I think kids have a natural sixth sense. I know Alice does, and I pray she never loses it. For her, her sixth sense seems to guide her compassion. She knows and understands things that many children her age don't.
We haven't talked to her very much about my dad and his condition. At four years old, we assumed she wouldn't understand or grasp the concept of sickness and death. It turns out that she grasps it more than we realized.
Last Saturday night when I was putting Alice to bed, she decided she wanted to have a little heart to heart talk about Grandpa.
"Mommy, is Grandpa dying?" she asked.
Me, a little taken aback replied, "Yes, honey... he is...".
"Is he going to die soon?", she probed.
"I'm not sure honey. Grandpa is very sick, and it's possible that he could die at any time. Or, we might be lucky enough to have him around for a while. We just don't know.", I explained.
"And you'll be sad, right mommy?".
"Yes, honey. I'll be sad."
She thought for a moment and said, "Do you love your daddy, mommy?". "Yes, honey. Very much so." I said. "I love him too. And I won't be shy of him anymore, because I may not see him for much longer." she proclaimed.
My eyes welled up with tears at this point, and my throat began to tighten. How smart she had become in the blink of an eye. I was amazed at her understanding of the situation. The next day she did exactly what she said she was going to do the night before. Instead of shying away when she saw Grandpa, she picked a flower for him, took it to him and gave him a big hug and kiss. "I love you Grandpa." she said. I saw my dad's eyes swell with tears as he looked at me, then leaned over to hug Alice and said, "I love you too sweetheart."
I have a feeling Alice is going to be a great source of strength for me when "the time comes". She already is now. I am amazed by her compassionate and understanding heart, and how quickly she is growing up. I don't know what I did in my life to deserve her, but it must have been something really good. :o)