Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What Kids Know About Dying

I had a strange and sad conversation with Josie tonight as I was putting her to bed. It started with our usual routine with me telling her I’d love her forever.

Me: I love you and I always will. And if I’m not with you, where will I be?
Josie (tapping her chest with her hand): In my heart.
Me: That’s right. I’ll always be in your heart. Always and forever.
Josie: But what if you’re dead?
Me (long pause): I’ll still be with you in your heart.
Josie: But what if you’re dead?
Me: I’ll still be in your heart. I’ll always be in your heart no matter what.
Josie: But if you’re dead you won’t be able to get up.
Me: But I’ll still be in your heart. No matter what.

I’m not sure what a three-year-old knows about death and dying, but Josie has mentioned death in the usual context for kids -- the flower will die if you pick it off the bush; if you run into the street a car will crush you and you will die; kill the mosquito so it won’t get us. I don’t know if she would have said these things tonight if I didn’t have cancer or if she senses that I’m in danger of dying. Hard to tell. But it was a pretty matter-of-fact conversation -- not at all emotional. I was just stunned by her question. I think I handled it pretty well. I hope so.

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