My maternal grandmother, Olive, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because of her age and existing health conditions the treatment options are limited. My grandparents and their children have made the decision to pursue treatments to help guarantee a quality of life but not put her in any more discomfort for the sake of time. We are not sure how quickly the cancer will progress.
My children are very attached to their grandparents. My eldest daughter is named Hannah Olive after my grandmother. We live very close to Granny and Papa and spend holidays, special dinners and just afternoons in their company. This has provided an incredibly rich heritage and multi-generational paradigm for my children. A few days ago it was decided that they needed to have a better explanation of what is happening to their "Who-Who" and how this will ultimately effect them.
It was sweet to see their immediate concern for Who-Who and her comfort. Hannah especially wanted to understand how this cancer "got in" and whether Papa could catch it. She felt much better when we told her we would look in her body atlas book and learn more about cancer and how it works in the body. She was information driven and her need to process what the pancreas is, what a tumor looks like, how cancer comes to be all drove her ability to understand and handle the news. Bethany is our emotionally connected child and she wanted to know whether Who-Who had pain. Did it hurt? Could Bethany still hug Who-Who the next time we saw her? Maybe Who-Who would feel better if she brought her some flowers when we went over. It brought tears of joy to my eyes to see the connection they have with this wealth of experience and wisdom.
Later that evening however, the sorrow also hit and I held my little girls while they cried. Bethany is very sad that she will lose her Who-Who. Her concept of time is still childish so she became caught up in needing us to go over to Who-Who's house immediately. Hannah became withdrawn and quiet, feeling sad but not sure how to fully express it. She said over and over again that she would pray that Who-Who gets better and that Papa doesn't get sick.
We are beginning the journey of grief and loss in our children's little world. It makes us sad that we have to address this at all. Humans are designed, by God, to live eternally. Adam and Eve were never supposed to experience death and neither are we, so many generations later. Yet here we are, crying together over the knowledge that our beloved grandmother and great-grandmother does in fact have a limited life... on this earth. The blessing I can give my children is knowing that my grandmother trusts upon Jesus for her salvation. She is going to live beyond this death. "Parting is such sweet sorrow", for with the sadness of our goodbyes comes the anticipated joy of our reunion.