By Libbo Crosswhite
Our Fuller House
I don’t think I was adequately prepared for the transition that happens when your babies turn into kids. For the first few months and years, parenting is really all about one thing—keeping your human alive. As they grow older, though, I have discovered that’s when the real work begins.
I am now charged with molding these said humans that I have not yet lost or broken into good, loving humans who see the world through a lens of God’s truth. Clay and I are walking through life’s heartaches with our kids a little earlier than we anticipated.
When I realized the absolute madness of two kids, under three years old, I thought it was only appropriate to give it our all and make our life a TOTAL crazy train. So, I convinced Clay after several months that the Crosswhites needed a puppy.
We excitedly told Mary about the new addition into the family. (Side note: If you ever want to know how people feel about your family’s stability, tell them you have an addition to the family coming and see their reaction. I quickly learned NO ONE thinks we are ready for baby number three!)
We decided we would let Mary name our puppy. To my delight and Clay’s hesitation and embarrassment, we brought our Uncle Jessie home. Yes, this fan happens to own every season of Full House on DVD.
He was adorable, slightly horrible, would come inside to use the bathroom, tug at Russell’s diapers until they came off, and was never calm—but he was ours. Mary would put him in her dollhouse, tote him around in her shopping cart, hold him in her car seat and told everyone about her Uncle Jessie. He was the perfect addition to our imperfect family.
Unfortunately, not long after Uncle Jessie settled into the Crosswhite family, Clay began to notice that Uncle Jessie wasn’t himself. We took him to the vet and it was worse than we could have imagined. Our sweet little puppy was given a 50/50 chance of living. I was crushed—not necessarily because of the connection I had made with him, but because I knew how much Mary loved that pup.
I knew the hard conversation that was going to have to happen. We chose to give him a fighting chance and after two weeks at the vet and lots of love from the entire staff at Northside Animal Hospital in Philadelphia, our sweet Uncle Jessie took his last breath.
How do we explain to our little girl that her first puppy is gone? After helping her write him letters and draw him pictures to make him feel better, we were faced with telling her that she would never see her Uncle Jessie again. Heartbreaking.
Being in the counseling field, I had prepared this elaborate life and death conversation—a conversation full of deep, meaningful thoughts for our three-year-old to ponder. I began thinking about how this would impact her view of animals, how she would write about this moment as a turning point in her life when completing senior scholarship essays, how this was going to absolutely change her life forever. I have no idea where she gets her dramatic tendencies.
When it came time to sit down and tell Mary, I absolutely melted. I couldn’t keep a sentence together. Clay, with his innate ability to contain his emotions like a normal person, took over and told Mary that Uncle Jessie wouldn’t be coming back. That he was gone. That he died.
She asked what that meant. He clearly explained it. She asked why. He said, “We don’t know why, but we know that God is in control and we know that Uncle Jessie isn’t hurting anymore.” She continued to ask when we would see him again. He simply said, “We won’t—he’s dead.”
Clay had (not so eloquently) told Mary the truth. I wanted to crawl under the table and protect myself from the grenade of sadness that he had just thrown. How dare he tell her the cold, hard facts—the truth! She looked at us both, sighed and then asked, “Well, can we get a purple cat and name it DJ?”
Don’t get me wrong, Mary has cried and continued to ask questions and wants her Uncle Jessie back, but she is not changed forever. “Afflicted, but not crushed; perplexed…but not destroyed…” comes to mind from 2 Corinthians.
I wanted so badly to save Mary from the hurt that would come from the truth, but I forgot the importance of letting her deal with heartache so that she can begin to see the need for a Savior to mend this brokenness. We have this deep desire to protect our children, but the truth is the best thing we can give our kids.
The truth of God’s word, and even the truth of heartache is what our kids so desperately need to hear in a world of lies.
Life is hard; puppies die. But, the truth will no doubt save our children and all of us from the despair that we encounter in this world and lead us to our hope in eternity. It is our job to walk through truth with our kids, even when it’s a hard truth.
And no, DJ has not joined the family (yet).