Cancer

How to Love Someone You’ll Never Meet | by Staten Blogging | Nov, 2021

“Come here,” I say. “Let’s go sit in bed and talk for a bit.”

“About daddy’s daddy?”

“Yeah. Come on.”

Instead of bringing her to her own bed I lift her into my own, where I stack up the pillows behind us and the blankets on top of us and wrap my arms around her. I take my time choosing my words as she rests her head on my chest.

Finally, I decide to be direct.

“Your daddy’s dad died before you were born, honey.”

“He died?”

“Yeah kiddo. He’s been gone a few years now. But I know he’d love you.”

Instant tears. Instant. It’s as if the grief for what she’ll never have is as intense as the grief for what she has had, loved, and lost. And maybe it is.

“But I wanted to meet him!” came out of her in a heaving sob.

“I know honey. I wish you could’ve. I know he would have wanted to meet you too.”

“Why did he die?” she asks then, still sobbing, and this question is even more of a gut punch.

It’s one thing to simply explain that someone isn’t around anymore. When Hunter died, he was very old, so we didn’t need get into the details of what cancer was and how it can take a life too early.

But cancer is also what took my father-in-law from us decades too soon, before my daughter was even a thought, and that is going to be harder to explain.

“Grandpa Staten got very sick,” I say, slowly. Then before she can fear her next sniffle I add, “I don’t mean like how you and I get sick sometimes, where we get a fever or a cough. He got a disease that made bad stuff grow in his body.”

As I talk, I stroke her head and rub her back, and her breathing steadies. I hope with everything in me I’m not saying the wrong thing.

“Why didn’t he go to the hop-spittal?” she asks.

“He did. But they didn’t know he was that sick until there was too much bad stuff, and they couldn’t get rid of it. They took the best care of him they could, for as long as they could.”

My daughter starts crying again, this time with an indignant anger that I remember all too well. “Why didn’t they take him to a bigger hop-spittal? A better hop-spittal, with better doctors?”

Oh, this hurts.

“They took him to the best hospital they could, honey.” I sigh. “It’s really hard to lose someone. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

She sobs into my chest, and I tilt my head back against the wall behind me, closing my eyes, and thinking.


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