The other morning while sitting next me all cuddled up and looking through a Star Wars book, you turned to me and said, “Daddy, I don’t want to die.”
It melted my heart, and I responded, “I don’t either, but that isn’t something you need to worry about.” Then I gave you a hug and held you tight.
Death isn’t something we’ve talked a lot about. We had a brief crash course on the topic when our kitty passed away, and you didn’t seem to bat an eye at what were saying. Then a year back you were talking a lot about my 97-year-old Great Aunt Peg. You would pretend to call her on the phone and suggest we call her often; but when she passed away and we told you she was gone, you just stopped talking about her just like that.
We’ve also talked a little bit about death when I’ve shown you pictures of my sister Jenny.
“Have I met her?” You’ll usually ask.
“No,” I respond. “She passed away before you were born.”
The conversation usually ends there, but the last time this exchange happened you became more inquisitive.
“Sometimes people just die. Accidents happen.”
“Did her head fall off?”
I burst into laughter, thankful for you unintentionally lighting the mood, “No, buddy, sometimes people just pass away.”
Your most recent comments about death unknowingly came just two days after the 176th and deadliest mass shooting of the year. Just typing that sentence nearly brings me to tears. It’s gotten to the point where the news headlines have become so sad that I’ve had to stop reading them. I’ve had to limit my intake of “the news” since it doesn’t inform me, just depresses, and there are too many things to be happy about—like you and your sister.
I did spend a week filling out every petition I could find to limit the availability of certain types of guns and called and emailed all of our representatives in government. You’re still just a kid, one who hasn’t heard the news and still just wants to play Nerf guns. You’ll get there in time, I promise. But for now, Nerf guns are off limits, especially since you shot your Grandpa in the eye in with a Nerf disc gun, requiring him to have surgery to repair his retina…
You’re also just getting over a rare autoimmune virus which attacked your veins and kidneys. Your legs and belly were covered with spots and rashes, and too much activity caused your ankles and legs to swell up and turn purplish-blue. At the ends of the day you were hobbled over and unable to walk your legs hurt so badly. One morning you woke up and your hand was swollen, and then a few days later your eye ballooned half-way shut. It was scary, but it seems you’ve finally turned the corner.
I think the frequent trips to the doctor to have your kidneys checked got you thinking about your own infant mortality. The other night you asked your Mom, “Mom, do you want to die?”
Not trying to sugar-coat life and death, and trying to help you to accept that death is natural, she responded, “Yes.”
This shocked you.
“Why do you want to die?”
“Well everyone dies,” your Mom responded.
“So far,” I added.
“So far?” Your mom asked.
“Yes, who knows, next week someone might figure out how we could all live forever”
Little did I know that someone turned out to be our 7-year-old neighbor, Quinn.
“Well, Dad and I don’t want to die, and Quinn is going to build a machine you can crawl into and you would never die. So, daddy, you can come into it with me, and we’ll live forever.”
Sounds fantastic, buddy.
I love you so much,