Now that our oldest is eight, bedtime snuggles have taken on a whole new meaning. In the past they were casual chats about our days and what we were going to dream about that night.
Now bedtime has become the time when the deepest of thoughts and questions seem to come out.
This was the case the other night after I took the girls on a date to the movies. We saw the new Cinderella and loved it. We came home on a high, got ready for bed and started the nightly ritual of chats and cuddles. After a few minutes of smiles and giggles, my daughter’s face turned serious. It took only another few seconds for the serious to fade and sadness to take over.
“Why do we have to die Mom? Why do we live this great life and then our bodies stop working and we don’t remember anyone, get to see anyone and that’s it. Why do we do all of this and then it’s just over and we’re just lying there and can’t be part of things that are going on with our family and friends?” The tears then started to flow. “It just seems unfair and kind of scary. I don’t understand.”
I pulled her in close to give her a hug. My mind started racing and my inner voice sounded something like this – “Why is this coming up now? Must be the movie. Cinderella loses both of her parents and the Prince loses his Dad. What do I say? This is not the conversation I expected to be having right now.” As a million thoughts were flying through my head, I managed to gather a few words in response.
“Oh honey you’re right. It is hard to understand and it can be scary to think about. Dying is part of life. Plants live and die. Flowers live and die. Animals live and die. And people live and die.”
Her tears kept coming. “But Mom, I know about Heaven and your spirit but what really happens when you die? I don’t think anybody can really know for sure. What if you are just lying there, all alone, and that’s it?” My inner voice was perplexed at this stage – on the one hand I was so proud of her for asking such great questions and on the other hand I was freaking out trying to make sure I said the right things to calm her down and get her to sleep.
I held her close. “Wow sweetie, I am so proud of you for asking some great questions. I promised I would never lie to you when you ask me big important questions so I’m just going to tell you that I don’t know what happens after you die. I know what I believe happens and we’ve talked about that before. But here’s the thing – what I believe might not be what you believe and definitely isn’t what other groups of people in the world believe. As you get older, you’ll read more and learn more and you’ll find something to believe that gives you comfort. The one thing I can tell you for sure is that you’ll never just be lying there alone. You’re stuck with me and you’re stuck with Daddy and all of your family and friends who love you. I know you feel our love when you’re at sleepovers or away from us. You feel us around you every day and you feel us in your life even when we’re apart. It’s kind of like that. When you are deeply loved, like you are, it’s always there and around you and it’s pretty hard to feel alone when you are loved like that.”
She snuggled in closer and after a few minutes I could hear the rhythmic breathing of a sleeping child. As I lay there holding her, I felt like I had run a marathon in my brain – hoping and praying that I had said the right things. Similar to the ‘how are babies made’ conversation, this one came right out of left field and my experience from the baby one would say that she’ll think about this for awhile and come back with some even tougher questions. Clearly it’s research time for me but I’m proud to say that we made it through ‘unexpected death talk, round one’. Wish me luck on round two.
Deanna is a Mom of three, wife, marketer and blogger – lover of travel, morning coffee, family time, belly laughs, good friends and uninterrupted showers! Follow her on twitter @DeannaCMiller