Sunday, November 3, 2013


Dear Julia,
Last night as I tucked you into bed you asked me to tell you a story.  You have moved out of the fairy tale phase and you want to know about the people in your life.  A few weeks ago you wanted Mimi to tell you stories about when she was little and more specifically when she did something bad as a child.  It’s funny to you that Mimi was once your age and mischievous.  Because Mimi and Papa are in Italy you asked me to talk about why Italy was important.  I told you about your great-great grandfather, Poppop’s daddy who was from Italy.  I talked about why the culture is important to us and how when his family came to the United States, they worked hard, were dedicated to their family, and cooked good food so that everyone could gather together.  We talked about how this was important to me because when I was growing up we always went to Grandmom and Grandpop’s house for homemade spaghetti and sauce.  You loved that this was the one time each week that I would get to drink Ginger Ale.  I told you about how she dried her own tomatoes and I used to think that it was fascinating to see them hanging in the basement.  From this story, you wanted to know more about the people who were important to me as I was growing up.  We talked about Babci’s husband, Beeb.  I told you that we always called him Beeb because that’s the name the Papa picked out for him when he was little because he couldn't say “Poppop” so he said “Bee-bop”, which was shortened to Beeb.   You told me that you were sad that Babci was still living without her husband.   Death is not an easy concept for anyone, let alone a four year old who doesn't understand the finality of death and why someone just wouldn't come back if they tried hard enough.   As we continued to talk, there was a desperation to your voice as you tried to understand why Mimi’s daddy wasn't living.  The concept of living without a daddy or husband was harder for you to take in than it was to understand that those people were no longer with us.  The funny thing is Julia, I do this all the time for my work.  I talk to kids about death when their loved ones are at the end of their life in the hospital.   You make me think about the words that I say and how children are impacted by them.  I want to answer your questions.  I also want you to be a carefree preschooler.  I always tell families, “children won’t ask if they don’t want to know” when something serious is occurring within a family unit. I’m often caught off guard by what you want to know - you rewrite the textbooks on the workings of a 4-year old's mind.  I want to be the best mom to you.  I want your tender heart to seek the answer to these questions while I also shelter you from the intimacy of death.  I pray that it’s a long time before you experience what we inevitably all face in the wake of loss.  You were content with the shift that we took with our little chat.  I told you that the best way to remember the people that we love is to see their qualities in others.  I talked about Papa’s gentleness and how we can know Beeb through Papa, Babci and mommom’s stories and how Papa does things (and now we see some of this in your brother, Charlie).  You live out the Cirillo tradition of gathering when we visit family and you’re excited to see that this tradition started way before you were alive.   You excitedly want to know when you will learn to make sauce and homemade spaghetti (which I admit, I need to learn too!)  You are kindhearted and inquisitive like your daddy's grandmother, Mary.  You now love the name Mary and find peace in hearing stories about her. You were enthralled to know that Grandpop Herold was an amazing artist.  You even put together that your own creativity must be from him.  With tears in my eyes, remembering his quiet confirmation of his love for me, I told you that he would be very proud of you – you added, “Yes, he must love the way I draw hearts!”  Yes, and how you love nature and have an appreciation of good food. 

This morning we celebrated All Saints Day at church – it is a service of remembrance for all of the families that have lost someone this year or members of the church that have died.  I love this service because each person’s name is read and I recognize some of these names from the hospital.  I have stood by these families as they have said good-bye.  This service is a wonderful way to honor them and to reflect on the people in my life who have died.  You and I brought a flower to the front of the alter as the music played, but before this I leaned in and talked to you about our conversation from last night.  I told you our purpose for offering the flower is to remember.  We will do many things to remember, but today we will think about our loved ones and offer a flower in their honor.  You were so proud of this task.  You asked me to hold your hand as we walked down the aisle, which you rarely ask to do.  When we arrived at the front all you were required to do was hand your flower to the pastor and walk away, but you kneeled down and then placed your flower as if you were offering a prayer as you gave it.  It was a moment that I just wanted to bottle up.  I would have given anything to know what was going on in your mind at that moment.  Without knowing these important people in your life who loved you before they even got to know you, I wonder if in a spiritual, childlike way you could see them in your mind?  After this was the children’s message – Pastor John pulled together every piece of our discussion by talking about the people that we are thankful for.  You put your hand in his face and demanded that he call on you.  You proudly told the whole congregation that you were thankful for “Mimi and my friends!”  He expanded on this by saying that we can also be thankful for the people in our lives who have died, who we cannot see.  By remembering them, we can continue to feel their love and impact in our lives.  When Pastor John asked why we are thankful for this you said, “I am thankful for them because they are thankful for me”.  Yes, they are.  I see each of them in you and I am in awe of the gift of life passed on from generation to generation.  I am thankful for these qualities that allow me a glimpse of the important people in my life.  Having you is the greatest way of remembering.  
Love, mom.