Friday, September 18, 2009

The Family We Get to Choose

Robby has been lost at preschool for the last week and a half. Every morning he gets to the steps and scans the playground looking for his best-est friend, Emma. When he discovers she's not there, he slowly descends the steps and half-heartedly heads off to play. Emma's grandmother died and she has been home grieving with her family. When it happened, the teacher told us parents, but not the kids. Two days ago, I had to break down and tell Robby what had happened and why Emma was not in school. We were driving home from school and Robby asked me, "Why do people die? Do kids die too?". Naturally, I assumed they had mentioned it in school that day.

Such tough questions coming from his little four year old brain. I knew I didn't want to lie to him and so I told him that yes, sometimes kids die too. I told him that every living thing will one day die. In the past, I've told him way too much information and all he wants is specific direct answers. He asked, "Who am I going to live with when you and Papa die?". I told him that by the time we died he would already be living with his own wife and children and not with us. He seemed to grasp that. I also told him that I thought that even if a person has died and you cannot see them or touch them anymore a part of them will always be with you in your mind and heart. Then he said that was why we included the "those I never knew" in his nightly prayer. So that Grandpa Charlie (my dad) and Peepaw (John's dad) would stay in our hearts. "Exactly.", I said.

He hasn't asked any more about death since that afternoon. When we got to school this morning he scanned the children running around the playground, as he has every day since she has been gone. At the very moment he spotted her running toward him with her long brown hair flying behind her I could actually feel his heart leap from his chest. They hugged and ran off chasing each other and laughing. They didn't say one word to each other, but I could see that each child was getting exactly what they needed from the other.

I am blessed to know this kind of friendship three-fold in my life. I am ever so grateful that Robby knows it too and at such a young age. There are many sayings about friendship but the one that has always stuck with me is this one; Friends are the family you get to choose.

My dear friend is flying to Chicago today to say goodbye to her dying father. Even though we don't get to play with each other five days a week anymore, our friendship, at its core, is a lot like Robby and Emma's. I know that when I do get see my friend, my heart will leap at seeing her and getting to hug and comfort her. Because we are adults, she knows that I am here for her and I know that she will make it through this tough chapter in her life. But oh, how my heart aches with longing for that shared hug. I wish I could sweep her up, hug her and run off to the swing set with her and make it all okay.

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