I talked to my kids about Heaven this morning.
It's not a conversation I shy away from.
My Dad passed away when my oldest, now 8, was only a year old, so my three kids never really got to know Grandpa.
But, I knew Dad. I knew him well, and I know that he is very much here -- by way of up there -- looking down upon us and a part of our lives and the days and moments that make them up.
I talked to my kids about Heaven this morning, not about Grandpa, but about our thirteen-year-old chocolate lab who will likely be making her appearance there soon.
It's not always comfortable to talk about things that make us sad. Still, it's essential to do it nonetheless because sometimes talking about and through the things that cause us emotional distress, helps rid us of it, or at minimum, aids in our understanding and coping it.
I've lost a few pets in my lifetime, and I've lost both my grandmother and my father.
Loss of loved ones, be it our human comrades or our furry, four-legged friends, is one of the hardest things in the world to move on from.
BUT, if any part of you can live as though their love is still alive and within you, you'll put yourself in a much better place in that their loss can help you grow instead of allowing it to shrink you.
My father may be gone, but the lessons he imparted on me aren't.
My pets may be gone, but what they taught me about unconditional love will stick with me forever.
No matter who you've lost, finding a reason to stay joyful, grateful, and a present and active participant in your own life, it can be a challenge.
Not because you want to grieve forever, and not because you "just can't seem to get past it" or move forward, but because one of the very few people you would lean on,
or lose yourself in during tough times,
is the one that is gone.
But please hear me on this --
When you lose someone you love, you don't lose the memories
or the connection,
and you sure as hell don't lose any of the support or guidance.
I'm one of those that can hear my Dad's voice still.
And I can hear it because I want to -- because I want to remember it and never forget it.
If the kids and I are in the van, so is Grandpa.
If we are at a restaurant, so is Grandpa.
If I am preparing and prepping for something upcoming, Dad is right there with me.
I can hear him chuckle when my son offers up pretty genius and witty retorts and quips.
I can hear him telling me, "that's karma, Nic," when I complain about how my daughter sasses the crap out of me.
I can hear him stomping his foot and slapping his knee when my youngest talks back to me with her adorable little Minnie Mouse voice while she raises her eyebrows.
I can hear him bragging to his friends about my son dominating at baseball.
I can hear him talking the bartender's ear off about his granddaughter, not just doing but nailing dance solos in front of crowds of people without an ounce of fear holding her back.
I can see him looking at my almost-four-year-old and her looking back at him in a stare contest manner during which neither will back down, just like he raised me never to do.
I can hear him telling me to clean my van.
I can hear him avowing to me that he's "always on my side."
And, this way of living through a loss, it's not for everyone, but it's for me, and it works for me, and that's what's important.
I talked to my kids about Heaven this morning, and I think that was the right thing to do.
I talked to my kids about Heaven this morning because talking about Heaven makes the idea of anyone or any pet going there, just a little less confusing and slightly less scary.
I talked to my kids about Heaven this morning, so that when our Mally girl takes her trip there, they know Grandpa will be happily waiting for her, with a treat and ball, ready to play.