It happened today, Mom. I'm not sure why I chose to let it happen this way but it just seemed the most natural, so I did.
Sometimes I almost forget that Charles never knew you, Mom. Forget that he was only a year old when the call came. Forget that you only ever saw him twice. Forget that the name "Grandma Gingerich" means nothing to him.
We've often looked at pictures together, Charles and I, and it always makes me smile to see his face brighten in recognition at the sight of "Grandpa Gingerich!" He's never asked about the lady with the wavy, white hair and I've left it at that. It never seemed necessary to me to try to explain about a grandma who isn't here anymore. Seemed like it would be so confusing for a little mind.
Lately Charles has been spending lots of time looking at pictures with his Grandpa Eicher who lives up the hill. Grandpa explains every picture in detail, and Charles comes home telling us how Daddy fixed the shop and now we live in it. "It had a garage door," he tells us, "Then daddy put in windows!"
Today we were looking at pictures, just Charles and I. "What are we doing?" he kept asking, and "There's Jasmine and daddy and..." as he pointed out who he knew.
I watched with interest as he started on this one. "There's daddy, and Jasmine, and that's Grandpa Gingerich!" His little finger wavered and there was a long pause. Then he pointed to the lady with the wavy, white hair and asked in a puzzled voice, "Who's that, Mamma?"
There's no way to tell a three year old all that you wish he knew. No way to explain how special that lady is and how much she loved him. No way to magically instill memories that you know he'll never have. No way to fill all the gaps and tell all the stories you hope he'll someday know. No way to stop the lump in the throat and the tightening in the chest...
"That's Grandma Gingerich," I tell him softly. "She died and now we can't see her anymore but that's Grandma Gingerich." Simple, matter of fact, basic. "Uh huh," he nods, then pauses to look again and accepts my explanation without further question.
Someday he'll hear all the stories, Mom. Along the way we'll rehearse memories and stories and remember whens. Little by little he'll pick up the history of the lady with the wavy, white hair. It won't be the same as knowing you, Mom, it can't. But we'll pass on the legacy of who you were. Around the lumps in our throats and through the tears in our eyes we'll give the next tidbit as the opportunity arises.
We saw another picture in our time together today and again the little eyes lit up in recognition and then the little finger wavered.
"Do you remember who that is, Charles? Do you remember Sara?" He nods. "That's Grandma Sara," I tell him and he smiles happily and moves on. Trusting, accepting little child heart! No wonder Jesus told us to become like children.
My heart is full, and humbled, and touched. I think you would be glad, Mom.