When it came time to say good-bye to Olivia a couple of weeks ago she was as bereft as I was. Heading back home after a wonderful visit with our granddaughters is never easy. OK, I got a smidgen of pleasure that Olivia met my leavetaking with tears and crying. But I, or my impending departure, was the source of her pain. How could I lessen it? How can we help our grandchildren be resilient when they meet up with grief?
I tried words first: We’ll be seeing each other in just 24 days Those days will pass so fast!. My daughter-in-law jumped in offering to show the marks on the calendar. I wondered about creating an Advent calendar of sorts to count the days between our visits.
I tried abstract spiritual truths. We humans can be in two places at once. I am going back to Michigan and I am still in your heart. I am leaving you with Mommy and Daddy and taking you with me, too, in my heart. Olivia knows versions of this incantation from all her grandparents but was having none of it.
So I met her with the truth. This hurts, Olivia. I am very sad, too. Come and let me hold you, heart to heart. I knelt before her and drew her to me chest to chest. We’ll stay like this for as long as you need. Let’s breathe and listen until we feel our hearts beating together.
We stayed like that for a few moments and quicker than I would have thought (and wanted!) she stepped back, gave me one last quick hug and we said our goodbyes. Israelis say, “L’hitrayot” when parting company, meaning until the next time we see each other.
My calendar is already marked. Eighteen days to go.