My daughter Lainey is five years old and I love her. One rainy day, I sang "Singing in the Rain" and Lainey started to cry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“That songs reminds me of GG,” Lainey sniveled, “and I miss GG so much!”
GG stood for Great-Grandmother. My 88-year-old grandma suggested the moniker after a lifetime with 12 brothers and sisters, who all seemed to have had a nickname except for her. GG lived in the same little house in Central Illinois for 50 years, which was filled with gifts she’d kept, like a stuffed mechanical basset hound that sang "Singing in the Rain." GG and Lainey laughed at that dog during every visit.
I smiled when Lainey mentioned GG. My grandma would love to hear that Lainey was thinking about her.
“When something reminds you of somebody, that’s a good thing,” I told Lainey. “Think of how much you love that person, not how much you miss them.”
Lainey thought for a second and then sang along with me. It’s a catchy tune, after all.
Days later, I learned GG had passed away. Cancer came strong and quick, overtaking her in weeks. I kept her death secret from Lainey for a day, fearing how she’d react. Then I realized I needed Lainey to know. The kid was a positive force, no matter what, and her knowing could help my grief.
“Lainey,” I told her in the kitchen before dinner. “You know GG was sick, right?”
“Well, sweetie… She died,” I said, and Lainey wailed.
I held her and carried her into the living room. My wife joined us and we huddled together on the couch. Lainey cried, but in a controlled way, not hysterical—she knew what had happened. Her tears induced my own and we cried together.
“I’ll never see GG again?” Lainey asked.
“No, honey. She’s gone,” I shook my head, “up to heaven.”
“But what about Grandpa Dean?” Lainey asked.
“Oh, he’s still around.” I smiled.
Lainey’s crying let up a bit. We turned her attention to a package that had arrived that day and opened it. Some bottles for her soon-to-come baby brother. The distraction calmed Lainey and things were back to normal.
The next day I informed Lainey that I’d be gone a few days, to fly to Illinois for GG’s funeral. Lainey slowly nodded her head and said, “That’s okay, Dad.”
Jeanne Lenore Standley was my pen-pal since I was a kid. She loved family more than anything, and we will miss her so.