Tuesday, August 19, 2008

behind curtain #3

M has become preoccupied with dying. We have no idea where its coming from, no one we know has died nor has she suffered a loss. But regularly, as in daily she says mama, i really don't want to die. When she says that a little part of me actually does feel like dying, her earnestness and questioning is entirely beautiful and it slays me. So we'll talk about it a bit, what dying is and how it's as natural a part of life as anything else. About how we hope that we'll all be together for years and years and years until any of us dies, and that she has a long life ahead of her first.

But then she'll ask but what happens when i die, do i get born again? Ah, baby. Your grandma would be so proud I think to myself. But explaining this to a near four year old is hard. Honey, none of us really know what happens. Some people believe we become angels or that we go to heaven, in fact if you talk to grandpa and grandma that's what they believe. Some people think we will return to earth again, and some think nothing happens at all. I don't know the right answer, no one does for sure because we are all still alive. So what we get to do instead is make sure we have the best life we can, we make sure we make every single day count.

How do we do that? She askes me then. By loving each other as hard as we can. By being fearless and by helping others and our planet and saying yes as much as possible.

And hugging. We should keep doing lots of hugging, she says.

Absolutely, baby girl. Hugs are at the top of the list. Your daddy and I don't have all the answers but we can promise we'll be right here with you trying to figure it out, okay?
That's good, mama. I like that. Let's do that.

And it shatters me, this conversation. Every single time it shatters me.

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31 comments:

cinnamon gurl said...

I don't look forward to those conversations at all. I've often wondered how to answer those questions as an agnostic, and your answer sounds spot on. I'll have to remember it.

Blog Antagonist said...

God, those questions are so hard, particulary, when you have no hard and fast beliefs yourself. (me, I mean, not you).

But keep talking, even if it's only to say you don't know. It's okay not to have all the answers, I've learned. Just let her know your listening.

QT said...

oh that babygirl...it would shatter me too.

patches said...

i'd rather answer questions about reproduction than spirituality...

Annie said...

Oh boy! Such tough questions, and so hard to answer.

You did a great job though - so I'll be filing this away for the inevitable time I'll have a similar conversation :)

Her Grace said...

You are beautiful, Jen. We just dealt with this two weeks ago when our beloved cat died. My kids really struggled with it and it's a hard lesson to teach.

Omaha Mama said...

Reading that conversation brought tears to my eyes. The one that broke my heart was when my B got it figured out that her dad and I would go first. She was so sad, it was hard to make it okay.

painted maypole said...

definately lots of hugging. she's got her priorities straight. ;)

crazymumma said...

They are little windows into the universe with their asking of the eternal and burning questions aren't they?

Jill said...

This is one of those things that you just had to write down so you could always remember it. I love how you take her questions seriously and give her honest answers.

Shania said...

Oh my. I can only imagine the conversations your M and my Silas would have. He's four also and recently acquired the death obsession. Out of nowhere. The question that breaks my heart every time "mommy, when I die will you make sure my eyes stay open so I can still see everyone?" WHERE do they come up with this?

Kyla said...

You're doing good, Mama.

Because we're Christians, we believe in heaven and all of that and BubTar attends a Christian school. Anyway, I think it was his PreK year he kept saying, "I want to die now and go to heaven." It was very difficult to explain why he should want to be alive. Damn that heaven for sounding so appealing to a 4 year old.

Gwen said...

According to my therapist, these questions about dying are developmental, relate to the knowledge that they're growing away from their need for us. Since both my kids had the same questions at the same age as M (and my 8 year old is there again, only with far more hysteric emotion this time), I'd guess the shrink is probably right. Not that it makes the answering any easier. Even when we say all the "right" things, knowing that separation is coming, that loss is coming, still hurts.

The funny thing is, even though I pull out the "I don't think that anyone really knows what's after death," both my kids say, "Oh, but we believe in heaven, Mama." And their grandma would also be proud.

Mad said...

We haven't had this conversation yet. Thanks for the road map.

flutter said...

ooof. how could it not shatter you?

Don Mills Diva said...

It just shattered me too. How perfectly beautiful.

I think you are saying all the right things BTW...

Deezee said...

Approaching age 4 and conversations about death...it's like clock work. I remember when and the preschool pointing out it was the age. By now I think my son has a better handle on these challenging life questions that I do.

alejna said...

Your conversation shatters me, too. Your answers about living are so beautiful, as is her response. I'm all for the hugging, too.

I think I could have used more conversations like that as a child.

Ally said...

Oh lord, this one killed me. Keep doing the hugging, indeed. Your answers were fabulous. I'm stealing them for my next conversation about death.

carrie said...

I think you gave perfect answers.

Amy Y said...

We've had that conversation a time or two here at our house, too. It's tough every single time. It sounds to me like you handled it like a pro, Mama!

thailandchani said...

I like what you had to say to her...


~*

Magpie said...

that child has one fine mama.

it's amazing, the questions they ask.

KC said...

I hope I can answer Jolie's questions as beautifully as this. That M is going to be an amazing woman someday.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I think I love her. Hugging, yes, much hugging.

meno said...

Thank you for not shining her on.

mamatulip said...

I have similar conversations with Julia a lot; she asks about my mum and it goes from there. They're hard, aren't they?

Anjali said...

Those questions that even us parents don't know the answers to...Those are the ones that just pull at my heart the most...

wheelsonthebus said...

It is the age. It is so hard to talk about these things with them, because they really are struggling to get it.

bgirl said...

i love your way of communicating. so wise jen.

Tis I. said...

Oee went through this at the exact same age.

You answered her beautifully, Jen.

I made a will. I don't know what the laws are there, but here, if you don't have a will the child becomes a ward of the court.

So, in part, to answer Oee's questions, I did prep work.

Funny. She has come to terms with death and dying for now. We rode past the cemetary the other day and she said, "Mommah, that is where I'm going to bury you when you die."

I laughed and said, "Oh, it is?"

"Yes. And, I will write on the stone, She was a Good Mommah, she made me good food and gave me lots of hugs. She was a Good Mommah."

Sustenance. For the heart.

Love to you and your heart, Jen.