We were honest with our children when their dad was diagnosed with cancer last year. Pretty much from the start we made sure they knew what was going on, and even though they found it just as hard to process as we did, at least they can look back and say they were involved, there were no secrets.
Talking about the inevitable is one thing, but it seems working out what happens afterwards is quite another. I’m fielding questions every single day about death and daddy, wiping away tears when they cry that they miss him, while majorly multi-tasking with whatever else life throws at us at the same time.
While there are these big questions, so big that most adults don’t know the answers, there are still meals to be made, clothes to be washed and homework to be done. I still have to get up in the morning and get everyone ready, so I can go to work and sit in the office which I used to share with the love of my life.
Now that he’s gone, I’m still telling Sam and Flo the truth, but it’s peppered with a bit of what I would call necessary magic.
It’s this need for magic, and a little bit of hope, which led us to this new family truth – that daddy is now a star in the sky.
Florence is still only two and the concept of death is way out of her reach, even though sadly she has had to be told about it so young. Even this afternoon she asked me if daddy would be at home when we got back to the house. It’s like no matter how many times I tell her her daddy was poorly and he died, she still thinks he’s going to be coming back to see her.
Saying her dad’s a star is a way of showing her that his soul is out there somewhere, giving her hope and a feeling that she’s being looked after from above. I mean it could be true, right? Who really knows what happens when we die anyway? The thought that her dad is shining on high is one so lovely that I’m more than happy for it to be my little white lie for now.
Flo even asked our childminder, just before she went on holiday, if when she was up in the plane could she please have a look in the sky for her daddy? It’s enough to melt the hardest of hearts.
Sam loves the star story too, and Roger’s sister Jehane has just done a really lovely thing and named an actual star after him. So whenever we look up in the dark, there’s always one of us saying ‘Hi Daddy!’ and I’m always wondering if he really can see us or not. Maybe if he can he’s sending that extra bit of light and hope our way.
Rog bought Sam a new telescope as the one he had never really worked, and they always planned to go out stargazing together. As he bought it in the springtime and died in the summer, it was never dark enough to try before Sam went to bed. In fact, the telescope was packed away in its box in the wardrobe, waiting for the right time to be brought out as a present. Sadly, that time never came and it was forgotten about until the other week when Sam was allowed to take a telescope to beavers to try to look at the night sky.
His eyes lit up when I told him the story behind it and now he proudly packs it away in its case, telling anyone who’ll listen that his dad bought it for him. He’s said a few times he wonders if he can see his dad in the sky, even if he’s probably pretending it’s for Flo’s benefit rather than his own.
I’m sure he can see his dad, if he looks hard enough. He’ll be one of the brightest stars there is.