Kids ask hard questions. The why questions that make us search our brain to recall the lessons in meteorology or chemistry that we learned back in high school. The questions we have forgotten to be curious about. There are the ones we expect. "Why is the sky blue?" "Why is the grass green?" And the ones that take us off guard "We aren't ever going to die right?" Oh Lord. For the most part the questions remind me consider the shear magic of every day life, but there are other inquires that I haven't thought much about since I was a child, and for good reason. They frighten me.
The questions about death started recently when someone at preschool brought up the topic of Michael Jackson's demise. "Mommy, why is Michael Jackson dead?" Hmmmm... good question. I decided it was best not to dive into the possible homicide case and instead dodged the inquiry all together. (Cookies anyone??) But a few days later we were paging through Zachary's baby book and came upon a photo of his great grandfather, Leonard who passed away about a year after Zack's birth. Zachary looked at his photograph and asked "Who is that mommy?" "Your great grandfather Leonard" I answered. "Will I ever see him?" he wanted to know. "No sweetie, you won't." "Mommy why?" "Well because grandpa Leonard died". "Why did he die mommy?" I responded that grandpa was very old and that when you get very old your body stops working. He looked at me nervously and said "But your not going to die right?" I told him yes, that someday I would but that it wouldn't be for a very long time. With fear in his eyes he said "Are you going to leave me alone?" Oh sweetie.... I tried to alleviate his fears and tell him that it wouldn't be for a very, very long time when he was a grown up and I was old. Then I changed the subject.
I hate discussing or thinking about death. I remember as a child I would lie in bed and wonder about it and I would feel a cold fear in the pit of my stomach that I simply could not shake. My mother told me once that it was something I need not worry about, that by the time I was even close to death, I would be much older and then I would understand it better. This truly comforted me and I believed that some day I would no longer fear dying. Now Zachary has questions. I don't have the gift of religion to fall back on. I don't believe in pearly gates and angels sitting on puffy clouds playing harps. I wish I did. I wish I could tell Zachary that someday he would see his great grandfather in heaven, but I can't, not with a straight face anyways. And so I told him what my own mother told me. He remains curious, but I think I have placated him for now. For now. Until perhaps his own child asks him "What happens when we die daddy?"
Deep thoughts for a Tuesday night.