I took a deep breath, praying for guidance to answer this question in a way that would be most comforting and also honest to our children. You see, after our "not so good news" less than two months ago, Tony and I discussed what, how and when we should talk to the kids about his health. Losing his mother himself at the age of nine, Tony knew that it needed to be a very prayerfully guided journey to discuss this with them, not just a one-time punch in the stomach. We've decided (with some excellent advice from his grandmother) to let the kids lead the way in discovering these things by welcoming and encouraging their questions and then answering them appropriately.
This particular breakfast (as are most) was all on me. Tony was still resting in our bed, fast asleep. I wished I could have jumped on him and asked him to take the lead but I knew I needed to be a big girl and face this right now. How do you talk to your sweet little children about the reality of their dying father? We continue to be hopeful and pray for a stabilization of his condition, or better yet, a true miracle of God. Our kids are full of hope and their faith is much stronger than ours. If Tony is allowed to stay with us and continue to live, it will be because of their faith and prayers. They are the innocent and true loving and selfless whose faith can move mountains if God wants it. I truly believe this can happen. But we haven't been told what our Heavenly Father wants; He is gently leading us along day by day, trying to teach us so many things if I will but be still and learn.
Emma's question must have been prompted by the noticeable decline Tony has had. It's been eight months since his last surgery and official diagnosis of glioblastoma, a brain tumor with no cure. But it has also been almost eight years since his original discovery of his brain tumor. Our kids have only always known that "Daddy has an owie in his head" and that this past year since October 2015 it is getting bigger and making him more sick. Our children can see his decline, how Tony needs more help to walk anywhere and to sit out of bed, etc. They understand that we hope his medicine he receives will help him not get worse, and that the medicine may stop working.
I walked over to Emma and said, "If the medicine doesn't keep helping Daddy and his tumor starts to grow more, Heavenly Father may decide to take Daddy to heaven. Only He knows what the perfect plan for our family is, and no matter what happens, we have to trust Him. Heavenly Father can decide to heal Daddy if that is the best thing for us but He may also need us to learn different lessons."
Fighting back the tears, she nodded at me and looked down. You see, Emma is not shy of asking hard questions (she is sooo much like her father) and I could tell she wanted to know more. Once I invited her to ask more, she jumped up and blurted out, "But what happens when a person dies!? I know their spirit goes to heaven but where do they die and how does their body get buried?!" All the kids look at me while I am stunned that she even had thought of these questions but also grateful that she knew she could ask. We had a few minutes discussion about the whole matter, mainly with our three oldest keenly interested. The discussion ended with love and continued hope for our family, and Tony was able to follow up later that evening.
My heart broke that morning. There's not much more to say than that. I love my babies so much and seeing them worried just plain hurts. But that broken heart was pulled together a bit as I really could see the Atonement and the Plan of Happiness working in their lives. Jesus Christ can even help my little ones in ways that I can't. Having so much understanding from the Gospel is amazing; and our conversation only ended with peace because of what Christ made possible for us. I'm so grateful that God loves us so much that He will do what is right and perfect for each of us. He knows what our little babies need much more than I know, and He will make everything right, even if we feel our hearts are breaking. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." That is the true miracle of all, that we can learn and find Christ, and through Him become perfected to live with God again. It will all be worth it.
On an excited note, if our Utah friends want a fun family activity this weekend (with free admission) and hopefully a chance to see Tony dressed up as who-knows-what, come to this fantastic haunted house in our neighborhood! Our dear friend, Randall Jones, is turning it into a (first-time for this event) fundraiser for our family and the Utah Food bank. We go every year and this year we hope to promote this tradition to help future families in need! A HUGE thank you to him and all the many, many volunteers who have put in loads of time to put this together and for thinking of our family. Check out this video to learn more or go to tonymeans.org.