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“Why are you sad, Mormor Cat?”

Libby does not miss a thing. At 3 ½ our granddaughter is laser-focused on the people she loves, especially those she has elevated to Favorite Pet status.

During our video-chat last week, Libby’s mama mentioned that our Air Force pilot son-in-law would be away on a mission for the next couple weeks. My brow wrinkled in sympathy. Libby noticed.

If I were sitting with her in her home across the sea she would have reached out to stroke my face. Children know how to do comfort well.

Only hours before the old year gasped its last, Mike and I sat in Hungary gripping a phone between us, weeping. Mike’s beloved father, surrounded by all his children except two – one in Europe, one in Glory – died moments after we choked out the last words we would ever speak to him this side of eternity.

              We love you so much, Poppa.

                                You have been the best example of a father I could ever have.

                                         Thank you for the gift of your son, my husband. He is just like you, Poppa.

Silence on the other end. Then sobbing. The sounds of Mike’s brothers and sisters holding one another, holding Mama, letting him go.

And our granddaughter, quietly watching us, reaches out to cup Mike’s face.

“I’m sorry about your dada, Baba,” she says simply.

That was it. No attempt to minimalize the pain. (“At least you had him so long.”) No preaching. (“Poppa is in heaven with Jesus. You should be happy!”)

Only the gift of her presence. Her quiet attentiveness, brow furrowed in pity. Her touch, soft as cat’s fur.

In the past three weeks, four close friends have also lost a parent. Mike’s college roommate Gary, his father. Our local friend Susan, her mom. My former roommate Venita, her dad. Our dear friend Pam, her mom.

So much loss, and so much hope.

Gary, Venita, Susan, Pam, and Mike? They know, they blessedly all do, that Heaven is only a breath away. The parent who has always been there still IS there, though their address has changed. My mentor Amy said it best: they have not gone away; they have gone before. Our parents have simply outrun us on the quick race Home.

When Mike and I visited Mount Vernon last month, home of American’s first and greatest president, we silently read these words engraved above Washington’s tomb:

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I am the Resurrection and the life, saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

The Father of our country knew it true. Our father did too.

And Libby last week?

“I’m sad because your dada is away,” I explained. “Your mama misses him when he’s gone.”

“But Mormor Cat, don’t you know?” she said. “Grownups come back.” And she sang me a little song.

They do indeed, baby girl.

They do indeed.

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