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On Tuesday, I had to break the news to my four year old daughter that her very special “fairy godmother” passed away. Kathleen was beloved by many, as she marched about town with a rose topped cane, doused in the oil of the same scent, leaving a trail of beauty and compliments where ever she went. My daughter spent a couple afternoons a week with her drinking tea, drawing and chatting, in her tiny apartment filled with art and treasures.

They loved one another so.

When I told her, her jaw dropped, and her eyes bulged, the cartoon version of disbelief. “FOR REAL?”

“For real, love.”

Then, her face twisted up and she let out a wail. She cried from the depths of her very being while I held her tight, assuring, “She loved you very much. And she knew you loved her.”

A friend was hosting a gathering that I offered to take her to.

“But I’ll cry there,” she eeked out between sobs.

“That’s ok, love. Everyone will be crying. But we can hug other people who loved her. It might help.”

“Yes. I want to go.”

So we drove the few blocks in the rain as she wept in the backseat, “but…I…loved…her…”

She sobbed on the stairs once inside, a cup of tea in my hand, the other around her heartsick little body.

We are not religious people. Spiritual, sure. But still, I felt at a loss. Until another friend arrived. She quietly knelt beside my girl and offered this:

“You know, when people die, they become bigger than you can imagine. She’s everywhere now. So when you’re sad, you can talk to her. When you see something beautiful, you can tell her all about it. She’s in your heart now.”

For the first time in what felt like hours, she quieted down. As she pulled her damp face from my chest, she looked up and saw a little friend of hers, just three years old and too young to fully process what was happening.

Rising from my lap, she wiped her face and looked squarely at her friend.

“You can talk to her any time you want.” And off she went. All she needed to know was that her Love didn’t go forever. So simple, and such a beautiful understanding.

Yesterday, she found me sitting on the floor in her bedroom, stealing a few moments to stop fighting tears. Matter of factly, she placed her hands on my shoulders and locked eyes with me.

“Take a deep breath.”

She waited as I nodded and followed her direction.

“Better?” she asked

“Better.”

“Mama, she’s in your heart now. It’s ok.”

And with a lingering hug, she left me to eat a bowl of ice cream. Just like Kathleen would have wanted.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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