From the beginning, we have been honest and open with Jasper about the situation with our baby girl. He has been matter-of-fact and supportive, hopeful for the slight chance that she might live, saying he would defend her if people made fun of her, and push her wheelchair. He was also OK with her death. He felt comfortable that she would go back to heaven and be happy, and we would move on to either have or adopt another child. Recently, though, we’ve realized that we may have missed the magnitude of the effect of this situation on Jasper. We knew he seemed stressed, and we were sure it must have to do with the baby. But we didn’t realize how much the idea of death was penetrating his little 7-year-old reality.
Last weekend, I spent a night in the hospital for an acute intestinal infection accompanied by bloody stools. Jasper knew my stomach had been hurting, and that we kept having to stop for me to use the bathroom. But he was surprised to wake up Sunday morning and find Grandma in our bed because Mom and Dad were at the hospital. The day went on as normal, with fun at Grandma’s house, and no one thought or conveyed to Jasper that I was in any kind of danger. Still, somehow the thought entered his mind. When Jasper came to see me home in bed that night, he began to cry silent tears. He admitted that he thought I had something “life-threatening,” in his words, and that something was going to happen to me. I tried to reassure him I was fine.
Last night, Jasper had a little bit of bloody diarrhea, and said he thought he had what I had. This wasn’t a big surprise because the infection is viral and several people around us have had different versions of it. Most are mild, and Jasper wasn’t in pain. I assured him he was fine, and thought he believed me. But in his prayer last night, he prayed that if he had what I had, he could get through it. He prayed that if one of us must die from this sickness, me or him, that Heavenly Father would please take him so that Ruby could still have a mother and Steve could still have a wife. This was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever heard one of my children say. Steve and I realized we hadn’t made our reassurances often enough or convincing enough. We told him very clearly that neither he nor I were in any danger from this infection. I told him about a strong feeling I’ve always had that I will live to a very ripe old age.
I think we finally put Jasper at ease, but I won’t count on it for sure. We won’t doubt how deeply perceptive a child can be, or how troubled by something. Jasper had never mentioned or feared death before, and suddenly he was very sure of the possibility for both him and me. I’m sure this change was because of the reality of our baby facing death.