Monday, May 23, 2011

Solving for Why

Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked "why."  ~Bernard Baruch

With one little word... three little letters... the conversation I had anticipated, dreaded, feared was underway. And once that little word... those three little letters.. were spoken, they hung in the air like a thick fog.

And I was speechless. I felt powerless.

So many questions

How many times a day does she ask that question? Dozens. But never, had she asked this.

She finally wanted to know where Popsie is. My dad.

"Where is he?," she inquired when we brought up his name for the thousandth or so time. Has never happened before. We always talk about him. His name is part of the conversation pretty much every time we mention my family. Or my wife's family for that matter. We've made a point of it. Just last week we were looking at swing sets at an outdoor store and she thought it was just a really big park (Good thing because I don't think we're getting one), and at one point she asked me, "Daddy, did Popsie used to take you here when you were a boy?"

My dad at our wedding 12/7/02
And I told her yes.

This, however, was obviously different.

My wife answered her, "He's in heaven, honey."

And then... "Why?"

I ask myself that same question almost every day. Why? Why isn't he here? Why is he missing all of this? His youngest granddaughter. Our house... and everything I've needed him to fix. Why did this happen to us, so soon after our wedding? Why did it have to happen to him? He had just bought a bag of discount Christmas decorations at Target that day for crying out loud. Does that sound like a man who was ready to die?

Maybe that's why I didn't have the answer. Thankfully my wife was poised to respond. As always. She said pretty much the only thing you could say. "Because God wanted him in heaven."

Beauty & the Beast doesn't dance around death
And that was it... until minutes later when we reached the point in her Beatuty and the Beast book that she was "reading" to us, where the beast dies. (And I was worried bout Tangled).

My wife was surprised she had made the connection so soon after the conversation about my dad. Or did she? We never said he had died. We told her he was in heaven. That God wanted him. That he's her guardian angel. "Do you know what it means when someone dies," my wife cautiously pressed her. "That's what happens when bad guys hurt you," she said.

Freakin' movies.

She wasn't interested into getting philosophical. She wanted to move on and read books. So we dropped it. Until the next "why."

I might not ever have the answer, but at least we've started the conversation.


  1. WHY is always the question I hate to answer most. It's the one question that there can either no answer to or a million answers. I haven't had to deal with death and the kids yet... Hopefully they will be teenagers before I am faced with this problem and they can fully understand a little better.

  2. "Why" is tough when it isn't about death, and something I'm not looking forward to, despite its inevitability.
    I just have to hold to the thought that I'll be able to deal with them as they happen. Or have someone with a quick answer that works, like your wife's. :)

  3. Thanks for your thoughts guys. It's kind of comforting to know I'm not the only one without all the answers ( and with a wife who might have them).

  4. The WHY referring to death (and WHERE and WHAT) have always scared me, too. But we've had a number of pet fish which I found to be a great way to introduce my son to the concept. We're fortunate in a way because we've had no deaths in the family of anywone he's been close to, so he's been able to ease into it. First through fish, then a neighbor across the street.

    But he'll burst into tears occassionally when he thinks about the fact that his dog will die before he does.

    Regarding the other WHYs, let's just say that I dread the day when he finds out that my explanation for why the sky is blue is a bunch of hooey...

  5. The fish is actually a really good idea, Eric. It's tough to gauge what age, though.





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