It was an ordinary day full of wanna-and-gotta-get-dones, and Oscar and I were plowing our way through the chores. At the end of the day, satisfied but tired, we decided we needed a rest. And since our son-in-law was working late, we invited our daughter Amy and her two little girls to join us for a dinner out.
The meal was full of laughter and child-chatter and a wonderful energy boost for both of us. Then Oscar’s cell phone rang. Watching his face, I could tell the call involved something serious when I heard him say, “I’m really so sorry to hear that.” He moved to a more private place to finish his conversation and returned to us looking sad.
“What happened?” I asked and he told me that an acquaintance of ours, someone we knew back in Maryland, had died. We talked briefly about what a truly nice person she had been.
Our 5-year-old granddaughter Jayden sat listening next to Oscar and read the sadness in his face. As he resumed his seat, she stood up on her chair and moved closer to him. Putting her hand on his shoulder and at eye level with him she told him with a very serious and sincere look, “But Poppa, you still have us.”
I could see his face relax as her words warmed his heart and her insightful support soothed the sadness we all were feeling. And the moment left me with a flurry of thoughts about the wisdom of children. In the company of adults, I think they listen attentively to conversations not directed at them and absorb the emotion, if not the content, of what is being said.
Amy and I have learned to be cautious about speaking about what we feel if it’s not necessary for them to know. Sometimes, to maintain our privacy, we spell certain words. But since Jayden is learning to read and write in school, we have recently resorted to pig Latin at certain moments.
What surprised me the most about Jayden’s intuitive understanding about death as a sad moment for friends and family and her realization that she had something to offer – hope and comfort. The words she chose still resonate in my mind and heart. She is right. We need to be grateful at such sad times for the blessings of each day and appreciate the here and now.
And this incident has made me more aware of the fact that our emotions are almost always reflected on our face and in our voice, regardless of the words we may be speaking. When we’re sad or hurt or angry or happy, the message goes out through our expressions. And even young children have the skill to read what our faces are saying.
Death may be a complicated issue for them to absorb and comprehend, but Jayden saw that Oscar was sad and sought to help him. She offered her understanding and support. “But Poppa, you still have us” will always comfort both of us and remind us to cherish our life and the people in it.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”