Discussing Death

I want to stress up front that what follows is NOT the description of a dream, but rather a real (if surreal) conversation the Beaner and I had at lunch today. I remember thinking in the middle of it that I wished I had a tape recorder, because there was no way I was going to remember EVERYTHING he said and how he said it, and it seemed really important to remember. This is the gist of what I remember now, about 2.5 hours later and after a couple meetings.

It started with us talking about why I was brewing tea in a "birthday" (disposable) cup rather than the Halloween mug that Daddy bought for me. I explained that the birthday cup was the only disposable cup I could find, and I wanted a disposable cup because I alread had a mug upstairs on my desk half-full of tea, and it just needed a refresher. I should have brought the mug downstairs before I left to pick up the Beaner from school so it would be in the kitchen up on my return, but I forgot, so instead I was bringing fresh tea up to the mug. (Stupid, I know.)

The Beaner said, "you couldn't go back up to get your mug, because then you'd be late."

Me: "That's right, and I didn't want to be late to pick you up. I didn't want to make you wait."

The Beaner: "You didn't want to leave me alone."

Me: "Right [hugging him], I didn't want to leave you alone, because I love you."

The Beaner: "If you didn't love me, you'd leave me alone, and then I'd get sick and die."

At this point I was starting to worry about where the conversation was going, and also trying to chase thoughts of abandoned children out of my head.

Me: "Yes, that could happen if I were to leave you alone. I suppose it does happen to some children.... but I won't leave you alone because I love you. Mommy and Daddy love you, and grandma and grandpa love you...[and here I go through the whole list of everybody who I know for a fact loves him dearly and would never leave him alone]."

The Beaner: "And Mommy and Daddy love me. But what if you and Daddy die? Then I'll be alone."

OK, we've talked about death before. We've talked about my father's brother Johnny dying before Christmas, about how our cat Annie died shortly before the Beaner was born, about other relatives who've died.The Beaner never really seemed to grasp what death was, though, and we haven't talked about it recently, so I'm not sure how it happened to gel in his mind right now. It's funny how kids never want to talk about things when you're PREPARED to talk about them; they only ever blindside you with questions that require hours of thought in order to formulate an age-appropriate response.

Me: "Well, yes, Daddy and I will die eventually—everybody does. But we don't plan on dying anytime soon. We hope to live to be very old, by which time you'll also be very old, and better able to deal with our deaths."

The Beaner: "I don't want you and Daddy to die. Ever."

Me: "Everybody dies, sweetie, but there's no reason to believe that we'll die soon."

The Beaner: "Maybe if you die, I can go to the store and get new people."

Me: "Um, I don't think it works that way." I consider broaching the subject of the afterlife, but after a couple false starts, I decide it's too complicated. He seems to know what's going on behind all my hemming and hawing, though, and says,

The Beaner: "I hope I can find you."

Me: "I hope so, too."

Posted by Lori in parenthood at 2:40 PM on January 11, 2008



Posted by: schmutzie at January 11, 2008 6:59 PM

When I was three, my dad went to the hospital for his appendix. When we went to visit him, I asked my mother, "Is this where we are getting my new daddy?"

My kids (at similar ages) have told me I can go to the store and get replacement people, too. It is a simultaneously funny and sad stage.

Posted by: Karianna [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 11, 2008 9:21 PM

Sad, Cinematic, and well put. You can tell you pay attention to your son because stories like this are retold so well. This one is delicate though and very deep.

Posted by: Eson at January 12, 2008 12:08 AM

Claudia just said if I died she would get Dark Vader to be her Mommy.

I wish I was making that up.

Posted by: Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah at January 13, 2008 8:40 AM

Oh, this made me cry! The fact that his childlike mind just figured he could go get new people, since this happens with toys, books, clothes, etc. was precious enough, but then deciding he hopes he finds you would be better just broke my heart.

Posted by: Josie [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2008 11:16 AM

Oh my. This conversation is so funny and so heart-tugging at the same time. Beaner!

Posted by: juliloquy [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 14, 2008 11:17 AM

Comments are now closed.