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01/15/2010

"Is His Dad Going to Die?"

Lemon blossom green "I'm afraid he will," I answered.  I just told my four year old daughter that her friend's father was very sick.  I shared that even though he had surgery just a month ago, the doctors couldn't fix his body.  She said "His mom is going to be really sad."  I agreed with tears in my eyes.

The truth is, this whole family will experience sadness I cannot even imagine.  The mother is eight months pregnant.  The father has cancer that had him hospitalized for over a week in early December and was just re-diagnosed as terminal.  The four year old and two year old boys were unable to see him in the hospital due to H1N1 risks and now witness him receiving hospice care at home.

My daughter asked if his arms still worked.  I told her that they did and that he can hug his sons any time he wants.  He can still talk and tell his family how much he loves them.

We talked about cancer and disease.  I reminded my sweet girl about other people we know, including her great grandfather and one of her good friends, who had cancer and survived.  I reassured her (and myself) that what is happening to her friend's father is very rare. 

Then we moved on to what makes people healthy.  "We eat healthy foods and exercise to help our bodies not get diseases," I said.  "Maybe his dad ate bad food," she concluded.  "Actually, sometimes bad diseases happen even to people who try to be healthy," I admitted. "We just do what we can to stay healthy and hope our bodies can fight off disease."

Talking with my daughter about this and processing it myself are deep conversations I would rather not have.  But real life includes death and pain.  I want my daughter to know why different people bring her friend to preschool every day.  I don't want her to wonder about words heard in passing whispers.  I talk candidly about disease and cancer hoping that she can develop a real sense of what they are without unfounded fears.

Soon, I’m sure that I will talk with the same candor about funerals.  I know she will ask what it looks like when people die and what happens to their body.  Frank talk is hard, especially when so many speak about death in euphemisms.  My belief is that by answering tough questions I am giving my daughter a foundation upon which to build strength in difficult situations and an honest world view.

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Rachel Tayse writes about more lively subjects like gardening and cooking at Hounds in the Kitchen.

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