I think I might try to write this blog, mostly in pictures, with just a little background. Leah is my almost seven year old. She was barely four years old when Dave died. She is my child with a fair amount of Scandinavian blood coursing through her veins, based on her propensity towards remaining stoic, when most children would be be crying. Historically speaking she is either stoic or angry, but not emotional. One time, at a wedding she was performing a dance move on the floor, when a (careless) dancer in heels stepped on my little Leah’s hand. She held her breath for about a minute and then erupted in anger, even though she was obviously hurt. Another time, she fell face teeth first on the driveway and when she stood up, her two front incisors were hanging out of her mouth. A few minutes later we were at the dentist and she was like a rock. No tears, no movement, no nothing, as the dentist pushed her teeth as hard as he could back into her gums. She was only three then. I’ve always wondered how this sort of personality would deal with Dave’s death. There seems to be a toughness there and also a deep little hiding place where she tries to tuck her emotions.
However, lately she seems to be toying with the idea of sharing her emotions through tears. I’m torn . . . no, just kidding. I, obviously, think it is a good thing. In this new age of sharing more of her emotions to the outside world, I’ve seen her start to grieve the loss of her “Dave dad” (that’s what they call him now that they have a Tony dad) in a new way.
Here is my theory. Leah’s emotions over Dave began to surface this summer after she gained a Tony in her life. It is like she was learning for the first time, what it meant to have a dad around. Someone to play with. Someone to take care of her when she is sick (Tony is a champ at that). A man. Someone who could toss her like a feather. Someone who is way too big to do handstand contests with her and Macie, but does it anyway. Someone who loves having little girls for the first time. Someone who loves to teach any and everything from what kinds of flowers are along the path, to math, to how to ski and catch a football. Someone who cooks fancy meals for them, even though they are little. Someone who is a little too overprotective for her own good. Someone who loves her like he loves his own. It’s like all these things awakened this need to pull a few things out of her emotional hiding place. How was she supposed to process them any earlier than six years of age? Which brings me to this little number.
Who saw, “Dancing With the Stars,” a few weeks ago????? Bindi Irwin, the daughter of the Crocodile Hunter, did a dance that expressed the most memorable year of her life. Naturally, it was the year her father died. She talked about how she was really dealing with it for the first time and her dad died NINE YEARS AGO!!!!!!! In the clip, they showed a young little innocent Bindi reading a letter to a huge crowd about how her dad was the “best dad in the whole world.” You could tell, she just didn’t really know what was going on. After watching that little part, I cried about 20 different times that day.. I just wish you could fix death like you fix a leaky faucet. Just stick the new parts in and you’re good to go. It was tough for me to see the emotion in Bindi, so many years later. It brought me to the reality that my kids are nowhere near done with this grieving process. They are only just beginning to understand what happened. By the way, Bindi’s dance was so beautiful. The kind of beauty that could only come from pain.
I remember a couple days after Dave’s death, I heard someone say that kids don’t really start their grieving process until about six months after the death of a parent. I remember thinking, “I bet my kids will be done grieving by then.” Of course, I was a total lunatic at that time, so I’m not surprised that I was so far off base. So far off in a land that I had to pretend was going to be OK soon, or else I might not make it through. Surely, I’m not the only widow that had ridiculous thoughts on grieving?
Anyway, the GRACE OF GOD. But for that, I might be in a state of tears all the time, knowing I can’t fix this for my kids. Knowing that there is more grief to come, as they continually understand it in new ways. To this point, Jesus has showered his grace all over my kids and I know that will continue, throughout their lifetime. They are doing well. They are doing better than well. They are learning the ways of having a dad again and it brings me so much joy. There have been moments, where I just wish that Dave could be there to witness an accomplishment or funny comment they make or when they experience something for the first time, but to watch Tony start to fill those shoes is something amazing. Tony is building his own relationship with them, but he is also building on what Dave has started. For instance, Dave taught Leah how to ski and now Tony has taken up that task. Even more specific to Leah, one of her only real memories of Dave was fishing with him. She was always the one to catch a fish when Dave took the kids fishing. It is a special memory for her. So, this summer I gave her Dave’s tackle box. She spent two days, cleaning it and organizing it, way better than Dave ever did! This is a treasure to her. So now . . . she has Dave’s tackle box and Tony’s heart to carry that legacy on. And I could write a million paragraphs on how Spencer is taking to having a new dad, but I’ll save that for another post.
Did I say, I was going to write this post with pictures? Evidently, I’m a bit more verbose than I thought. When I sat down, I really didn’t feel like writing any of this. This lies in my own little emotional hiding place and I thought it would hurt more to search this out. I’m glad I did, because I actually see more hope than hurt in what I have written. I’d still like to add the pics, anyway.
I have been similarly intrigued by Bindi. She seems so big-hearted and almost naive for someone who surely has been steeped in celebrity culture all these years. She is lovely! And I SO believe that different parts of her heart are mending or broken at different times. The same would apply to Leah Story, I’d imagine. I’ve seen your sweet Leah with the steely-eyed determination to not be emotional and wondered what she is feeling. I wish we could put an ultrasound wand on that little heart to see what’s going on….but we can’t. But that Tony is taking a crack at infusing her with all the love and all the “daddy-ness” she’s secretly longing to have. I just love how you paint that picture, Holly.
There are so many similarities as I watch my two adopted kiddos navigate the often unpredictable path of finding room and understanding to love two moms — Mom Sindayo and Mom Megan. They never had a “dad” to speak of in Ethiopia, but boy did they have a birth mom (and still do) that they love with fierce loyalty. As their adoptive mom (I don’t love the term ‘forever mom’ because their birth mom, whether dead or alive, will be forever in their hearts as well), I find myself wishing I had that magic wand of which Christina speaks to really hone in on their emotions and what they are thinking as they process the vastness of their family. But maybe I wouldn’t. Perhaps some of those thoughts/feelings are just too raw and should be saved for the sacred place inside their hearts, for their personal journals. In the meantime, I can relate to Tony. I love how he is “all in” with these sweet kids and, in turn, they are all in with him! It is so beautiful. I like to call this a “Jesus-shaped space” because only in Jesus can we feel all the feels and encapsulate all we hold dear.