by Jessica Ehlers, July 20, 2010
So on the way home from picking my boy up from hanging out with his dad this evening, we're driving through Fort Bragg. The car is packed because we're leaving on a climbing trip to Yosemite tomorrow morning. At the stoplight on the corner of Main and Redwood Streets, I reach back and hold his hand, saying "We are going to have So Much Fun on this trip!" and instead of the grin I am expecting, he's upset and has tears in his eyes.
"Mamam, I am going to be so sad when you die." And while his face scrunches up in anguish, little tears pour down both of his cheeks. The light turns green and I turn the music down. Driving now, I say "Oh honey, I am not going to die for a really, really long time." To which the response is audible sobs. Wrong answer. Dang.
I turn right on Pine and head to the first available parking spot off Main and park the car. Seat belt unbuckled, I crawl in the back seat and unleash him from his car seat. He crawls into my lap and cries on my shoulder. I tell him that death is really sad (more sobs). He looks at my pearl necklace and tells me when I am dead, he will think of me when he sees it.
His pain is so acute, I want to tell him I will ever die. That I will always be here to protect him, to love him, to hold him so close. But I can't lie. I look him in the eye and tell him I take really good care of myself and I am going to do everything in my power to live as long as I can to spend as much time with him as possible.
He wants specifics. "What happens when we die, Mamam?" I tell him when people die, their bodies aren't alive anymore but they live in your heart forever. As tears are drying, I suggest going home.
Arriving home, after some cuddle time, I pull out the big guns. Milk and cookies. I pour milk in my Grandma's china and put the cookies on the matching saucers. I tell him about my Grandma Betty. I tell him about my summers with her and how much I loved her. I tell him this tea set used to belong to her. I tell him that when I think of her, I know she's with me and amid his dipping cookies into milk, he listens carefully.
At some point after cookies and milk but before bath time, god came up. "What is god and what does god look like?"
Funny thing about parenting. There is always this teetering point where you're like, "Okay, I got this.." and then almost instantly your child changes and there is a whole new subject to tackle. Not sure how I am going to play this hand but I think we'll have ample opportunity to discuss death and god while in Yosemite the rest of the week. I will keep you posted.