You Tell Me What Happened?”

“Mommy, are you crying?”

“Yes.”

“Did you just now start crying because you miss daddy?”

“Yes, buddy.  I want people to remember him.”

“I remember him.”

“Yeah, Mommy.  I remember him, too.”

“I’m so thankful you do, boys.  You are a most wonderful gift to me.”

“Because we make you think of Daddy?”

“And because you remember him.  And because you are you.”

“He had a mustache.”
“And he played horsey with us.”
“And he died.  I remember that, too, Mommy.”
“He died so a new baby could be born.”

“No, no, that’s not why he died.  Babies are born all the time, but people don’t have to die for babies to be born.  People die when it’s time, and babies are born when it’s time.”

“Why did he die, Mommy?  He wasn’t even old.”

“I don’t know why, lovey.  He got sick really fast, and the doctors couldn’t help him.  He lived all the days God gave him.”

“But can you tell me how?  What happened?”

There it is.  This day has come.  Their cognition grows with each day, and with understanding comes questions. They seek to make sense of the insensible.

My little boys asked me to tell them how their dad died.

I watched them in the rearview mirror, and I told them the whole story.  They were patient when I paused to cry.

“Daddy didn’t have a spleen, and you need a spleen to fight infections.  He didn’t have his, so when his body got the infection, it couldn’t fight for him.  The good news is that you have a spleen, though.  So you don’t need to worry – your bodies can fight infection really well.”

“So, did Daddy’s fall out of him?”

“No, he was in an accident when he was fourteen.  He was sledding down a hill, and he ran into a tree.  His spleen broke apart inside him, and the doctors had to do surgery to take out all the pieces.”

“Why didn’t he turn his sled?  I wish he had looked up and turned his sled instead of running into the tree.  Because I’m in first grade now.  I play football.  He should be here.”

“I know, buddy.  He should be here.  But I really think he can see you.  I really think God lets him watch.”

“Do you think he can see us right now, Mommy?”

“You know what?  I really feel like he can.”

“I don’t know, Mommy.  The windows in the van are dark.  He might not be able to see through.”

“If God lets him watch us sometimes, then I’m sure nothing gets in his way.  Not even tinted windows.  I think he watches you sometimes, and I think he probably tells everyone in heaven about you.  I think he says, ‘Look!  That’s my boy, Tucker, the quarterback!  Watch – he’s about to throw the ball!’

And I think he says, ‘Look!  That’s my boy, Tyler.  He’s an artist.  Watch what he can make!’

‘Look!  Those are my boys.  Look how they love each other.  Look how they love their mom.  Look how they love God.’

I think he says those things to everybody in heaven.”

“Mommy, does his soul say those words, since he left his body here?”

Oh, these questions… “Yes, baby.  I believe that’s what happens.”

“Was Daddy sitting or standing when he died?  Where was he?”

“He was sitting on the floor in our bedroom, right under the window.”

“Were you there?”

“Yes, I was there.”

“What did you do? What did you say?”

“I worked so hard to help him stay alive.  I breathed my air into him, and I pushed on his chest to help his lungs keep working.”

“But then his heart just stopped, right?”

“Right.”

“And his lungs just stopped, right?”

“Right.  I heard his very last breath.  I was right there, buddy.  I listened to Daddy breathe his last breath.”

“What did you say?”

Oh, God.  Help me.  I wept as I answered my son.

“I held his face, and I grabbed his shirt, and I said, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,’ and those are the words he took with him to heaven.”

“What does it feel like to die, Mommy?”

“Well, I don’t know for sure, because I have never died.  But you know what I think?  I think an angel came to our house that night, or maybe many angels.  Daddy tried so hard to stay alive – I watched him trying so hard to stay with us.  And then I think an angel whispered to him, ‘It’s okay, Robb.  Tucker is okay, and Tyler is okay, and Tricia is okay.  And you can come to heaven now.  It’s time to go.’  And that’s when I think his soul left his body and he went to heaven.”

“Did he go through outer space to get there?”

“No, the Bible says that as soon as we leave our bodies, we are with Jesus, so I don’t think Daddy had very far to travel.  I think maybe it’s like he stepped into a new room he had never seen before.”

I parked the car in the lot at the grocery store.

“Mommy?  I can help you find the root beer for our floats.”

“Thank you, lovey.”

They unfastened their seatbelts. Tyler climbed into my lap, and Tucker stood behind the driver’s seat, smoothing my ponytail.

“Good Mommy.  Good Mommy.”  He petted my head, like a puppy.

Tyler jumped to the defense.  “Tucker, that doesn’t help her when you do that.  Don’t pet her. Don’t say, ‘Good Mommy.'”

“Actually, buddy.  That’s okay. He’s fine.”

“We can say that?  We can say ‘Good Mommy’?”

“Sure.”

He pet my nose.  (I’m okay with that, just this once.)

Tucker said, “Do you think Daddy can see you?”

“I think he can.”

“Do you think he knows you’re crying?”

“You know, buddy, I feel like maybe he does today.”

Tucker opened the van door and stepped out onto the sidewalk.  He leaned his head back, looked up at the sky, threw his arms wide, and said, “Good Daddy.  Good Daddy.”

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16 thoughts on ““Mommy, Can You Tell Me What Happened?”

  1. Greg and I are in tears. Too precious for words, but somehow you and the boys found them.

  2. Such a powerful post, Tricia. Kids are awesome… so honest and truthful and always right at the heart of the matter…aren’t they? You are doing an amazing, awesome work with them.

  3. Oh mercy. That one got me to the core just as if I was learning of it for the first time myself. Bless your soul. Way to go “good mommy”! What a testimony to the grace and sustaining power you have in Christ! ((Hugs)) You are amazing!

  4. I have been a long time reader, and always have said prayers for you, but never commented. I have to on this one. This is one of the most beautiful, heart wrenching, amazing posts I have ever read. I am crying yet feel so … well I don’t even know the word for this feeling. Maybe peaceful? You have the most beautiful family. Hugs to you and God bless you!

  5. I’ve never written you before and I just finally had to write and say thanks, thanks for helping me to feel, for letting me have the honor of feeling your pain and it feels as though I get to live your life (a small part) with you through your blog and I feel honored! I heard you speak at the Chapel, I know jennie underwood well, and I recognize you from earlier days at the chapel though I didn’t “know” you. Tricia, I just love you! I pray for you! I pray for your boys and OH how words cannot describe what your words have done in my life, maybe someday I’ll get to tell you!
    Sybil lambert
    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  6. Wow. I was already sobbing, but that last line just finished me off. God has blessed you with amazing boys.

  7. Tears. For what you went through, losing your husband over a matter of hours. For what I went through, losing mine to brain cancer over a year and a half. For what my new husband went through, losing his first wife to MS over the 29 years of their marriage. There is no easy way. Thank you for expressing this for all of us. Thank God we have not only our good memories but our Great Expectations!

  8. It’s so beautiful- you are exactly what they need. God has given you the highest calling!

  9. Oh my. Tears running down my cheeks. Beautiful and heart-wrenching all at once. I love you. I love your boys. I love Jesus for giving you the writing voice you have to share the way you do with us.

  10. That was amazing. I just ditto the comments above. I am going to share this with one of my best friends who lost her husband almost 2 years ago. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Oh Tricia! My heart breaks for you to have to try and help them understand. My kids are older so I did not have to have that kind of conversation but I have had moments when I just didn’t care about their grief. Mine was enough all by itself. I can’t imagine carrying the responsibility of little ones at the same time. Our stories are so very similar. God is still good even in the midst of such sadness.

  12. The tears are flowing. I love how honest you are with them. You always seem to know what to say.

  13. My cousin just lost her husband to a brain aneurysm in March 2012. She has two boys also but they are older than yours. (20 and 14) Some times I am at a loss for words to help her. Just like you, her faith is helping. Thank you for your honest and heart felt blog. I’ll encourage her to follow you.

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