Death, Grief, and Honey Nut Cheerios

By Kiely Todd Roska

February 6, 2023

Death, Grief, and Honey Nut Cheerios

6:30 Tuesday morning. My four-year-old daughter sits next to me, scooping spoonfuls of cereal toward her mouth as milk drips onto her bare chest.

Emmalani prefers life without clothing. Today she sports purple butterfly underwear. Nothing else. Her brown bangs fall over her eyes, finally regrowing after her latest full-headed self-haircut.

Between bites, she alternates statements and questions like a DJ mixing speeds and genres—starting the next staccato litany before the last one finishes.

“Do men have the right to vote?... I want to be a mermaid…Who started COVID-19?...”

I chew my granola, and before I can utter a syllable, Emmalani speaks again.

“Mama, where does Tutu Lani live?” I pour some milk and digest the question.

Where does my mother (who died by suicide) live? I wish I could offer a simple one-liner like Tutu is in heaven with Jesus and the angels. Mom and Jesus would get along just fine—probably hanging out at heaven’s greasy diner, eating eggs over-easy in a corner booth, chatting with the waitress on her smoke break.

When I talk about my kids’ grandmother, I often say her body died but her spirit lives on. But, Mom also lives as an ache in the pit of my stomach, an incurable homesickness.

I look back at my nearly naked daughter and say, “Tutu Lani lives in our hearts.”

She ponders this for a beat. “Our hearts?! She’s too big to fit in there!”

I know, Honey. I know.


Kiely Todd Roska is a hospice chaplain-in-training and a creative nonfiction writer working on a memoir. She lives in Minnesota (on land first loved and stewarded by the Dakota people) where she spends her time wrangling and/or snuggling her spouse, two children, one dog, ten chickens, and many bees.


Image by Priscilla Du Preez courtesy of Unsplash

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