This evening I came over to my Aunt and Uncle’s house for dinner. There are quite a few birthdays and an anniversary to celebrate and there are a bunch of folks in town for the Walk to Cure Diabetes. My 8year old cousin T has diabetes so this is a time where the family rallies together to support him. We had eaten dinner, had birthday cake, and opened gifts and folks were getting ready to go to a softball game when my little cousin Y came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “I miss Goo.” I honestly didn’t understand what she was saying because it came out of the blue but I picked her up and held her because it didn’t really matter if I understood. She just needed to be held and loved on. She is 6. One of the cards her mother got had a golden lab on it and someone said something about how it looked like Goo. Goo is the nickname given to my Uncles golden lab. She was called Goo because that is how my cousins pronounced “girl” which my Uncle often called her. Goo was a very good dog but she is gone. She has actually been gone for a few years how though I don’t remember when exactly she died. It was very sad for the whole family. They had another dog and have recently gotten a puppy so life has moved on, but no one has forgotten Goo.
It kinda blew me away that my little cousin was so sad about Goo. Years after her death she still missed her dog and missed her deeply. She was moved to tears. But it also kinda blew me away that she came to me. She brought her grief to me. With everyone in that house, she brought her raw self to me. It might seem kinda weird but this is very meaningful to me but it really is quite significant and very encouraging. In realizing that when I was growing up I did not feel as though I had permission to have unpleasant feelings or share them, I have been very purposeful in my dealings with my cousins to try to interact with them in such a way that they feel free to feel. I don’t want them to feel as though they have to stuff their emotions.
The best example I have of this actually happened one night when I was baby sitting them. It was getting late and so little Y was loosing her ability to cope. She really should have been going to bed but was fighting it as kids often do. She wanted another cup cake. I said no. She went for it anyway. I took it from her. She started to cry and was freaking out a bit and started saying the dreaded, “I want mommy” line. I was loosing my patience. But she was not acting like herself. It was strange. So I pulled myself together and got down on her level and said, “Y, you are not acting like yourself. What is wrong? Why are you upset? Why are you sad?” And she said three words I will never forget: “I don’t know.” So I scooped her up, and we went and sat on the couch and I held her while she cried. And I got to tell her that it was okay that she didn’t know why she was sad. And it was okay that she was sad. And I just held her. It was an amazing moment really.
And so tonight, she came to me again. Maybe she remembered that night. I don’t know. But it’s meaningful to me that she felt safe to share her pain. The others around her tried to distract her from her grief. It worked for a minute, but when the stopped and continued on with the adult things they were doing feeling like they had been successful in distracting her, she turned her head back to me and immediately started talking about how she missed Goo. It was sad to see how everyone else in the family was so quick to mollify her without helping her understand what she was feeling and try to work through it. But it was encouraging to be able to help her through a moment of grief. I hope she remembers it. Even if not explicitly, I hope she somehow remembers how she felt and how to express it. I pray she won’t be forced to feel what everyone else expects her to feel. I hope she remains free. Lord hear my prayers.