When John Badalament’s father-in-law was dying, it took John’s 5-year-old son to help him find the right words.
“IS GRAMPS GOING TO DIE?”
That was the question on everyone’s mind last Wednesday morning, the day my children’s beloved Gramps eventually passed away at the all-too-early age of 68. As 5-year-olds will do, my son, Jake, asked questions that laid bare some unspeakable truths about love, loss, and the great mystery of life itself—that we don’t have all the answers, that our hearts can be as fragile as they are strong, that we don’t necessarily know the way forward.
Jake’s journey to make sense of his grandfather’s death has been a gift to our family. I want to share some of the wisdom we’ve found in his simple, honest questions and statements over the last week. My hope is that something from the heart of this boy will resonate with others.
The day before Gramps passed away, my wife and I sat our kids down and had one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had. My friend, Donna, the director of The Children’s Room, had given us a few key points, but we didn’t prepare much. The plan was to keep it simple and concrete, reassure them that all of us were okay, and let our emotions show. We explained that Gramps was very sick (as they’d known for many months) and that no matter what the doctors tried, no matter how much we loved and prayed for him, he was not going to get better.
“Is Gramps going to die?” Jake asked immediately. My wife and I looked at each other. For the first time in this difficult journey, my wife definitively faced this awful truth: “Yes, Gramps is going to die.” We both shed a few tears, and then she continued. “We don’t know when, but it’s going to be soon because he is so sick.”