Sunday, August 16, 2009
Explaining death to a 5 year old....
This picture was taken the last time we saw my father-in-law, Marty or AKA "Grandpa Marty". He has been battling Crohn's disease all of his life and has been very sick on and off for quite some time. He actually was going to cancel the trip to meet us in NY because he was recovering still from being very sick. This was in May and we knew it would be a special trip to take the boys to see a Mets game with Grandpa Marty, but I would have never guessed it would be our last time together.
We drove down, which is about 5 hours from us to pick up my FIL from the airport and drive to the hotel near the new Mets stadium. It ended up being a dive of a hotel, but we made the most of it! We had some time before the night game to grab some dinner so we decided on Chinese. Since Marty worked at JFK for years and knew the city pretty well, he wanted to try and find a really good authentic restaurant. So, we asked one of the driver's and away we went!
I have never had such great Chinese food before. It was extremely fresh. I remember what we all ordered to. It's like family style, so you order platters of things and pick out what you want. Of course I got the kids sweet & sour chicken (which is fried) so I also ordered vegetable lo mein, grilled chicken and broccoli, and Marty got steamed fish (he was trying to be good). But the longer we sat, the more me and Marty started to pick at all the left over food- there ws no way of eating it all.... Of course, Marty wanted to take it with us.
We freshened up and went off to see the Mets! We were all decked out in our gear. We had our Mets hats, Dylan in his Met shirt, Adam in his Met Jersey and he gave Marty a Met jacket. Dylan belongs to a Kid's fan club so he got all kinds of cool stuff like a lanyard, backpack, and hat! We were on our way to find our seats (which weren't the best, but not the worst) and Adam said he had to go off to the ticket office to get something that came with Dylan's flan club pack. Minutes later, Jen (from the Pepsi giveaway crew I think) came up to us and says we have been randomly selected to get an upgrade on our seats!! I called Adam immediately so we could go check out our new seats which was only a few rows away from the field! It was crazy... Adam had been talking about bringing his dad to a game for awhile and we actually did it and got this awesome upgrade!
Marty was a trooper. He had restless leg syndrome as well as severe gout in his legs right before he came, but he sat through most of the game, clapped and laughed with the kids, and of course made some jokes which he was famous for :)
I am so glad we got this time with him because we rarely get to see Adam's parents who lived in Florida. Once we had the kids, we started only coming once a year right after we visited Disney which became the tradition.
Over a month ago, Adam got a call that he should get down there ASAP because his dad was back in the hospital and he was not doing well. He seemed to be going back and forth with his heath but it didn't look good, so Adam went down as soon as possible. At that point, he was on life support and unresponsive. As the days went on, the prognosis got worse. Other family came to see him, so Adam came back home and we had to start planning on the worse case scenario and how we would all get down there, and then there's telling Dylan.... We decided to wait until we knew for sure what was going to happen. He knew Daddy was visiting Grandpa Marty in the hospital because he was very sick.
This was one of the hardest things we had to do.... look Dylan in those big blue eyes and tell him Grandpa Marty was dying. How do you explain this to a 5 year old? We thought about it for awhile before we actually approached him together. As Adam began to explain how sick he was, Dylan's eyes grew bigger and I could see the anxiety inside him, he knew. We had talks about death so we think he understands when we told him what was happening. He cried some and snuggled up on my lap. We wanted to be as open with him as possible and encouraged him to ask questions, which he did. At this point, Me and Adam were crying a bit and then Dylan looks up and asks "What are eyebrows for?" OK, we burst into laughing. Adam actually answered the question (in great detail) and then we talked about Grandpa Marty some more.
A couple days later, they decided to take him off life support knowing that he would not want to go on like he was. We started the 24 hr. drive to Fl, stopping once half-way through. Dylan knew that when we got to FL, we would stay awhile and end up going to a funeral which was explained to him at home. We were in the car, when we got the news that He had passed away. Luckily Adam's sister got to be with him.
I don't think we told Dylan right away, I think we may have waited until we stopped to rest. In fact, I think he actually brought it up. I had a long time in the car to think about all the great memories we had with him. I was mad, for selfish reasons, that Evan would not be able to get to know him like Dylan did. He was truly great with Dylan. He called him "Hollywood".
In the Jewish faith, you have to be buried right away, so the funeral was just a couple days later. We did take the boys to it. Evan wasn't old enough to really understand what was happening, but Dylan certainly did. We felt he needed this as closure, and I let him take some of the sand from Israel and place it on the coffin.
It's so hard to know if you are doing the right thing or saying the right thing to your own children. We didn't want to do something that could traumatize him for life, but we knew that Dylan could handle this. He very bright and intuitive for his age. He knows what is going on around him.
A couple days later, we decided to start back from home. As I mentioned earlier, we always go to Disney and then to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Well, while we were in FL, it was actually only a couple weeks before we had flights to head down there, to visit them first before heading to Disney this time around. We decided to go back home so we could separate this expedience from our family trip.
My biggest regret is not thanking Marty for the help with my business. He was a freight forwarder for years at JFK, so when it came down to me needing assistance with this part of my business, he took care of me. I always thought I would have more time to thank him, and I should know better than anyone that you can't put things off because things can happen!! So, this is another great life lesson learned, and that is all we can do from these experiences is learn.
Grandpa Marty, you will be in our hearts forever and will be truly missed!