I'm working with a little 5 year old girl whose daddy is dying. She greets me with an exuberant hug, grabs my hand and leads to me to the table where she is filling out 'valentimes day cards' for her school friends. She looks at me like she's got a secret and says 'guess what?'. I ask what. "My daddy is going to heaven soon." Oh. She tells me it's ok, because one day she'll see him again. I ask what will be different when her dad dies. She thinks hard and says earnestly, "Well, mommy will be taking care of me then. That's different, right?". Yes, that is different. I ask her what she misses doing with her dad now that he's sick. She tells me a string of beautiful memories and I say a little prayer that she'll remember them.
I help her create a picture of heaven and she makes a cutout angel of herself. After that, we get down to business - Valentimes Day cards. This is serious. She decides which card each person will love, and I help her by reading out the letters in each person's name. After, she holds it up, smiling, and announces 'they are gonna LOVE this card'.
Holding the cards, I remembered elementary school valentine's day cards and all the classroom dynamics and crushes and cupcakes that went with every celebration. And then I wondered at my fifth-grade self, who communicated with others by house telephones and never once said the words email or blog or ipod. I miss sending real cards.