Last weekend was one of the weekends that was “not ours” – he was over at his mother’s house and Kai had spent Saturday night at his stepgrandparents’ house.
The call came on Sunday morning. It was Kai’s stepgrandmother.
“Kai is okay. E (Kai’s stepsister) is okay.”
Both Joe and I stared at the phone. I later found out that we’ve both had the same thought: there’s been in an accident. But the kids (Kai and his stepsister) will be okay. So everything will be fine… but something doesn’t sound right.
A second later, the voice says, “I don’t know how else to say this. R (Kai’s mother) is dead.”
And, with that, all of our lives changed.
The last week has been full of challenges. There was no prep for this: Kai’s mother had gastric bypass a year or two before he was born. And what happened was one of the possible complications. Several years later, totally unexpected.
After the call, we immediately jumped in the car and drove down to the hospital. Her room was full of friends and loved ones. They were able to remove the tubes (there weren’t many) before Kai came. The three of us (Kai’s stepfather, Kai’s dad, and I) told him together – his stepsister was there, as well. We told him what had happened (her small intestines folded and became stuck in a hole in her stomach and without blood going through them, they died off and there was nothing the doctors could do). Kai asked a lot of questions for clarification. For a kid of five, they were pretty detailed – like, “Why couldn’t they do a transplant?”
But he wasn’t sure and had to ask, “So… did Mama die?”
I cannot properly describe what it’s like to watch your kid crumple over with grief. We all cried. Kai cried and cried until he couldn’t cry any more and then he hung limply over his dad’s arm for several more minutes. We took him to look at her body – the room was full of her friends and some family. Kai didn’t want to go in but we pulled the curtains aside for him to see the body.
The past week has been a mix of paperwork, family he rarely sees, and interesting ways of working through grief. Tuesday, Kai was in his room, pretending to build a coffin and sing about how he was “Building a coffin for Mama, so she doesn’t have to get burned up,” – he knows she’s being cremated and was angry and devastated because he wanted her buried, wanted a stone marking where she was. But cremation was her request.
On Friday, my parents took Kai and I to Snoqualmie Falls with my nephew. We thought it would be good for him and Joe had gone back to work on Thursday. Kai and I bussed down to where my parents were going to pick us up. We ran into an ad with her on it, something she’d done months ago. He wanted a picture, but said he couldn’t smile. I told him that it would hurt for a long time, but eventually, when he looked at pictures of her, he could think of the good times they had together and smile.
Already, last week seems so long ago. The memorial is next weekend.
We went to homeschool park day this last week, where I normally try to send her a few pictures (I tried to send something every day but park days generally got extra). I found myself missing sending her pictures and texting her about what Kai was doing. Kai’s mother and I often didn’t agree, didn’t get along. But we were slowly moving towards some sort of understanding, had (mostly) gotten better at working together – for Kai. Kai recently lost his first tooth. He was here, not there. I was happy to see it and sent her all the pictures and texted her about it as much as I could but one of my first thoughts was, “I wish she didn’t have to miss out on this. I wish none of us did.” And now, there will be so many things she’ll miss.
Hug your loved ones. Tell them you care. You never know when they’ll be gone.
I’m still not sure what else to say or where life will take us from here.