How can we explain death and cancer to very young children

My father died when I was 14 years old. My youngest brother was 8. The cause of death written on his official death certificate (as if it was some achievement that needs proof) is stroke. My youngest brother never asked questions. In fact, for the first few years, none of us discussed it when the others is around. We rarely talk about it as adults. So I assumed, we all know (even my then 8 yo brother) what death is, or why it happens.

My uncle died last Friday, June 8, 2016. The killer? Cancer. We didn’t even know he has one until less than a month ago when it was already stage 4 and have already reached his brain (it started in his lungs, or at least that is what they told me). His family watched as his health slide down.

I have a 2 yr 10 month old baby girl. And since she know my uncle, I have to explain her what happened. I told her he is dead. He was sick, and he died due to that sickness. Then she will ask me about it every now and then (I think for around 5 times today). Here’s our typical exchange.

Pips: Patay na si tatay Nar?

Me: Yes baby.

Pips: Bakit sya namatay?

Me: Nagkasakit kasi sya.

Pips: Saan sya nagkasakit?

Me: Sa brain. Yung brain nasa loob ng head.

(she will touch her head)

Pips: Bakit sya namatay? (I think, since for her, sumasakit lang ang ulo kapag nauuntog, hindi nya nakukuha yung reason)

Me:Kasi anak, matanda na rin si tatay Nar.

And the conversation will continue. Sometimes we will also talk about God, Heaven, Cancer. Sometimes she will just go back to the first question.

I am not sure how to explain this to her. I don’t know if I am doing it correctly.

She is sad. She knows that tatay Nar will not move again. Will no longer talk to her. Will no longer make jokes or tell stories. I’m not sure if I am providing her the comfort that she needs.

She won’t even remember this. But the emotion, the feeling, the lessons, it will all go a long way.

We love you tatay Nar. We will miss you.