Until yesterday, Graham had never expressed any actual sadness about the death of his beloved Oma.
For months now he has asked me repeatedly, sometimes dozens and dozens of times a day, "Are you sad about Oma?" but when I answer in a manner designed to engage him - "Yes I am, because I loved her and you did too didn't you?" - he has abruptly changed the subject or simply repeated the question over and over: "Are you sad about Oma? Are you sad about Oma? Are you sad about Oma?"
Attempts to break through often result in Graham chanting in an increasingly loud crescendo with slightly different wording: "Are you sad about Oma? Are you sad about Opa? Are you worried about Opa? Are you worried about Daddy?"
For four months now, louder and louder Graham has chanted, drowning out every attempt I make to respond to his questions in a thoughtful and loving manner.
It is the most gut-wrenching thing I have ever experienced.
Yesterday his babysitter, the woman he calls Omi and my late mother-in-law's best friend, said Graham approached her during play time with tears coursing down his cheeks.
"I can't help it Omi," he said. "I'm just so sad about Oma."
And so she took him onto her lap and together talked they talked about how much they loved her and how much they missed her and all the wonderful things they used to do together.
Last night, exactly four months after her death, I dreamed about my dearly, dearly-loved mother-in-law for the first time.
I dreamt I walked into our living room and was astonished to see her sitting at our little cherry wood table sipping a cappuccino. My shock and happiness at the sight of her was so overwhelming I can still feel it now, crowding the air from my chest and stinging behind my eyes. In my dream I fell to my knees and took her hands in mine as tears rolled down my face.
"I have missed you so so much," I told her, over and over again. But she just regarded me with a bemused smile, as if she were confused over my outpouring of emotion.
"I can't believe you are here," I cried. "Don't you know you died four months ago?"
But she just smiled and in my dream I rushed and found a calendar in order to impress upon her what a miracle her presence was. But when I found one, the dates on it had been replaced by a series of nonsensical letters and numbers. All the dates and clocks throughout the house looked the same way, I realized, and so finally I stopped rushing about and just sat with her, clasping her hands and crying in wonder while she smiled benignly.
And then I realized what she wanted.
"Don't go anywhere!" I told her.
I rushed into Graham's room where he was sleeping soundly. I lifted him up, rushed back into the living room and thrust him into her arms.
In my dream Graham's eyes fluttered open as he clasped his chubby arms around her neck.
"Oma!" he breathed, snuggling into her. And she kissed the top of his head.
I awoke with a start this morning and my mother-in-law's presence was so fresh and so real that I could only lie there and sob quietly for a few moments, as dawn's light and its harsh reality crept into my consciousness.
I did not want to get out of bed and leave her behind this morning but I had to: we are moving into our new house tomorrow and there is much to be done.
We are moving tomorrow from a house that she loved to a house that she will never see.
We are moving. Graham is growing. Our lives are changing.
And yet it seems that none of our forward motion is sufficient to fill the gaping hole her death has left behind.