When we were considering whether or not to go to Wisconsin the weekend after Elena was buried people told us “it’s what Elena would have wanted.”
Of course that’s impossible to know.
You hear that all the time in reference to someone who has died. When a father dies you might be told, “Here’s his pocket watch. He would have wanted you to have it.” After a spouse has died people might wait a while but then say, “You need to start dating again. She would have wanted you to be happy.”
This is harder when a child dies because “what they want” has not had a chance to mature. In fifteen years we can’t still be using the measure of what Elena would have wanted when she was six. Her wants are frozen in time at a very young age.
When Kim’s grandfather died, Elena told us every day that she wanted to go to heaven to be with great grandpa. Kim told her there would be time. But Elena was very touched by death. She thought about what would happen when our dog died and she used to say to me before every trip, “bye daddy, I hope you don’t die on the plane.” Not exactly the phrase I wanted ringing in my ears as I boarded.
We might be sincere in trying to express what someone who is dead would have wanted but it is really our interpretation of what we think they would have wanted. No matter how sincere we are, it is still a wish of our own expressed in terms of the person no longer able to speak for themselves. When I say, “Elena would have wanted it this way,” how much of that is me and how much of that is really her?
There are so many little things we will miss out on and so many big things. As our niece waved goodbye the other night we looked at this beautiful fifteen month old child and realized she would never know her cousin Elena. I have a friend who said, when his dad died, that it was the little things like knowing his dad would never see the Red Sox win the World Series. My bachelor party was at an afternoon Indians game and Kim and I got to see a World Series game together. Elena will never see the Indians win the World Series. Then again, I’m pretty sure I won’t either.
Kim and I were driving somewhere talking about this issue of what Elena would have wanted. We agreed that we can’t know so we can’t use that as an influencing factor. But it’s hard.
We heard that the eleven year old girl who was killed was buried right near Elena. It’s hard not to say “oh, Elena would have liked that.” Really, Elena would probably have been fascinated with and horrified that another child had died. Of course I can’t know for sure.
We sat at a stoplight and talked about these two young neighbors. How no one would ever know what they would want as adults. We would never see the women that these young girls would become. When Elena was alive, you never had to guess what she wanted. She always told you. She often didn’t care if she got what she wanted – she just like letting you know. Just in case.
The light turned green. The woman driving the convertible next to us shifted into first and sped off. Kim looked at me sideways and smiled.
“Elena would have wanted me to have a convertible,” she said. “A red one.”