December 07, 2004

Death- My Son Asked Me Not to Die

My grandmother died last year. My son was around a little short of 3, for you math whizzes he was about 2.875 or so. Old enough to realize that she was not around and not that he is 3.934-years-old he doesn't really remember her, but he knows she died.

From time to time he has asked his mother and I about death. It is a natural question and I think that he and his school friends are starting to notice it. He had a pet fish named Boo that died around two months ago and that got the ball rolling.

Tonight was interesting. We had dinner, lit our Chanukiah and said the blessings. As we said the Shehecheyanu I could see the excitement on his face. He couldn't wait to open presents. It was great watching his eyes as those hands feverishly tore at the wrapping paper. Gifts were waiting, what could they be.

Legos and Lincoln Logs, a nice match for a boy who likes to build and his son. We were both excited and we had a nice time playing before bed. But eventually it was time for him to get a little shut-eye so that he can wake up in the morning. Speaking of which I am told that if I got more sleep it would be easier for me to recapture the svelte body I once had.

I lay in bed with him and told him a story. He smiled and gave me a hug and then asked why grandma died, why people die, where they go, what happens when you die and waited for answers. The answers came and he followed up with concern about whether he would die and a request that I not die. It was a soft voice, "daddy please don't die."

I did the best that I could to assuage his fear and reassured him that I am not going to die anytime soon, but part of me was unhappy with the answer. What happens if I am hit by a bus tomorrow. What happens if G-d forbid I am killed or suddenly drop dead. Have I misled him and caused some kind of issue. I have witnessed the deaths of several friends, not one or two, but several.

The causes include cancer, drunk driver and a basic bike accident. It could happen to me too, but I decided to play the odds and told him not to worry. He is too little to be concerned about whether I am going to come home at night. He still thinks that if a car hit me it would break. Although truth be told, so do I.

Some of you may be wondering why I am not posting what I said to him, what insightful answers did I come up with. The answer is that for now you can imagine what it was, I am not prepared to share it with you. It is kind of raw and I am not willing to drag those ghosts out of the closet.

I am mentally tough, I really am. Many people say it, but I live it. It is just the way things have worked out for me. Don't misunderstand, there are many who are tougher and many who are smarter and stronger than I am. But I know myself and frankly this hurts me in a deeper place than other cuts. It is cold and biting and I am not going to feed the monster by letting it out of it's cage.

In the morning I'll reconsider this again and I'll revisit. This is not the last time this conversation will be had, so there will be plenty of time to rehash it.

And on to a new post.

6 comments:

Sparky said...

I know how you feel. My kids have asked me about death. It's odd, though, neither of them have ever asked "why". My main objective is to be honest with them and to try to help them realize that death is not something to fear.

Of course, my seven-year-old has already laid claim to some of my things that he wants after I die.

Nettie said...

That's a really moving story.

Ralphie said...

I was learning pirkei avot with my girls (artscroll youth series, and they get candy and the end of each chapter - keeps 'em interested), and we got to a part about everyone returning to dust, or worms, or some cheerful thing that you're likely to find in P.A. When the girls realized what that meant, they started bawling. Throught their tears, they were able to express why: my younger daughter was sad because she didn't want to have to part with her beloved blankey, and the older one said she'd miss her toys. Let me get this straight, I said, you're weeping bitterly not at the thought of being without Mom and Dad, but because of some of your stuff? Affirmative.

So when I saw the subject was going to come up again, I warned them that the next mishnah might make them sad. So I read (last mishnah in chapter 4, I think), "We are born without choice, die without choice, and will return to life without choice." Not a tear in the house. My older one asked me, "Daddy, why did you think we'd be sad if we know we're going to come back to life?" Hm, must be the Chabad nursery school.

I can't bring myself to tell my kids that I won't die, though they've asked me to. I just wouldn't want them to miss me and think I'm a liar.

Jack's Shack said...

Honesty is really important.

Sheyna Galyan said...

Oldest Son wanted desperately to share his birthday wish on his sixth birthday earlier this month. His wish: "I hope you and Abba never die."

He is sensitive to loss. He misses both his grandfathers. Both died young, yet still before he got to meet them.

Youngest Son and I were in a bad car accident just over a year ago, and Oldest Son has figured out that we were lucky to have survived it. He talks about the fragility of life. He's only six.

I can come to terms with my own mortality. Coming to terms with my children's discovery of my mortality is a completely different thing.

Jack's Shack said...

I can come to terms with my own mortality. Coming to terms with my children's discovery of my mortality is a completely different thing.

It is tough, really tough.