I pulled Princess closer to me on the couch. "Princess, I have something to tell you."
I took a deep breath. "Remember Sabba R? We visited him so many times this summer? And you kissed him on the cheek and Savta gave you a chocolate candy?"
"I remember the chocolate candy!" her dimple peeks out at the memory. "And Sabba's cheek. It had prickles."
My eyes burn. He always had prickly cheeks. As though he was in a constant state of having shaved the day before.
"Well, Sabba...he..." why is that word so hard? Died. He died. We always have to soften that reality with phrases like " he's passed on." or "we lost him." or "he's gone." But I have to say the word died to her. I can't have her think that we can go around misplacing people or something. If she's anything like I was at her age, that would be exactly what she would think. "Sabba died."
My throat burns. "Yes."
"Yes. He's in shamayim now, with Hashem."
"Oh." She thinks about it. I get tense. "So Hashem came out of shamayim and took him back with Him?"
I relax a bit. "Yes, exactly."
"How can He do that? Without us seeing Him?"
"...well, He's Hashem. He can do everything."
"Without us seeing Him?"
"Without us seeing Him."
"Can you read Madeline to me and bring me milk? In the pink cup."
So that was it, death explained to a 4 year-old. She made sure that the concept was clear in her mind, the "how" fully elaborated on, and then she was on to more important things, such as short picture books about young french school girls. And milk. In the pink cup.
How is so much easier to answer than why.