The why question is a big one. I try not to entertain it. I avoid it at all costs, knowing it ends nowhere. But some days, I cannot escape it. Like suddenly being forced to look at your own reflection in a mirror... Today, Alea was holding the mirror.
The girls are playing house again, talking about how "the dad" died. Roya is "fake" crying for her "pretend" dad, and Alea, (apparently the Mom this time), starts comforting her. My shoulders tense... I'm in the kitchen preparing toppings for a gluten-free pizza for supper... The play starts moving out of "house" and into "real". I've been dreading this one... I hear Alea comforting Roya, telling Roya that Daddy will be back, just as Roya used to comfort her... He's coming back. I know she believes this. She prays at every meal, and help my Daddy... At first she thought he was lost, and screamed many hours at night fearing for him, unable to verbalize her thoughts. Later, she understood he was safe with Jesus and not lost (which I assume came from overhearing adults use the phrase lost your father).
My girls can only comprehend so much about death. Young children are protected by their youth and gradually realize the depth and finality of their loss. Alea had not yet understood the finality of death, just as Roya had not when it first happened. We moved beyond this "stage" with Roya, but my 3 year old was just getting there. I knew, with the heavy weight returning to bear over my body, as Alea verbalized her genuine belief that Daddy was returning, I had to tell her the truth...
So I take her aside and look into her eyes, and say, No Alea. Daddy is not coming back. She hears me, as though her greatest fears are being discovered, and sobs... real cries of new and fresh awareness, new grief. Here we are again, back to the couch, my daughters huddled on my lap, reading children's books about death and dying. I'm trying to explain heaven, trying to help Alea understand that her Daddy cannot come back. Why? Alea sobs. Over and over, she asks Why? So I talk them through it again, tell them what happened, bring out the "human body" book, tell it as honestly and literally as possible so their imaginations do not imagine the worst... Alea is broken over her Daddy's broken heart. Why? She keeps asking. Why won't my Daddy's heart work!?!
Why? My reservoir of answers is exhausted and the question remains. Why? Why does my four year old tell me she doesn't like herself, that she wants to die? Why does my 3 year old fear her own heart malfunctioning and entering into some scary abyss called death that she cannot wrap her head around? Why when others are celebrating their families, enjoying anniversaries, welcoming new babies... Why when fathers bend down to love on their children, is there no father for mine? Why did God see us worthy of this higher calling called grief? Why did he see my daughters so worthy of fear, loss, loneliness, and self-doubt? Why must I bear this burden alone, when every other wife my age is complaining that their husband doesn't do the dishes, or plays hockey too much, or doesn't read her mind and understand all the feelings of her heart? Why am I somehow worthy to be shocked into brutal awareness of blessing and loss, life and death, sorrow and grief?
There it is. Alea held up the mirror and forced me to see the question reflected in my own heart as well as hers. A question for which there are no answers... Why?