Monday, 24 September 2007

A beginning of the end

Bedtimes with my children are precious. I savour each evening's descent from madness into cosseted, thumbsucking babyhood in the same way I savour the weight being took off my feet and curtains being closed on our day.

We have a binary agreement, Miche & I - Megan gets her mother's undivided attention one night whilst Dominic gets to be a bloke with his dad. The next night Dominic's sensitivity is nurtured whilst Megan gets to be with her father to practice 1st grade philosophy. So it goes night after night.

Mornings follow a similar routine. We need this regimentation you see, as our progeny wake at 5:30 on the dot, regardless of weather or season.

And I for one, need my sleep.

So tonight I have my daughter - Meg wants to talk about death. Which took me aback, I must say. It's not a topic we've broached in any depth with either of them yet.

"I'm not going to die until I'm eighty four" she said to me.

"Well Meg, that's a great age to die. How do you know?"

"Great Granny died when she was eighty four, didn't she?"

I nearly broke down in front of the poor girl as I never expected her to remember this. Her Great Grandma died when she was three; I held her hand as she passed away and wiped my tears off her thumb.

"You remember her?"

"Yep, she lived in a hotel." Meg told me.

I guess the nursing home would look like a hotel to a four year old girl. You see, Gran had dementia and lived out her last three years in care. Prior to this she'd been fiercely independent and a stalwart influence over our entire family.

I gave my tearful eulogy at her humanist funeral. Like the rest of us, she had no time for God and his ilk. (If you're interested, I posted my tribute to her in my first week of blogging.)

So I said to Meg, "there's nothing to be scared of in dying you know."

"I know Dad, you just go to sleep forever."

"So what happens after that then?" I asked.

"I don't know. Do you?"

"No, my sweet" I said, kissing her on the forehead, "Let's take our time in finding out, eh?"

"I love you", she mumbled, almost asleep.

"Me too, me too..."

And that was that.


Stew said...

Well that brought a lump to my throat.

A conversation with my 10yr old son, Callan went the other direction: He was waiting for a stunt BMX he had bought with saved up pocketmoney to be delivered. When it arrived he tells me "At school I was praying "Please God let my nike come today" Now I've raised him cynical, in a non-religios household. We've often discussed the likelyhood of the existance of god and agreed it wasn't high.
I asked him how god, if he existed, might feel if Callan only prays when he wants stuff. I asked him if god would have been to blame if the bike didn't arrive. I suggested it would be more fruitful to follow the tracking of the bike delivery on the internet rather than pray to god.
he was to busy unpacking the bike . . .

jamon said...

Cheers Stew.

I often pray - usualy after dropping stuff on my toes - "Oh, Jesus fucking H Christ!"

Christy Lenzi said...

Our youngest was a professing atheist before my husband and I even admitted to ourselves that's what we were. He was about four when he told me he didn't think God was real. I was shocked. "You don't?!"

He went on to tell me he thought maybe Santa Claus was real, though (we never pretended he was, so this was another shock.)

But after my mom died two years ago, he has been asking a lot of fearful questions about death and how he wishes he wouldn't have to die. He said "It just doesn't seem fair, to not be alive anymore. I want to live all the time."

I tried to speak of death in terms that are not frightening, as you did so well with your daughter, but to no avail. But not long ago, we watched the movie Tuck Everlasting, about a family who finds a spring of water that enables them to live forever and the girl who must decide if she will join them in partaking of the water (she chooses to live and die naturally). When it was over, my son told me he wasn't afraid of not living forever anymore.

So now I've decided to just give total parenting control over to the movie industry, since they seem to be doing such a nice job so far.... :D

Samanthamj said...

Interesting post here... I've gone thru similiar conversations with my boys. Since so many of our friends and family are christian, they know that "some people believe in heaven and hell and some people do not".

When my father passed away, it was not only hard on me, but also on my older son who was 5 then. We talked about how he lives on, in us. In our memories, our hearts, and even genes... like having similiar physical and/or personality traits. I make sure we sing songs, and tell stories to keep his memory alive.

My younger son never even met my Dad, but he has told me stories where he thought he had. He's just heard so much, I guess, he feels like he knows him... and I like that.

This seems to be good enough for both of them... but, every once in a while, my one boy will ask if I think "Pa" is watching us from heaven.. and I'll say, "I don't know? I don't really understand how he could be, but it would be nice - wouldn't it? If he is, I'm sure he'd be watching you and smiling and very proud of you, just like he was when he was here. And, even if he's not, a part of him will always be with you, right?"

Still, I think I need to rent that movie... Tuck Everlasting, huh? Got it.


Christy Lenzi said...

The book is even better!

My son (6) also seemed to appreciate the kids' movie A Bridge to Terebithia, which deals with (among other things) the death of the main character's best friend (a young atheist girl.)

It provided much material for family discussions.

Jamon, it sounds like you really have such a sweet way with your kids--thanks for sharing this post.

jamon said...

Hi Samantha - how you describe people living on in us - "In our memories, our hearts, and even genes" really rang tru with me - thanks for posting.

Tuck Everlasting - For under a fiver at I'd be daft not to get it. Thanks for the head's up.

Blane Conklin said...

My 9 year old daughter read "Tuck" earlier this month. It sounded interesting, so I read it this week. We've had some conversations about death in the past, though I can't think of anything interesting to share about them now. But at dinner this evening we talked about the book. The interesting thing about the conversation was that it wasn't so much about death, but more about how to live.

Of course, "death is just a part of life," as F. Gump once said.

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