On the way to dance class this morning my three-year-old niece asked me why Grandma died. We were remembering spending time with her this time last year, taking turns holding Grandma's hand. I don't know if it made Grandma feel any better or anymore loved, but she was always gracious, even when she was a whisper of herself. She always told us thank you and she always wanted to offer us a comfortable place to sit or some ice cream.
My answer wasn't convincing even to myself. "She died because she was very sick and in a lot of pain and old."
"But why?" my niece asked.
"She's in heaven," I offered. "Someday we will all go to heaven. When we are very old."
"I don't want to go to heaven," she said.
"You want to stay in this world forever?"
This little girl has inherited my grandma's zest for life. My grandma didn't want to die either. She had a strong will to live and to live happy here with those she loved. (Of course life isn't like that.)
I don't remember all the turns of our conversation but my niece finally said, "I wanted her to come back."
I want her to come back, too.
I miss her presence, her goodness, her interest in me so terribly sometimes that it feels like this unmendable rip in the fabric of my soul will only grow more empty with the passage of time.