Caitlyn has had her first experience with death this past weekend. I guess I can't really say it was her first as she was so close to death on a couple occasions when in the NICU. But this is the first one that she will remember.
We got a call early Wednesday morning to tell us that Matt's aunt Mary Pat had died. This was very sudden and the wake would be held on Sunday and the funeral on Monday.
I thought long and hard all day Wednesday about how to break this to Cate. While this is not the aunt that she is closest to, she does enjoy spending time with Mary Pat when we see her at family functions. For example, Mary Pat is the aunt that always plays Yhatzee with Caitlyn. When I go to Country Thunder in the summer, Matt takes Caitlyn to Wisconsin for Daddy/Daughter weekend. On this weekend, Grandma Rita and Mary Pat join them. Caitlyn loves hanging out at the beach with Mary Pat.
For a long time, Caitlyn would not go up and hug or kiss Mary Pat when we would see her. In the last year or so, Caitlyn actually looks forward to seeing her now. And when we do see her, she would give Mary Pat all the hugs and kisses that Mary Pat requested. It's sad to me to think that Caitlyn missed out on those first few years of hugs and kisses, but I think she certainly made up for it in the last year.
On Thursday, I told Matt that we needed to tell Cate about what happened. I knew that Caitlyn would certainly miss her presence at functions and would begin to ask where she was. Matt sat her down and told her that Mary Pat got very sick Wednesday morning and that she went to heaven to be with Matt's Daddy. What happened next, I was completely stunned by. Caitlyn reacted in a way that I didn't expect in the least.
I saw the corner of her mouth turn down and she let out a sob. She cried and cried and cried. It was at that very moment that I wanted to hurl myself under a rock and not come out. All I could think was that I caused this child this much pain! That if I hadn't told her, she wouldn't know what it feels like to have that complete sense of loss and uncontrolability. I couldn't stand myself for breaking her heart.
Later that night when I put her in bed, she got a litle weepy again. Though it wasn't near the emotion that it was earlier. But she said to me,
"I just wish Mary Pat could go to the cottage with us one more time."
And when she said that, it hit me. Caitlyn has a pretty good understanding of death and the finality of it. She understands that she won't be seeing Mary Pat at family parties anymore. She understands that they won't play Yhatzee at the lake anymore. And it breaks my heart that she had to learn that at only 6 years old.
I talked to her all weekend about whether or not she wanted to attend the wake and the funeral. And she was set on going. I spent hours talking to her about what she was going to see and what would be happening while we were there. When I had her explain it back to me, she had most of the details correct. With the exception of thinking that she would be seeing a skeleton in the casket! Once we got that all cleared up, she was comfortable with what was going to happen over the next couple of days.
Upon our arrival at the funeral home, she began to have second thoughts. We took one step into the viewing area, and she began to shake her head back and forth and walk backwards. She couldn't get out of there fast enough. We sat in the lobby for quite a while and she eventually made her way in to pay her last respects and say her good byes to Mary Pat.
She ended up not wanting to go to the funeral. Which is probably better anyway as there always seems to be so much sadness at that part since it really is the finale.
Last night she got a little weepy again, telling me that she wishes Mary Pat didn't die. But I have assured her that Mary Pat and her Grandfather are up there in heaven having a drag out game of Yhatzee and enjoying it to the fullest.