As I straddled the bench at our dining room table, looking into Madison’s brownish green eyes, I stumbled over my words. I had rehearsed the speech and the way that I would tell her and had even gotten to the point, in my rehearsals, that the tears came only at the end. But when the time came to actually face her and let her in on the saddest secret I will ever keep from her, my rehearsals failed me.
I had decided that I would show her the hand and foot prints that the nurse had made and the pictures of Sienna that were taken the day that we lost her. I had decided that I would explain the loss of her little sister by explaining to her that sometimes God needs his Angels before we on earth are ready to let them go. And I had decided that I would let Madison have her time to grieve.
As the tears began spilling from my eyes and my voice broke, the little hand of my oldest gently touched my shoulder and she looked at me with love in those big eyes that look almost identical to mine and said, “It’s okay, Daddy. I know that you’re crying because you miss Sienna, but she’s with God now and he takes care of all of his Angels.” She then looked across the table at Robin and said, “Robin, can we please try to not lose Avery?” The wisdom and innocence of a five-year old.
Robin explained to her that we did not believe that was going to happen and then told Mads that she could talk to Sienna anytime that she wanted as she will be looking down on us from heaven.
After an extra cookie for dessert and extra hugs and kisses it was time for Maddie to go to bed. Because she was with us for the night only Robin would be going to the hospital to visit Avie, so Maddie made sure to ask her to pass on a special message of love. I tucked her into bed and read a story about horses (it’s actually an encyclopedia – Maddie loves horses) and I gave her a hug and a kiss. She said goodnight as I pulled the door closed.
Approximately ten minutes later I was walking past her bedroom door and I heard her talking. She often talks while she is alone, especially when she’s going to sleep. Still, I usually like to stop and listen to hear what she talks to her self about. Most of the time her conversations are about horses, princesses, etc. But what she was talking about this time again brought me to my knees.
“Sienna, Daddy misses you and loves you very much. He wishes you were still here with us, even though he knows that you’re in heaven. Please look after him, too.” She was talking to her little sister.
For those reading this that are unaware, Maddie is my daughter from a previous marriage. She spends most of her time with her mother not too far from where we live. This was one of the biggest reasons that we waited so long to tell her that we had lost Sienna. On top of that, we were still living with the knowledge that we might lose Avery on any given day, and had, in fact, been told more than once that we were probably losing her. Neither Robin nor I wanted to look Maddie in the eyes and tell her that one of her sisters had died, but we knew that we eventually would have to. More than that though, we didn’t want to have the discussion with her before we had a better idea of what to expect with Avery. Once we were told that Avery was in a less critical state we decided that the time was probably right to tell her about Sienna.
I felt sad for taking so long to tell her and guilty for having to lie to her about the situation, but given the same set of circumstances a second time I am sure that I would make the same decision. I was protecting my daughter. I am sure that any good parent wants to do that more than anything. I am a good father.